The problem:

The stability and evolution of the genome affect the fitness of life. A genome is defined as ‘the complete set of genetic information in an organism’. However, the complete decoding of the human genome, first announced in 2003 and fully annotated in 2022, revealed a plethora of seemingly non-functional repeat sequences, taking up more than half of the genomic DNA. It remains unclear to what extent such regions contribute to disease-causing genome instability or advantageous genome evolution.

The approach:

Tackling this problem, the Esashi group studies triggers and regulation of an evolutionary highly conserved mechanism called homologous recombination (HR). HR can exchange genomic elements based upon ‘homologous’ (i.e. similar in position, structure, and evolutionary origin) DNA sequences. As such, it impacts genome stability either positively or negatively. HR also diversifies genomes, as exemplified in meiosis when sections of maternal and paternal genomes are exchanged.

We use and develop interdisciplinary approaches combining various state-of-the-art tools to investigate the impact of HR on genome stability. These include, but not limited to, genetics, molecular biology, microscopy imaging, biochemistry, bioinformatics and mathematical modelling.

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