Dr. Charles Danko
Assistant Professor of Epigenetics
The Baker Institute for Animal Health
College of Veterinary Medicine
Title: "Transcription as a lens for interpreting genome sequence"
Abstract: The question of how genome sequences shape cellular and organismal characteristics is one of the most exciting frontiers in biology. Understanding these genotype-to-phenotype metamorphoses could offer the greatest advancements in agriculture and medicine in decades by providing new tools to diagnose disease or allowing us to rear crops with specific traits. DNA sequences in non-coding regions of the genome control phenotypes by encoding complex instructions that determine when and where to activate protein-coding genes. This genetic instruction manual works by turning on a coordinated group of protein-coding genes that carry out specific cellular functions. The primary goal of my lab is to develop tools and biological concepts that let us read the complicated vocabulary written into non-coding DNA. Currently, the primary focus of our work is to investigate how natural genetic variation affects the steps in the RNA polymerase transcription cycle. This research has provided insight into the molecular underpinnings of phenotypic variation at both the cell and organismal level, and revealed basic mechanistic concepts underlying transcriptional regulation. My talk will be three vignettes that focus on understanding the connection between transcription and histone modifications, using patterns of transcription to dissect regulatory programs in brain cancer, and investigating regulatory changes that may have contributed to anthrax toxin resistance in the ancestors of modern humans.
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