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CoB workshop: Epigenetic Memory, Day 2

Posted by , on 27 June 2012

The day starts with a sumptuous breakfast, and the promise of some great talks. Carl Wu talks about the assembly of histone variants at yeast centromeres. Edith Heard takes us through a journey of how X-inactivation occurs in mice. The talks by the students and postdocs are all very good as well. Helen Blau, then introduces Heterokaryons as a model to study the mechanisms of reprogramming.We break for lunch. The food at the workshop is top class.

The Wiston house is located in a typical English countryside, very green and expansive. After lunch we go on a long walk.  This is a great way to get people talking to each other, and unsurprisingly lengthy discussions  on Epigenetics carry on throughout the walk. Upon arrival to Wiston house, coffee and ice creams  are waiting for us, while Sir John Gurdon enthusiastically teaches and recruits people to play Croquet.

The afternoon session begins with an inspiring talk by Renato Paro on Hsp90, Polycomb and stalled polymerases in transcriptional regulation. We are then served Pimms and lemonade in the garden (a quintessentially English thing apparently!) after which a historian dressed quite appropriately for this setting, briefs us about the Wiston house and its various owners. This sprawling mansion was built in the sixteenth century and has quite a few stories to its credit.

Anna Philpott  gives us a task, we have to come up with the single biggest question in Epigenetic memory (!).  A lively discussion ensues after dinner, which comprises of defining Epigenetics (surprisingly more difficult than you might think!), and then leads to ideas related to Epigenetic inheritance during cell division, and finally Transgenerational epigenetic inheritance is discussed.  In a nutshell, according to John Gurdon, Renato Paro, Steve Henikoff and the others, “Epigenetic memory is to do with processes beyond the DNA sequence, that may be self-templating and result in the inheritance of transcription through the cell cycle”. This session is a real eye opener for me, I don’t know for sure if what I do qualifies as Epigenetics anymore! Will have to clarify that before the workshop ends….

This workshop is one of the best I have been to so far.  I am having a fantastic time listening to talks by those who have shaped our understanding of Epigenetics, through their seminal ideas. The workshop is in an amazing venue and has been organized to absolute perfection. All the talks have been very stimulating, I can’t wait to go back and tell my lab mates all that I have learnt here. The Company of Biologists, please hold a  workshop on germ cells next, so I can come back again!…




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