Scheme: University Research Fellowship
Organisation: University of Sussex
Dates: Oct 2012-Sep 2015
Summary: My Royal Society Fellowship supports research into the molecular mechanisms of meiotic recombination.
Inside the cells of most organisms, two copies of each chromosome are present - one copy inherited from the mother and one from the father. To prevent the chromosome number doubling with each round of sexual reproduction, it is essential that gamete cells (eggs and sperm in mammals) contain just one copy of each chromosome - thereby recreating the normal 'diploid' complement at fertilisation. The chromosome copy number is halved via the meiotic nuclear division.
In all organisms, halving the chromosome number first requires the pairing up of similar chromosomes, then their separation from one another. In mammals and many other organisms, this pairing requires a process called homologous recombination. During recombination DNA sequences are exchanged between the two copies of each chromosome and physical cross-like connections called chiasmata are also created. The exchanged (recombined) material increases the genetic diversity of the gamete cells, and as a result increases the genetic diversity of offspring. The chiasmata provide connections that stabilise the paired chromsomes prior to the segregation of each copy into a separate gamete cell.
Many of the genes and proteins involved in meiotic recombination are similar to those involved in the repair of damage to cellular DNA, a process that needs to occur after environmental exposure to mutagenic chemicals or radiation, and also due to the spontaneous errors that arise simply as a consequence of being alive.
Studying the mechanics of these processes will help us to understand how we evolve, survive and populate, as well as a providing a genetic and molecular understanding of the causes to cancer predisposition and infertility.
Dates: Oct 2007-Sep 2012