Full Projects

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Winter 2020

Lydia Finley
Identifying novel mechanisms of metabolic regulation of cell fate decisions

Lydia Finley

Intracellular metabolites can regulate important cellular functions including self-renewal and differentiation, but how metabolites exert these regulatory effects is largely unknown. The goal of this research project is to use chemical and genetic approaches to identify the molecular mechanisms by which metabolites control cell fate decisions. By combining hypothesis-driven approaches with unbiased profiling, the proposed systematic assessment of metabolite effectors will identify novel targets of metabolic control and open new avenues for understanding the impact of the cellular metabolome on fundamental cellular processes.


Morgan Huse 
Mechanoregulation of macrophage phagocytosis

Morgan Huse

Phagocytosis plays a central role in both immunity and tissue homeostasis by enabling the uptake of pathogens and cellular debris. Although much is known about the chemical signals that regulate phagocytosis, how physical properties like rigidity influence the process is poorly understood. This project will leverage recently developed microfabrication technology to determine whether phagocytic cells respond to variations in target stiffness and whether this mechanosensory behavior alters their transcriptional state.


Fall 2020

Scott Keeney and Dinshaw Patel
Elucidating the structural and functional principles of germline genome transmission    

A fundamental question in eukaryotic biology is how organisms transmit their genomes—shuffled but undamaged—across sexual generations. Homologous recombination during meiosis plays a central role in this genetic transmission, but despite over a century of study the underlying molecular mechanisms remain poorly understood because of a paucity of biochemical and structural information. This project will tackle this longstanding challenge by bringing together two labs with complementary expertise in meiotic recombination (Keeney) and structural biology (Patel). These groups will study how recombination-promoting proteins work by combining biochemical and structural studies of purified proteins with novel genetic and cell biology experiments in baker’s yeast and in mice.


Philipp Niethammer
Probing the role of inflammatory fatty acid metabolism in innate immune memory formation

Philipp Niethammer

The project studies how leukocytes, which make the first line of our immune defenses against invading microorganisms, can “remember” past challenges, such as tissue injury and infection, to respond more aggressively to alike challenges in the future. By combining intravital imaging of antimicrobial leukocyte responses in intact zebrafish larvae with current genetic and epigenetic techniques, we seek to unravel the cellular and metabolic basis of “innate immune memory” formation in a developing vertebrate, whose antibody-based, adaptive immune mechanisms have not yet become operant. The expected insights could open new avenues for modulating leukocyte responses for therapeutic advantage during inflammatory diseases and cancer.


Iestyn Whitehouse
Molecular indexing of chromatin

Iestyn Whitehouse, PhD

The overall goal of this research project is to develop new methodology to identify proteins and DNA that interact in 3-dimensional space. Our technology relies on new methods that allow us to uniquely tag and then identify interacting molecules within a population of billions. We will use this new methodology to address fundamental unanswered questions in the transcription and genome integrity fields: we focus on RNA Polymerase II and aim to learn how transcription is regulated in the context of chromatin and how transcription may interfere with DNA replication. Our method is novel, does not require specialized equipment, and can be readily adapted to study any protein that interacts with the genome.


We expect there to be two calls for BRIA pilot projects, and one call for full applications each year. Revisions of projects will be considered as new submissions.