Regulatory potential of repeat elements in the evolution of tissue-specific transcription


  • Dr Duncan Odom

    University of Cambridge

  • Dr Paul Flicek

    European Bioinformatics Institute

Project summary

A surprising fraction of the DNA that contains the information required to make a complex organism is composed of sequences that are repeated thousands to tens of thousands of times called repetitive or repeat elements. Every mammalian genome has a unique collection of repeats, which change in number and location during evolution. 

Our study tests the hypothesis that different types of repeats carry instructions that can alter when nearby genes are turned on and in which tissues. We will integrate experimental and computational analyses of the function and activity of newborn and ancient repeat sequences in four key tissues in ten species of mammals. We will then functionally test their activity using genetic engineering tools to disrupt or introduce candidate repeats that may influence how genes are expressed.

Understanding this is important as changes in gene expression can lead to diseases such as cancer and are thought to be a central mechanism of species divergence.