Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) has received EUR 900,000 for three years to investigate, jointly with the Institute of Molecular Biology (IMB), how gene regulation affects evolution and development. The ambitious new research initiative GeneRED, or Gene Regulation in Evolution and Development, is jointly run by IMB and JGU's Faculty of Biology, funded by the Ministry of Education, Science, Continuing Education, and Culture of Rhineland-Palatinate. Its overarching goal is to gain insight into how epigenetics, i.e., the regulation of genes by elements outside the classical DNA code, can influence the development of organisms, both in the short term (growth and aging) and the long term (evolutionary adaptation).
The initiative aims to significantly strengthen research into gene regulation on the campus of Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz. To achieve this, it will fund six PhD positions at JGU's Faculty of Biology over three years (2014-2016). The questions these students are studying are:
- How did division of labor evolve in social insects like ants, and which genes are involved?
- How does the NURF complex help maintain neural stem cell identity in fruit flies?
- What are the targets of the NG2 protein in glial cell development and tumors?
- How do ciliary proteins affect DNA damage response and gene regulation in Usher syndrome?
- What are the roles of genetic regulatory elements in the modern human adaptation to an agriculturalist diet and predisposition to metabolic syndrome?
- Which epigenetic factors are involved in creating body size memory in fruit flies?
The participating PhD students will be fully integrated into the International PhD Program on "Dynamics of Gene Regulation, Epigenetics and DNA Damage Response," a joint program coordinated by IMB with groups from IMB, JGU, the Mainz University Medical Center, and the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research.
The initiative will also help expand access to modern proteomics technologies for scientists at JGU and IMB. With proteomics becoming a key methodology in modern biomedical research, the support provided through this initiative will be crucial in ensuring that research in Mainz is internationally competitive.
The chairs of the GeneRED project are Hans Zischler, Dean of the Faculty of Biology at JGU, and Christof Niehrs, Founding and Executive Director of IMB. The General Manager of GeneRED is Ralf Dahm, IMB's Director of Scientific Management.