2016 Ignite Project: GenStorm

An integrated approach to visualize and model the spatial conformation of genes at the nanoscale level

Project overview

GenStorm was awarded the BIST Ignite Grant (phase 1) in March, 2017 (news release here) as well as the BIST Ignite Grant (phase 2) in December 2017 (news release here).

GenStorm combines high resolution microscopy with molecular modeling techniques to investigate how genes are physically organized within the cell nucleus and how this affects their function. This is the first super-resolution study of how some genes of great interest are organized during the process of cell differentiation. STORM images can provide new three-dimensional and quantitative information that will allow the integration of genomic and epigenomic data available to provide a new view of DNA and genes.

Multidisciplinarity within GenStorm

The two groups involved in GenStorm will combine their expertise in super resolution microscopy and stem cell biology (through CRG’s Cosma lab) and in molecular and mesoscopic modeling (through IRBB’s Orozco lab). While super resolution microscopy is the missing link to interpret and model the DNA in 3D, proper mathematical and statistical modeling are also critical in order to provide biological meaning. Overall, this Ignite Project will provide the framework to synergize and exchange expertise between the two labs.

Progress: updated abstract as of December 2017

Although the full sequence of the human genome had been unveiled more than 15 years ago, our comprehension of gene function is still limited. The linear sequence of DNA provided invaluable information about the nature of genes and regulatory elements and their distribution along chromosomes. However, to fully understand gene function and gene regulation we need to place the linear genome in the right context: the cell nucleus. Inside the nucleus, genes are organized forming complex three-dimensional structures that change over time. In the GENSTORM project we integrate super resolution imaging of specific genes, molecular modeling and epigenomic data to unravel the 3D conformation of genes right into the nucleus. Our multidisciplinary approach brings together complementary expertise in stem cell biology, nanoscopy, genomics and molecular simulations like pieces of a puzzle to incorporate as many points of view as possible to study the secrets of gene function from a new perspective.

Project members

Marie Victoire Neguembor

Post-doctoral Fellow at CRG

Pablo Dans Puiggros

Post-doctoral Fellow at IRB Barcelona

Maria Aurelia Ricci

Post-doctoral Fellow at ICFO and collaborator at CRG

Diana Buitrago

PhD Fellow at IRB Barcelona

Rafael Lema

PhD Fellow at IRB Barcelona

Institutional Members of the Board of Trustees