Filippo M. Rijli
Transcriptional and epigenetic regulation of craniofacial and neuronal development
Our recent work focuses on the transcriptional and epigenetic mechanisms underlying craniofacial development and the sensory mapping of facial structures in the brain. To this end, we established in vivo genome-wide approaches to identify chromatin signatures underlying the molecular identities of selected subpopulations of cranial neural crest cells and neurons of the somatosensory circuits in the mouse hindbrain (brainstem). Moreover, to explore the transcriptional mechanisms of assembly of sensory connectivity maps, we study the functional role of the Hox gene family encoding homeodomain transcription factors. We also address the role of selected epigenetic regulators, including members of Polycomb repressive complexes.
The ad hoc genetic tools we use in mice include imaging of fluorescently labeled neurons and axonal tracts, trans-synaptic viral tracing of defined subpopulations, in utero electroporation, and in vivo genome-wide analysis of gene expression and chromatin organization of cell subpopulations.
Our studies may enhance understanding of the basic molecular mechanisms that establish precise connectivity between neurons and contribute to the definition of the etiology of certain developmental craniofacial syndromes.