Ander’s current research is focused on the mathematical understanding of cellular memory and how it is established, starting from fundamental physico-chemical principles.
In biological cells, whether they are plants or yeast, a vast amount of information is stored not only in the DNA sequence, but also in the proteinaceous structure surrounding it: chromatin.
Typically, this protein-based information is transferred to daughter cells in the form of modifications of the proteins around which the DNA winds (histones) and allow or repress the transcription of a certain gene.
However, other chromatin-binding proteins also seem to be important in the inheritance and stability of cellular memory. This is the case of Silent Information Regulator (SIR) proteins in baker’s yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae), which constitutes the centre of Ander’s research.
SIR proteins are known to help in the repression of genes involved in mating, which, for example, ensure that the correct pheromones are produced.
Nevertheless, the exact mechanism by which this repression is achieved is not known and there are plenty of open questions: How is this gene silencing inherited? What determines its robustness? How is it related to other cellular processes like growth or division?
By integrating recent biological and physico-chemical data into mathematical models they hope to be able to shed light into the mechanisms used by cells in order to transmit information beyond the DNA sequence.