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Research overview

Professor Jessica Downs, Epigenetics and Genome Stability Team

The DNA in our cells is packaged by association with many proteins, including histones, to form chromatin. The structure of chromatin is regulated by modifications and remodelling enzymes to allow access when needed to cellular activities such as replication, transcription and repair. Changes in chromatin structure and composition leading to effects on cellular and physiological traits, or epigenetic changes, are as critical as genetic changes to the maintenance of genome stability.

We are investigating how the structure and regulation of chromatin impacts on genome stability, and are also studying the interplay between epigenetic and genetic regulation in this process.

Areas that we have focused on include understanding how chromatin structure and its regulation influences sister chromatid cohesion, DNA repair and chromosome segregation. Moreover, heritable epigenetic changes can have profound consequences on cellular behaviour, which can contribute to the progression of tumourigenesis.

By understanding more about these pathways, we can not only generate mechanistic insights into cellular functions, but also identify novel therapeutic targets and biomarkers for the treatment of cancer.

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