An Interview with Dr. Susan Strome, Distinguished Professor of Molecular, Cell and Developmental Biology at UCSC
'Those of us who have studied invertebrate model organisms throughout our careers have been nervous that NIH study sections will shut the door on our funding in favor of funding studies in mammals. But my last grant application to the NIH proposing experiments in C. elegans got a perfect score! There is recognition that in model organisms we can ask really detailed mechanistic questions, while also trying to control for all the variables that could influence epigenetic inheritance. Edith Heard and Ruth Lehmann ran a wonderful meeting funded by The Company of Biologists in Sussex in 2015. At that meeting, I was in a break-out group with Marcus Pembrey and others discussing how hard it is to control for everything that might influence the transmission of information from mouse parents to their offspring, such as the lights in the animal room, who takes care of the mice, and whether the plastic water bottles are leaching out toxic compounds. Even in worms we wonder if we are controlling for all possible variables.
As I said, model organisms offer the opportunity to drill down into detailed mechanistic questions. Most epigenetic inheritance – not all of it – boils down to DNA methylation, histone modifications, and RNAs. We can identify the epigenetic carriers and dissect how they work in different systems, and then feed that information to the mammalian folks. Worms, flies, frogs, fish and yeast are making huge contributions to the epigenetics field, revealing how epigenetics might influence development and health in more complicated organisms'.
Read the interview HERE.