Epigenetic pathways through which endogenous retroviruses regulate cellular genes in pluripotent cells

Year of award: 2013


  • Dr Helen Rowe

    University College London

Project summary

Helen is investigating the function of the repetitive genome with a focus on endogenous retroviruses, which represent around 10 per cent of mammalian genomes. Her research, using the mouse model, has revealed that rather than being 'junk DNA', as previously thought, endogenous retroviruses recruit epigenetic marks and serve as important regulatory elements to affect gene expression, particularly in stem cells. This is because stem cells are enriched in novel factors that target retroviral sequences in order to protect genome integrity. By characterising these factors, Helen aims to uncover the mechanisms by which endogenous retroviruses regulate stem cell biology and early embryogenesis. This work is relevant to the understanding and development of stem cell therapies.