Dr. Reinberg's and his collaborators' first goal is to deliver the first complete sequence of an ant genome. The group plans to sequence the genomes of three ant species in all. Researchers set out to discover whether changes in the brain and behavior occur as a consequence of living in a particular type of environment investigating the genetic underlying differences in longevity, social behavior and brain aging among queen and worker ants.
"Whether these modifications are indeed epigenetically inherited along with the gene is exactly what the team is seeking to discover in ants," said Dr. Reinberg. "There is not much known about epigenetic changes that may underlie behavior, but I intend to change that," concludes Dr. Reinberg.
More about Dr. Reinberg
For the last 20 years, Dr. Reinberg has focused on understanding gene expressionthe process that cells use to produce proteins from genes on double-stranded DNA. DNA sequences in genes are first transcribed to RNA molecules, which then become the templates for proteins. But this process must be controlled so that the correct amounts and types of proteins are made in a normal cell. He and scientists in his HHMI lab at NYU, and before that at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, have made many fundamental discoveries about how the DNA inside a cell is read and transcribed. "I think we have done a good job in understanding, for example, how chromatin affects transcription," Reinberg says, "and, for me, the next logical step was to begin to take a closer look at epigenetics in living organisms. Epigenetics absolutely fascinates me. The more that you read about it, the more you want to know."
Contact: Lauren Woods
NYU Langone Medical Center / New York University School of Medicine