Departments: Cellular & Molecular Medicine, University of Ottawa
Lab: Dilworth Lab
The goal of our research program is to understand the mechanisms by which tissue-specific patterns of gene expression are established during development, and how this can be reproduced in stem cells. While our interests cover all transcriptional regulatory factors, our major research focus is transcriptional activators implicated in myogenesis. This system has become the paradigm for studying gene expression during development due to the fact that exogenous expression of MyoD in a large number of cell types is sufficient to initiate a temporally ordered and reproducible program of gene regulation leading to muscle differentiation. To understand how MyoD establishes muscle specific gene expression, our group is using a combination of biochemistry, cell biology, molecular biology, genomics, and proteomics. Our most recent findings demonstrate that MyoD requires the activity of additional transcriptional activators (Mef2d and Six4) to recruit co-factors to muscle promoters in order to establish a chromatin structure that is permissive to high levels of gene expression. Our ongoing research is directed towards understanding the modulation of transcriptional activity, both spatially and temporally, in generating chromatin environments required to establish and maintain tissue-specific patterns of gene expression.