IMP Spring Conference on Epigenetics
The Research Institute of Molecular Pathology (IMP) is preparing for the 12th International Spring Conference at the Hofburg in Vienna, which this year will be held under the motto "Epigenetic Programming of the Genome". About 500 participants are expected.
The term epigenetics covers those aspects of genetic information that are not encoded in the DNA sequence itself, but in the form of modification and packaging of the DNA molecule. Such mechanisms, which are flexible rather than rigidly inherited, allow different genetic "programs" to be implemented in different cell types despite identical DNA.
This is achieved by binding small molecule groups either directly to the DNA or to the packaging molecule histone. This allows individual genes or longer DNA-sequences up to entire chromosomes to be shut down. Methyl-, phosphate- and acetyl-groups are the molecular labels that make the genetic information more or less accessible.
Epigenetic mechanisms are of great interest for medical research. In tumour cells, for example, DNA methylation patterns are significantly disturbed, and the enzyme responsible could be the target of anti-cancer drugs. Several research groups at the IMP are working on epigenesis. In 2000, Thomas Jenuwein and his team succeeded in identifying the first histone methyltransferase.
At the IMP Spring Conference, 33 renowned scientists will report on current research results. Among them are C. David Allis (Charlottesville, USA), Rudolf Jaenisch (Cambridge, USA), Austin Smith (Edinburgh, UK), and Alan Colman (Singapore), to name but a few.