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Epigenetic programming of sex determination

Principal Supervisor: Dr. Andre Pires da Silva, School of Life Sciences

Co-supervisor: Dr. Jose Gutierrez-Marcos, School of Life Sciences

PhD project title: Epigenetic programming of sex determination

University of Registration: University of Warwick

Project outline:

Chemical modifications of the chromatin regulate the transcriptional activity of the genome. Specific methylation and acetylation of histones 3 and 4 (H3 and H4) correlate with either transcriptional repression or activation. The signals that regulate those transcriptional changes that result in chromatin modifications are relatively unknown.

In previous work, we found that environmental signals sensed by olfactory neurons of the nematode Auanema freiburgensis are relayed to the germline. The germline changes its transcriptional profile, resulting in the shift in sex ratios of the following generation. Changes in the transcriptional profile correlate with chemical modifications of the chromatin, including methylation of lysine (K) residues in H3 (H3K4me3 and H3K9m3).

There are three main aims in this project: (1) determine if the chemical modifications cause sex ratio changes; (2) determine which genes change in the germline when the animal is exposed to signals sensed by the olfactory neurons;.

BBSRC Strategic Research Priority: Molecules, Cells and Systems

Techniques that will be undertaken during the project:

  • Gene editing tools to generated mutant nematodes (e.g., CRISPR/Cas9)
  • Generation of transgenic nematodes (e.g., tagging of specific proteins with fluorescent markers)
  • Microscopy (e.g., time lapse videos, confocal microscopy)
  • Bioinformatics (e.g., writing scripts in Unix, R and Python)
  • Mathematical modelling (R, Python)

Contact: Dr. Andre Pires da Silva, School of Life Sciences