Laboratory Thomas Jenuwein
Epigenetic mechanisms control eukaryotic development beyond DNA-stored information. There are many pathways, such as DNA methylation, nucleosome remodelling, histone modifications, exchange of histone variants and non-coding RNAs that together contribute to differences of the chromatin template. In particular, the great diversity of covalent histone tail modifications has been proposed to reflect an index ('histone code') that can stabilize distinct proliferative and developmental options. We discovered the first histone lysine methyltransferase and then showed that histone lysine methylation represents a central epigenetic modification in eukaryotic chromatin. We are continuing with our analyses on histone lysine methylation to further dissect epigenetic gene regulation and to identify molecular pathways that initiate and maintain heterochromatic domains in mammalian chromatin.