Medical Research

University of Michigan

Yukiko Yamashita
Ann Arbor, MI
December 2012

One of the most fundamental mysteries in biology concerns how a fertilized egg becomes an organism with hundreds of different cell types, despite having only a single set of genes. To explain this mystery, epigenetics proposes that the genome is marked in a way that results in specific gene expression patterns unique to each cell type. However, no study has answered the question of when and how such distinct gene expression patterns, or epigenomes, are created. By utilizing a unique and novel application of CO-FISH (chromosome oriented¬ fluorescent in situ hybridization), the investigators discovered that Drosophila male germline stem cells retain the template copy of sister chromatid of X and Y chromosomes. This is the first demonstration that cells are capable of distinguishing sister chromatids and segregating them non-randomly. This non-random segregation of sister chromatid may explain how cells can divide "asymmetrically" by inheriting distinctively marked epigenomes, adopting distinct cell fates. Building upon their initial discovery, the research team proposes to investigate the molecular mechanism and the biological relevance of this novel, unanticipated phenomenon.

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