Issue no.2 | February 2017 | Epigenetics

In this issue



Broadly speaking, epigenetics is viewed as the study of mitotically and/or meiotically heritable changes in gene function without any changes to DNA sequence; key parameters include chromatin modifications such as DNA methylation, histone modifications, histone variants, nucleosome positioning, the binding of other chromatin proteins as well as non-coding RNAs.

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Latest news on Epigenetics

Biotech Research & Innovation Centre (BRIC)
When less is more – absence of a histone mark identifies sister chromatids for DNA repair
Faithful repair of DNA breaks relies on a copy/paste mechanism that uses the intact information from the sister chromatid to fix DNA. How cells identify the presence of a sister chromatid for repair has long been unknown. (read more)
Research Center for Molecular Medicine (CeMM)
Red glowing cells reveal epigenetic targets against leukemia
Epigenetic modifications are promising targets for cancer treatment. With red glowing cells, CeMM researchers together with groups at Oxford University and IMP Vienna found new small molecules which trigger specific epigenetic modifications in blood born cancers. Their study was published in Nature Chemical Biology. (read more)
Research led by Diether Lambrechts and Bernard Thienpont (VIB-KU Leuven) shows that the lack of oxygen in tumor cells changes the cells’ gene expression, thereby contributing to the growth of cancer. The study also proved that maintaining a proper oxygen supply in tumours inhibits these epigenetic aberrations. (Read more)
Institute for Molecular Medicine Finland (FIMM)

Discordant twin pairs – a tool for epigenetics studies

Deeply characterised obesity-discordant monozygotic twin pairs are an ideal tool for tackling the heterogeneity of obesity and associated epigenetic alterations. This approach has helped FIMM researchers identify differentially methylated and expressed genes important for the development of metabolic syndrome. (Read more)
Institut Curie (IC)

Journey to the heart of molecular landscapes of the X chromosome

How can a single non-coding RNAs switch off 1,300 other genes carried on the X chromosome? A surprising mechanism unique to mammals’ development sheds light on the expression of our genes in cells and how the organization of a chromosome (or its chromatin) is related to their expression. (Read more)
Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência (IGC)

The ovocyte epigenome temporally regulates meiotic transcription

Research performed at the IGC in collaboration with the University at Albany (USA) has shown that oocytes control gene expression during meiosis through the programming of a unique epigenetic state. Defects in this mechanism result in female fertility problems. This study was published in Nature Communications. (Read more)
Friedrich Miescher Institute for Biomedical Research (FMI)

Epigenetic repression suppresses genomic instability

FMI scientists have found the pathway through which eukaryotes protect their genomes from the rearrangements and deletions that arise when repetitive DNA (RE) is transcribed. These REs are kept silent by the methylation of lysine 9 on histone H3 (H3K9me). In its absence, repeats are transcribed and are shown to accumulate RNA-DNA hybrids, called “R-loops”.  (Read more)
Babraham Institute (BI)

Pluripotent factors shape the epigenome

We have identified new roles for the transcription factors Nanog and Sall1 in mediating an open and highly dispersed chromatin architecture in embryonic stem cells. This mechanism forms a direct link between the pluripotency network and nuclear organisation, which may impact developmental potential and genome stability. (Read more)
Centre for Genomic Regulation (CRG)

BLUEPRINT: the biggest EU collaborative epigenome project

The BLUEPRINT Epigenome project aimed to understand blood cell development and disease from the perspective of epigenetic regulation. With the final conference held in Brussels in September it ended as one of the biggest ever EU funded research projects with €30 million spend since its launch in 2011. (Read more)
Netherlands Cancer Institute (NKI)

Pluripotent factors shape the epigenome

The group of Jos Jonkers at the Netherlands Cancer Institute (NKI) discovered an entirely new way in which BRCA1 mutated breast tumors can develop resistance against cisplatin and PARP inhibitors. It doesn’t involve additional mutations, but epigenetic changes. (Read more)
European Institute for Oncology (IEO)

Specific Polychomb proteins regulate intestinal identity

The acquisition of cellular identity requires the interaction of multiple signals which lead to specific transcription programmes, while retaining a high plasticity potential to respond to cell-fate stimuli. Transcription factors working in concert with chromatin remodellers define the repressive or active state of genes. (Read more)


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2016 review: EU-LIFE's highlights in a nutshell

2016 was a busy year for the EU-LIFE alliance. A summary by EU-LIFE coordinator Marta Agostinho takes a look at how the community has worked together to influence policy and build competence.

