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The Gurdon Institute


2017 AhringerJulie Ahringer PhD FRS FMedSci, Director, Wellcome Senior Research Fellow, Professor of Genetics and Genomics, Member of the Department of Genetics

Ahringer Group website | Europe PMC | Pubmed




Developmental regulation of chromatin structure and function

How is chromatin structure regulated to direct correct gene expression programmes?

Animal development is an extraordinary process during which a single-celled totipotent zygote produces a myriad of different tissues and cell types. Differential control of chromatin structure establishes the gene expression programmes that drive cellular identity. Deciphering this control is necessary for understanding how the genome directs development and the diseases that result from chromatin dysregulation.

We study how cell-type specific gene expression and chromatin organisation are achieved using the simple C. elegans model, focussing on controls and interactions at regulatory elements, how euchromatin and heterochromatin are formed, and the regulation of 3D nuclear organisation. Taking advantage of the experimental amenability and defined lineage of C. elegans, we apply high-throughput genomics, super-resolution microscopy, single-cell analyses, and computational approaches to understand core mechanisms of gene expression regulation in development.


Selected publications:

• Jänes J et al. (2018) Chromatin accessibility dynamics across C. elegans development and ageing. eLife 7:e37344. DOI: 10.7554/eLife.37344.

• Serizay J & Ahringer J (2018) Genome organization at different scales: nature, formation, and function. Curr Opin Cell Biol 52:145–153. DOI: 10.1016/

• Carelli F, Sharma G & Ahringer J (2017) Broad chromatin domains: an important facet of genome regulation. Bioessays 39 (12): 1700124. DOI: 10.1002/bies.201700124.

• McMurchy AN et al. (2017) A team of heterochromatin factors collaborates with small RNA pathways to combat repetitive elements and germline stress. eLife 6: e21666. DOI: 10.7554/eLife.21666.

• Stempor P & Ahringer J (2016) SeqPlots - Interactive software for exploratory data analyses, pattern discovery and visualization in genomics. Wellcome Open Research 15 (1):14. eCollection 2016.

• Evans, KJ et al.  (2016) Stable C. elegans chromatin domains separate broadly expressed and developmentally regulated genes. PNAS  doi:10.1073/pnas.1608162113.

• Latorre I et al. (2015) The DREAM complex promotes gene body H2A.Z for target repression. Genes Dev 29: 495–500.

 Ahringer group (Nov18 to Feb19)


Alex Appert • Francesco Carelli • Chiara Cerrato • Marie de la Burgade • Yan Dong • Andrea Frapporti • Rhys McDonough • Arianna Pezzuolo • Jacques Serizay • Przemyslaw Stempor • Anna Townley

Video: Meet Julie Ahringer

Julie explains the key focus of her research in this video, including an animation and shots of the lab.

Watch on YouTube >