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This week we profile a recent publication in PLOS Genetics from
Amy Spens (pictured, right) and Dr. Kami Ahmad (left) at Fred Hutch.

Can you provide a brief overview of your lab’s current research focus?

We focus on chromosome structure and function during development. We work with both Drosophila model systems and with human cell lines.

What is the significance of the findings in this publication?

Polycomb-based gene silencing is a central chromatin-based mechanism for shutting off genes during cell fate decisions in development. Our paper looked at the functions of regulatory elements controlling a developmental gene for wings in Drosophila, and how Polycomb controls its expression. Surprisingly, we found that Polycomb works to activate this gene, which had been suspected but not confirmed from other studies. The genetic features of this locus suggest that this may actually be a widespread function of Polycomb chromatin.

What are the next steps for this research?

Deciphering how chromatin controls development requires tools that work with limited cell samples. We are now applying CUT&Tag methods for chromatin profiling that we developed together with Steven Henikoff’s lab at the Hutch. This method uses an immuno-tethered Tn5 protein to efficiently profile specific chromatin features, and works even with individual cells. We are using CUT&Tag and further elaborations of this method to profile the sequence of epigenomic changes in model developmental systems.

This work was funded by:

This work was funded by an R01 grant from NIHGMS (K. Ahmad).

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