Chromatin structure and transcription

Lead Research Organisation: MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology


The expression of genes in the nucleus of living cells is highly dependent on how the DNA of the genes is packaged and organised into three-dimensional intra-nuclear compartments. The aim of the research is to investigate the detailed mechanisms by which the regulation of this organisation affects the expression of particular genes.

Technical Summary

Both in eukaryotic and prokaryotic organisms the regulation of transcription is crucially dependent on the structural organisation and packaging of the DNA template into chromatin. We aim to study the factors that directly determine the accessibility of packaged DNA both by influencing the accessibility of DNA wrapped in a nucleosome and by altering the ability of a nucleosome array to fold into a higher-order structure. We have proposed a general solution to the chromatin folding/unfolding problem and will particularly focus on how the compaction of DNA into higher-order structures is regulated. This will complement our studies on how nucleosomes are positioned within the yeast genome. We will also continue a parallel study in the bacterium Escherichia coli in which we will study how nucleoid structure and function is related to changes in growth rate and phase. In particular we will study the topological changes in chromatin structure correlated with the expression of bacterial genes inducing a pathogenic response.


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Bassett A (2009) The folding and unfolding of eukaryotic chromatin. in Current opinion in genetics & development

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Caserta M (2009) A translational signature for nucleosome positioning in vivo. in Nucleic acids research

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Cooper SE (2007) In vivo function of a novel Siah protein in Drosophila. in Mechanisms of development

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Cooper SE (2008) Two modes of degradation of the tramtrack transcription factors by Siah homologues. in The Journal of biological chemistry

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Shukla MS (2010) Remosomes: RSC generated non-mobilized particles with approximately 180 bp DNA loosely associated with the histone octamer. in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

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Travers A (2006) The evolution of the genetic code revisited. in Origins of life and evolution of the biosphere : the journal of the International Society for the Study of the Origin of Life

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Travers A (2010) The DNA sequence-dependence of nucleosome positioning in vivo and in vitro. in Journal of biomolecular structure & dynamics

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Travers A (2009) Nucleosome positioning--what do we really know? in Molecular bioSystems

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Travers A (2006) DNA topology: dynamic DNA looping. in Current biology : CB

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Travers AA (2013) DNA thermodynamics shape chromosome organization and topology. in Biochemical Society transactions

Description H-NS function in bacteria 
Organisation École Normale Supérieure de Cachan
Country France 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Genomic analysis of H-NS binding sites and exploration of the physical nature of the consensus binding site
Collaborator Contribution Experimental biochemistry
Impact 17435766, 17881364
Description Homologous pairing of double-stranded DNA 
Organisation Konan University
Country Japan 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Experiment and theoretical interpretation
Collaborator Contribution Experimental data
Impact 17198386 - first report of homologous pairing of double-stranded DNA and its inferred role in genetic recombination
Description NAPS and DNA supercoiling 
Organisation Jacobs University Bremen
Country Germany 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Genomic analysis of NAP binding in E. coli and virulence plasmids
Collaborator Contribution Experimental and technical
Impact 16799466, 16888625, 17268506, 17881364,
Description Tramtrack function 
Organisation Erasmus MC
Country Netherlands 
Sector Hospitals 
PI Contribution Provision of antibodies
Collaborator Contribution Analysis of functional role and regulation of Tramtrack repressor in Drosophila
Impact 18160715
Start Year 2006