Exploration of Chlamydomonas reinhardtii Epigenetic Regulation in a Research-Classroom Setting

Research output: Other contribution


Basic research on the green microalgae Chlamydomonas reinhardtii (Chlamydomonas) has the potential to benefit society in many transformational ways, from the generation of sustainable biofuels to the synthesis of novel compounds. This project aims to expedite realization of these benefits by investigating a fundamental mechanism governing algal gene expression?the packaging of DNA by histone proteins and their chemical modification. The research will decipher components of the algal "histone code" that influence how algae control gene expression. The project will be undertaken at Saint Mary?s College of California, a primarily undergraduate, Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI) and features intensive research collaborations at national and regional laboratories in Berkeley, CA and St. Louis, MO. It will provide research training opportunities in the laboratory for several students during summer and the academic year, and will be integrated into the classroom to create unique, course-based undergraduate research experiences (CUREs) for ~80 students over a four-year period. Moreover, community college students, also from an HSI, will have the opportunity to shadow molecular biology students working on the CUREs, giving them insights into upper-division science at a 4-year university. Little research has been done on how histone modifications influence Chlamydomonas' epigenetic regulation and chromatin structure. The project will address this question through research and educational objectives that: (1) determine the function and epigenetic role of a newly discovered monomethylation on histone H4 by identifying and characterizing the enzyme responsible; (2) investigate histone methyltransferase gene expression by harnessing the power of student numbers in a course-based undergraduate experience (CURE); and (3) ascertain the role histone H4 monomethylation plays in higher-order chromatin structure and stability by immunofluorescent staining and microscopy. The outcomes will provide key spatiotemporal and mechanistic insights into histone modifications and the modifying enzymes in Chlamydomonas. This information will be of interest to researchers studying evolution of histone-based epigenetic regulation across plants, animals and fungi, and advance the use of algae as a source of biofuel and bioproducts. This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

Original languageAmerican English
StatePublished - Jan 1 2019


  • Biology

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