The organisation of eukaryotic genomes into chromatin serves to compact DNA to fit the confines of a cell’s nucleus and to protect the DNA against external damaging agents. At the same time chromatin is a remarkably dynamic structure that allows regulated access to the DNA as required for the transcription of genes, the replication of the genome, the recombination of chromosomes or the recognition and repair of DNA damage.
Research in the Becker lab focuses on two aspects of chromatin dynamics. First we seek to understand the regulation of chromatin 'fluidity’ by ATP-consuming nucleosome ‘remodelling’ machines, during development and cellular differentiation. Further, we are fascinated by the potential of chromatin to fine-tune gene expression in the two-fold range, which appears to be vital for the functioning of complex genomes.
In Drosophila, most genes on the male X chromosome are activated in the 2-fold range during a process called ‘dosage compensation’. The picture illustrates the selective association of the regulatory dosage compensation complex with the polytenic X chromosome in the salivary glands of male flies.