Regulating cortical development through enhancer usage and genome topology

For our next talk, in the BDI/CHG (gen)omics Seminar series, on 6th February, 9:30 am-10:30 am at the Big Data Institute (BDI), we will be hearing from Dr Emily Brookes, Lecturer in Biomedical Sciences, School of Biological Sciences, University of Southampton. We’re delighted to host Dr Brookes in what promises to be a great talk!

Date: 6 February
Time: 9:30-10:30 am
Title: Regulating cortical development through enhancer usage and genome topology
Location: Big Data Institute Seminar Room 1

Abstract: My lab is interested in the function of enhancer elements in establishing and maintaining appropriate spatiotemporal gene expression profiles during cortical development, and how this is disrupted in neurological disease. We are fascinated by the topological changes that enable enhancer function, from DNA looping to movement of loci within the 3D nuclear space. One line of research focuses on the important neurotrophin-encoding gene Bdnf, for which we identified a novel enhancer which promotes the expression of Bdnf transcript variants during mouse neuronal differentiation and activity. We are researching whether this enhancer is conserved in humans, and its contribution to neurodevelopmental disorders including Rett syndrome. Another focus is the effect of the environment on enhancer function and genome organisation, with a focus on changes that prime states of neurological vulnerability. Stressful events in the postnatal period, known as Early Life Adversity (ELA), are an important predictor of later neuropsychological disorders, including depression and schizophrenia. It is not well understood how these changes are instigated, or how they can be manipulated. Unbiased screening and follow-on studies will elucidate epigenetic mechanisms through which ELA leads to neurological sensitivity, and the influence of environmental interventions.

Bio: Emily studied Physiology at the University of Cambridge, before doing an MRC-funded integrated MRes-Phd at Imperial College. Her PhD research was in Ana Pombo’s lab, working on RNA polymerase II and Polycomb complexes in embryonic stem cells. She then moved to the US, to work in Yang Shi’s lab at Harvard Medical School, where she held an EMBO Fellowship, and worked on elucidating the molecular and cellular mechanisms of intellectual disability caused by mutations in the histone demethylase KDM5C, in both mouse and human iPS cell models of the disorder. Returning to the UK, she obtained a Marie-Skłodowska-Curie Fellowship to work in Antonella Riccio’s lab at UCL, on neuronal enhancers. She joined the University of Southampton to start her own group in 2022, focusing on understanding gene regulation in brain development and function.
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