Dr Melanie Eckersley-Maslin - Babraham Institute, UK

Dr Melanie Eckersley-Maslin - Babraham Institute, UK

Seminar Room 2
Start Time: 
Fri, 15/03/2019 - 10:00am
End Time: 
Fri, 15/03/2019 - 11:00am

​Epigenetic priming of early embryonic cell fate transitions

​Special seminar hosted by Associate Professor Marnie Blewitt

The development of an embryo from a single fertilised cell to a complex organism has fascinated scientists for decades. As cells become more restricted in their developmental potential, there is dramatic remodelling of the chromatin and epigenetic landscapes. Following fertilisation, activation of the zygotic genome in the two-cell embryo is one of the first events that must take place in order for development to succeed, however its precise regulation is poorly understood. To study zygotic genome activation (ZGA), Melanie developed an in vitro model system using mouse embryonic stem cells that approximates the two-cell embryo. Using this, she performed a screen for factors that could induce expression of zygotic transcripts in vitro and thus act as potential ZGA regulators in vivo. This led to the identification of developmental pluripotency associated 2 (Dppa2) and 4 (Dppa4) as key regulators of the zygotic transcriptional programme. Excitingly, in addition to their roles in zygotic genome activation, her unpublished work supports additional roles for Dppa2 and Dppa4 in priming for differentiation at the exit of pluripotency. In this way, Dppa2 and Dppa4 are important epigenetic gatekeepers of early embryonic cell fate transitions.

Melanie is a molecular biologist with a broad interest in mammalian developmental biology, particularly how different cell types in the body are specified and maintained despite having the same DNA sequence. She completed her Bachelor's degree in Advance Science at The University of Sydney, Australia, before moving to Cold Spring Harbor Laboratories in New York, USA for her PhD studies in molecular cell biology. Her doctoral research investigated gene expression regulation in embryonic stem cells and during cell differentiation. She is now a Marie Curie and EMBO postdoctoral research scientist in the Epigenetics department at Babraham Institute, where she studies the very early stages of mammalian development, particularly how the embryonic genome is first activated, and how the first cell fate decisions are made.