The Zilberman group studies cytosine methylation as a mechanism for epigenetic inheritance.
Most of the information that passes from one generation of cells to the next is encoded in the DNA sequence. However, there is increasing appreciation that cells also receive inherited information through other mediums, known collectively as epigenetic. They study cytosine DNA methylation, a key epigenetic mechanism in plant and animal cells.
Cytosine methylation can carry epigenetic information because it is precisely copied when the DNA is replicated. Methylation regulates gene expression, and accurate reproduction of DNA methylation patterns during cell division is therefore essential for plant and animal development, efficient agriculture, and human health.
The enzymes that maintain DNA methylation must work within chromatin, and particularly to contend with nucleosomes – tight complexes of DNA and histone proteins.
The group combines genetic, genomic and biochemical approaches to understand the maintenance and function of DNA methylation within chromatin using the flowering plant Arabidopsis thaliana as the primary model. They also study a variety of other species to understand the complex evolution of eukaryotic DNA methylation.