I am interested in gene regulatory processes that influence behaviour. Every individual is the product of their inherited genetic information and the environment in which they were conceived and developed. Experience influences development, biological processes, physiology, and behaviour. One of the big questions in behavioural science is how experience gets embedded in our biology, and why individuals differ in their behavioural response to experiences. Epigenetics (e.g. the addition of chemical tags to DNA or histones resulting in changes of gene expression) plays an important role in regulating animal behaviour. More recently, it has been discovered that like DNA, RNA molecules can also be chemically modified, affecting gene regulation. However, we still know very little about how many or which RNAs are modified, how RNA modifications respond to experience, and how this affects behaviour. I use the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster as a model organism to study RNA modifications (epitranscriptomics) and their role in regulating behaviour. My work combines classical genetics, molecular biology, transcriptomics, behavioural assays, and bioinformatics, to investigate the following questions:
- Understanding the role of epitranscriptomic regulation in physiology, metabolism and food-related phenotypes.
- Understanding the role of epitranscriptomic regulation in sleep, circadian rhythms, learning and memory and longevity.
- Understanding the molecular pathways through which mRNA methylation regulates behaviour and plasticity.