The University of Southampton

New BBSRC funding award for epigenetic analysis applications

Published: 6 September 2011


Drs Tracy Melvin and Peter Horak of the Optoelectronics Research Centre and Professor Tom Brown of Chemistry at the University of Southampton in collaboration with Professor Jeremy Baumberg of the Nanophotonics Centre, University of Cambridge have been awarded £0.9M by the BBSRC to create new biophotonics and DNA technology for epigenetic analysis applications.  

Epigenetics was first introduced by Waddington in 1942 and described as "the interaction of genes with their environment, which bring the phenotype into being".  Today the genomes of many organisms (humans, plants, invertebrates and vertebrates) have been sequenced and many of the genes identified – but knowing the genomic DNA sequence does not allow us to predict the life, health and death of these organisms.  In order to understand how the environment affects the destiny of these organisms, a better understanding of how surroundings as well as the DNA sequence play a role.  

Although DNA is composed of four nucleic acid bases, adenine, guanine, cytosine and thymine, there is a ‘fifth’ nucleic acid base, methyl cytosine.  The methylation of cytosine occurs as a result of an enzymatic process which is triggered by cues (including for instance, diet, lifestyle).  The Southampton and Cambridge teams will develop new technologies for the detection of methylcytosine and unmethylated cytosine within sequences of single DNA molecules.   Within the 42 month programme the teams plan to demonstrate the technology for developmental biology questions with Prof. Wolf Reik at Babraham and plant biology questions with Prof. Teresa Roldan-Arjona at Cordoba University, Spain.

Published: 6 September 2011


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