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Keystone Symposium on DNA Methylation and Epigenomics – Zebrafish Highlights

March 29 – April 3, 2015

Brandon Kent
Graduate student, Sadler and Walsh laboratories, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, USA

Heritable, covalent (“epigenetic”) modification of DNA and the core histone proteins is a central tenet vital to cellular specification, differentiation, and an organism’s development and survival. The join Keystone Symposium on DNA Methylation (http://www.keystonesymposia.org/15Z1) and Epigenomics (March 29th – April 3rd, 2015, Keystone CO) focused on providing the latest insights regarding epigenetic regulation of development, cancer, and application to advanced diagnostics and possible clinical application.

The zebrafish has emerged as a prominent model with regard to studying epigenetic regulation of early embryonic development. Research has been increasingly focused on epigenetic patterning of the zebrafish genome. This joint Keystone Symposium featured work from several prominent zebrafish laboratories.

Members of the Cairns group (University of Utah School of Medicine) presented work regarding epigenetic patterning of the zebrafish zygote to promote the formation of transcriptionally permissive, poised, and repressive domains across the genome in an effort to prime the embryo for proper zygotic genome activation. Work done by the Lister group at the University of Western Australia focused on the role of TET-family proteins in mediating DNA demethylation during development. The Sadler group presented their work on the epigenetic regulator, Uhrf1 and in two posters defined a critical role for this gene in in both the pre-gastrula embryo and at later developmental stages. Most exciting was a workshop previewing the Epigenome Browser (http://epigenomegateway.wustl.edu/browser/) designed by Ting Wang’s group at Washington University in St. Louis. In this comprehensive and user friendly portal to the epigenome, there are datasets of methylation and RNAseq analysis across early embryonic stages and from some adult tissue.

Critically, the zebrafish model system can be utilized to elucidate epigenetic mechanisms underlying embryonic development and cancer, especially in relation to human disease, that other model systems cannot provide. With regard to the high profile and impressive work presented at the Keystone Symposium, the benefits of in vivo modeling in the zebrafish were readily apparent and appreciated.

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