Save the date: EU-LIFE Scientific Workshop 2017

The 2017 EU-LIFE scientific workshop “Principles of homeostasis” will take place on 22nd- 23rd of May 2017 at the Max Delbrück Center in Berlin. More details to follow soon.

News from EU-LIFE's 2016 Community Meeting

Jean-Pierre Bourguignon was the key note speaker at the 2016 EU-LIFE Community Meeting, which was held from 2-3 November at The Netherlands Cancer Institute (NKI) in Amsterdam. The President of the European Research Council joined EU-LIFE community to discuss the challenging perspectives of research in Europe including the next framework programme (FP9) and overall science policy.  (Read more)

Keeping pace with policy in Europe

We keep working on our role as a stakeholder in European Science policy. Focused around EU-LIFE’s membership in the key stakeholders’ platforms in the European Commission – the Open Science Platform and European Research Area Platform - we have been busy highlighting the relevance of research to policy makers and politicians. (Read more)

EU-LIFE Collaborations

Image showing the regeneration of adult flatworm Schmidtea mediterranea after being cut

’Yin and Yang’ switch lies at the heard of animal stem cells

A molecular switch that flips between different versions of genes could be crucial for maintaining stem cells across all animals from simple flatworms to humans, according to a study from CRG and MDC researchers.. (Read more)

Controlling cell fate decisions

FMI and MDC scientists showed that a fine balance between PRC2-mediated epigenetic silencing and Notch signalling is crucial for cell fate decisions. This has important implications for normal development and tissue homeostasis, and it provides insights into diseases such as acute T‑cell leukaemia. (Read more)

New study may lead to improved treatment of type 2 diabetes

Worldwide, 400 million people live with diabetes, with rapid increases projected. Despite being labelled a “lifestyle disease”, diabetes has a strong genetic basis. In a recent collaboration, VIB and Babraham Institute scientists have discovered that a common genetic defect in beta cells may underlie diabetes. (Read more)

Partners' updates

Friedrich Miescher Institute for Biomedical Research (FMI) VIB Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine in the Helmholtz Association (MDC) Research Center for Molecular Medicine (CeMM) Institut Curie (IC) Institute for Molecular Medicine Finland (FIMM) Centre for Genomic Regulation (CRG) Babraham Institute (BI) National Cancer Institute (NKI)

Central European Institute of Technology (CEITEC)

Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência (IGC)

Community Corner

The Ageing Cell conference, 27-28 March, Babraham Institute

The Ageing Cell conference will bring together an international community of researchers to discuss ageing at the cellular level. Join researchers from the fields of immunology, genetics, epigenetics and signalling to hear the latest research addressing the complex alterations in biological functions that lead to ageing. (Find out more)

New circRTrain network offers PhD training for researchers studying circular RNAs

Venturing into one of the new big topics in RNA biology, the circRTrain network of eight scientific experts from Europe and Israel will be coordinated by Nikolaus Rajewsky, MDC, BIMSB. (Read more)
'Lab in a Box' project in Praia, Cape Verde
Lab in a Box for students in Africa

To bring more science to students of secondary education in Cape Verde, IGC researchers and science communicators are developing a new project that provides easy and accessible experiments to be implemented in the classroom. (Read more)
Biotech tour: a roadshow for VIB's 20th birthday

VIB celebrates its 20th birthday in style … with a five-month VIB biotech tour to engage and immerse people into the wondrous world of life sciences. (Read more)
'Lab in a Box' project in Praia, Cape Verde
High-throughput cell based screening facility at BRIC

The high-throughput screening core facility at BRIC, University of Copenhagen is an open facility that offers assay automation and HT cell-based screening. (Read more)
Conference: Revolutionizing Next-Generation Sequencing

A VIB Tools & Technologies Conference, 20 & 21 March, Antwerp, Belgium. Find out full details and register at the conference website.
EU-LIFE is an alliance of top research centres in life sciences to support and strengthen European research excellence. Read more at
Contact: Marta Agostinho, EU-LIFE Coordinator:

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