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Theory of Living Matter Group


6th General Meeting

General information

This meeting will focus on gene regulation and (RNA-based) epigenetic marks and will feature Dr John Marioni and Prof Eric Miska.

After the talk there will be a drinks reception with snacks and plenty of time for informal discussions.

Registration closed.

Wednesday, 2nd December 2015, 6pm

Main lecture theatre, Sainsbury Laboratory
Bateman Street, Cambridge CB2 1NN

Directions: The Sainsbury Laboratory Cambridge University is located in Cambridge University Botanic Garden and can be accessed via Bateman Street. Note that the entrance to the Sainsbury Laboratory is rather hidden in the backyard of an arts school. There will be signs and people waiting to guide the way.


“Using single-cell genomics to study early development”

John Marioni, EMBL EBI

Gastrulation and the specification of the three germ layers are key events in animal development. However, molecular analyses of these processes have been limited due to the small number of cells present in gastrulating embryos. With recent developments in the field of single-cell biology however, it is now possible to overcome these limitations and to characterize, for the first time at the single-cell level, how cell fate decisions are made. In this presentation I will discuss data generated to study cell fate specification in mouse, as well as the computational strategies we have developed to model such data. I will then illustrate how these data can provide insight into germ layer specification and early erythropoiesis.

“Non-Coding RNA: from immunity to epigenetic inheritance”

Eric Miska, University of Cambridge

Since August Weismann (1834-1914) formulated the distinction between innate and acquired characteristics at the end of the 19th century, the debate relating to the inheritance of acquired traits has raised many controversies in the scientific community. Following convincing arguments against (e.g. William Bateson) this debate was then set aside by the majority of the scientific community. However, a number of epigenetic phenomena involving RNA, histone modification or DNA methylation in many organisms have renewed interest in this area. Transgenerational effects likely have wide-ranging implications for human health, biological adaptation and evolution, however their mechanism and biology remain poorly understood. We recently demonstrated that a germline nuclear small RNA/chromatin pathway can maintain epi-allelic inheritance for many generations in C. elegans. This is a first in animals. We named this phenomenon RNA-induced epigenetic silencing (RNAe). We are currently further characterizing the mechanism of RNAe. In addition, we are testing the hypothesis that RNAe provides a transgenerational memory of the environment (“Lamarckism”). We are currently exploring related phenomena in mice. We are also working towards establishing iPS cells differentiating into germ cells as a model to study the mechanism of transgenerational epigenetic inheritance.