Plant genes can acquire a memory which defines their expression state based on past experience. By stabilizing an expression state for future reference, this epigenetic memory determines how strongly, or if at all, genes will respond to current environmental and developmental cues. Gene memories are mechanistically linked to the packaging of nuclear DNA into a protein-containing chromatin structure; in particular, tight packaging of chromatin will freeze underlying genes in a repressed state (see figure). Short stretches of so-called open chromatin regions can be maintained within longer regions of tightly packaged chromatin. These regions represent windows of communication to regulatory factors and often coincide with transcriptional enhancers that can be able to erase the repressive memory of associated genes.
Our group is interested in the interplay of transcription factors and chromatin in gene regulation.