RNA function in germ and stem cell biology
The integrity of the genome transmitted to the next generation intrinsically relies on cells of the germ line. Processes that ensure germ cell development, genomic stability, and reproductive lifespan are essential for the long-term success of a species. We are interested in characterizing spermatogonial stem cell (SSC) populations that support fertility as well the regenerative capacity of the testis throughout adult life. In addition, we tackle fundamental questions regarding the mammalian male germ line and heredity from an RNA perspective. Specifically, our research explores the contribution of non-coding RNA (miRNA, piRNA and lncRNA) and RNA modification pathways within germ cell development as well as testicular homeostasis/regeneration. Our research objectives focus on the contribution of these emerging pathways on the underlying circuitry of self-renewal that underpins the SSC, as well as the coordination of the various cellular/differentiation processes of spermatogenesis.
The acquisition of both pluripotency and totipotency is associated with the deregulation of transposable elements – our goal is to understand the mechanisms by which germ cells manage this formidable threat to the gametes, and thus transgenerational genome stability. Specifically, we explore transposon silencing in the germ line by the Piwi-interacting RNA (piRNA) pathway as well as epigenetic mechanisms.