Role of LTR retrotransposons in shaping the transcriptome and the epigenome of the mature oocyte and of the embryo

Long terminal repeat retrotransposons (LTRR) are the relics of parasitic DNA sequences that are present in the genomes of all mammals, making up about 8 percent of the human genome. They are usually inactive due to chemical modification of their DNA or of the proteins that bind to them. However, certain LTRR are active in specific tissue types and are thought to influence the activity of nearby gene sequences. LTRR are particularly active in the cells that give rise to eggs and sperm and in the early embryo, as well as in cancer cells.

This project will examine LTRR activity in mice using advanced DNA sequencing techniques. We believe the activity of certain LTRR during development of egg cells turns genes on that are important for normal egg production and in the developing embryo.

Our goal is to elucidate how LTRR help drive of gene expression in early embryonic development. This will help us better understand the role that they may play in infertility and potentially in cancer in humans.