Mathias Langkilde Nielsen

Postgraduate Researcher Genes in the Environment

During development many genes need to switch from one epigenetic state to another, however, the core molecular mechanisms, which underlies epigenetic switching remain elusive.

Mathias’ work aims to understand the mechanism of epigenetic switching, by using the plant developmental regulator FLOWEING LOCUS C (FLC) as a platform for my research. FLC is switched from an active state to an inactive state by prolonged cold, a process that requires Polycomb Repressive Complex 2 (PRC2).

With close collaboration with people at MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology (LMB) in Cambridge, the Professor Caroline Dean lab are combining structural and biophysical analysis with plant molecular biology to uncover the molecular mechanism of PRC2 and its accessory proteins in epigenetic switching.

Mathias’ own interest in science dates back to a high school biology lecture where he was provoked by the statement of “junk-DNA” to describe the 97 % of the human genome that does not codes for proteins. Since then he has been interested in understanding what the roles of ncDNA and their RNA transcripts are.

During epigenetic switching, FLC transcription is initially shutdown by transcription of the ncRNA COOLAIR. Additional, ncRNAs have been thought to play various roles for PRC2 mediated silencing. Therefore, a PhD. in the Dean lab was a perfect opportunity for him to combine my interest in ncRNA with a very interesting and fundamental scientific question of epigenetic switching.