The ability to turn genes on and off and precisely adjust their expression levels is critical for all living organisms. It may be argued that this regulation is as important as structures of proteins encoded by genes. Several genetic regulatory processes involve chromatin – complex packaging of DNA with proteins and RNAs. Structure and modifications of chromatin determine many aspects of genome activity. Our lab is interested in understanding how chromatin states are controlled and how they affect genome activity.
A particularly interesting class of chromatin regulators are non-coding RNAs (ncRNAs) – ribonucleic acids that do not encode proteins but perform various other functions. Despite their importance, little is known about the molecular mechanisms used by ncRNAs to control chromatin. We are interested in understanding how nuclear ncRNAs affect organization of DNA into chromatin We use plant model systems and an array of genetic, biochemical and genomic tools to investigate how ncRNAs control DNA methylation, nucleosome positioning and chromosome organization.
Not all DNA in eukaryotic cells is present in the nucleus. Substantial amounts of DNA are present in endosymbiotic organelles – mitochondria and plastids. Despite the importance of chloroplasts, almost nothing is known about DNA packaging in those organelles. We are interested in resolving the structure, of the chloroplast chromatin and understanding how it determines functions of the chloroplast genome.