Epigenetics is the study of changes in gene function without any changes in the DNA sequence. Several previous studies have shown that epigenetic changes might be heritable. The focus of this subproject is on the epigenetic mechanism of DNA methylation, which can be measured in-house by the Infinium HumanMethylation450 BeadChip or our implemented NGS-based Reduced Representation Bisulfite Sequencing (RRBS) protocol. All necessary bioinformatics tools are available for detecting differentially methylated regions in RRBS NGS data.
Currently, we have three projects using RRBS:
Within the Research Training Group (RTG) "Genes, Environment and Inflammation" we aim to compare genome-wide methylation patterns in DSS-treated mice (model for inflammation in the intestine) and healthy control mice. In parallel, we generate transcriptomics data using RNA-Seq to correlate methylation differences to changes in gene expression, and hence to detect functional consequences. Our experimental set-up is also well-suited to examine transgenerational epigenetic inheritance of methylation patterns.
As part of the EpiHealth Project we aim to characterize age-related changes in methylation profiles by comparing different age groups (young vs. nonagenarians / centenarians), thereby giving more insight into the functional genomics of longevity.
Finally, we measure methylation profiles in a cancer project, the Childhood Leukemia Project.