Epigenetic modifications provide cells and organisms with remarkable plasticity. As one of the first epigenetic alterations to be identified, DNA methylation represents perhaps the most studied and mechanistically best-understood modification. Yet, there is surprisingly little direct evidence regarding the function of DNA methylation outside of a few well studied cases. Some of the key fundamental challenges in the field include: (i) How does DNA methylation regulate and maintain cell fate and function? (ii) How do perturbations in methylation contribute to disease and cancer? (iii) Can environmental factors, such as stress and aging, influence the germline epigenome and potentially affect subsequent generations?
Our lab’s over-arching goal is to understand the functional roles of DNA methylation dynamics in normal development and in disease. We implement cutting-edge genome- and epigenome-editing tools together with sophisticated epigenetic and gene expression reporters, utilizing embryonic stem cells and the mouse as a model organism. These state-of-the-art methodologies are implemented to functionally dissect epigenetics in multiple biological systems.