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Stowers predoc earns NIH fellowship

Predoc Kaelan Brennan receives three-year NIH fellowship to study gene regulation during development

22 February 2022

Kaelan Brennan

Stowers Graduate School predoc receives three-year NIH fellowship to study gene regulation during development 

Predoctoral Researcher Kaelan Brennan has received fellowship funding to explore how genes become active at appropriate times and locations during development. Brennan will focus on how DNA elements called enhancers control gene expression during embryonic development of the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster.

Enhancers are regulatory sequences contained in DNA that underlie a wide variety of human diseases when misregulated because they determine when and where a target gene will be expressed. Because these sequences are critical for driving proper gene expression during development and cellular transitions, they are maintained in an inaccessible and inactive state until the precise context for gene activation is reached.

Brennan, who is predoctoral researcher in the Zeitlinger Lab, aims to show how enhancers are made accessible and active by DNA-binding proteins called transcription factors during fruit fly development, which will provide insight into the mechanisms used by cells to regulate enhancer activity to control their gene expression programs. Because mechanisms of regulating gene expression are often used in similar ways by species across the animal kingdom, the identification of rules for gene regulation helps researchers gain a better understanding of regulation of the human genome in development and disease.

Funding of the fellowship comes from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development which is part of the National Institutes of Health.

A key transcription factor involved in embryonic patterning called Dorsal forms a gradient (magenta fluorescence) along the dorsoventral (back-belly) axis in an early stage fruit fly embryo. Image courtesy of Kaelan Brennan.

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