Our laboratory is interested in the molecular mechanisms by which epigenetic features regulate nuclear processes. We are currently focused on different aspects of chromatin accessibility control and its impact on gene expression, DNA methylation and cell differentiation. In addition, we are interested in developing new tools to manipulate the epigenome specifically to regulate gene expression.
DNA in eukaryotes is present in the form of chromatin and its basic unit is the nucleosome, a complex of 4 histone pairs wrapped with two turns of DNA. Nucleosomes affect multiple nuclear processes as they act as physical barriers for DNA-binding proteins to reach their targets. In addition, histones in nucleosomes are highly modified with post-translational marks that act as recruitment platforms for multiple proteins and histone reader complexes. Therefore, regulation of the exact position and modification of nucleosomes is critical for the proper functioning of nuclei. Currently, the main research interests are:
Chromatin remodeling in plants.
There are multiple families of chromatin remodelers dedicated to the control of nucleosome positioning, and among them, the SWI/SNF family plays an important role in maintaining a nucleosome-free region in gene promoters, allowing their correct expression. There is abundant information on the subunit composition and function of SWI/SNF complexes in animal and fungal model organisms. However, their study in plants is more limited. In the laboratory, we want to understand in detail the biology of SWI/SNF complexes in plants as key regulators of chromatin accessibility and gene expression. To do so, we pursue different strategies using phylogenetics, biochemistry, molecular biology and whole-genome studies.
We are interested in developing tools to manipulate the epigenome in a targeted manner to control gene expression and other nuclear processes. These tools use programmable DNA binding platforms, such as CRISPR and artificial ZF, which can be used to target the epigenetic machinery to specific sites of interest. This set of tools can be used to study basic questions about the functioning of specific epigenetic marks (histone marks, nucleosome position, DNA methylation) and can be exploited as biotechnological tools to manipulate the epigenome of loci of interest in crops.