How Life Preserves Form and Function Across Generations
Why do we all look like humans? How much of what we are is programmed? To answer these questions, we need to consider all the information that we inherit from our parents. Every organism transmits the information for making a similar organism across a boundary between generations. This boundary is minimally a single cell, a bottleneck through which two interdependent, but distinct, stores of information are transmitted. One store is the linear genome sequence that is replicated during cell divisions. The other is a three-dimensional arrangement of molecules that cycles during development such that it is essentially recreated at the start of each generation. Together these form the cell code for making an organism – a union of multiple information stores that coevolve. Well-known DNA repair mechanisms can correct damages to our genome sequence before transmission to the next generation. The speaker will discuss evidence for additional repair mechanisms that can analogously preserve the rest of the cell code. Collectively, these repair mechanisms that oppose the evolution of cell codes reframe the limits of nature versus nurture.
About the Speaker
Antony Jose is a biologist working on heredity. He is an associate professor in the Department of Cell Biology and Molecular Genetics at the University of Maryland and a National Academy of Sciences Kavli Fellow. He joined UMD in 2011 after earning his Ph.D. from Yale University and completing postdoctoral research at Harvard University.
His research group is currently supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health. Jose's team used the simple nematode C. elegans to demonstrate that RNA from neurons can cause specific gene silencing that lasts for more than 25 generations. His team was also the first to visualize extracellular RNA crossing generational boundaries in an animal. His lab's current work addresses how information is encoded in a cell and how the cell code is passed on from one generation to the next. These findings have implications for our understanding of evolution and the origins of inherited diseases.