Dr Steven Zuryn    s.zuryn@uq.edu.au

 

Discovering epigenetic pathways that ensure robust cell function in during ageing and age-related diseases

When cells are faced with stress associated with ageing and disease, what rapid epigenetic response mechanisms help to preserve precise cell function? This is an especially relevant question in an age where neurodegenerative diseases are reaching epidemic proportions. We aim to identify and characterise epigenetic pathways that serve to protect cells, such as neurons and muscle cells, from the types of cellular stresses associated with disease by using powerful molecular genetic approaches in C. elegans. Because mitochondria are intimately linked with both ageing and age-related diseases, we focus on stress caused by damage to the mitochondria’s own genome.

 

Uncovering the secrets of the mitochondria genome in C. elegans

Originating from an ancient endosymbiotic relationship, mitochondria possess their own genome – separate to the nucleus – and assume central cellular functions. How mitochondria and their genome behave in specific tissue and cellular contexts remains a challenging question in neurobiology. We have developed novel tools (published recently in Nature Cell Biology) to address this problem in the powerful genetic model organism, C. elegans. We aim to determine how quality control of the mitochondrial genome is regulated and how deregulation may lead to disease and ageing.

 

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