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Nicole Francis

Harvard Assistant Professor of Molecular and Cellular Biology Nicole Francis was recently announced as a New Scholar Awardee in Aging by The Ellison Medical Foundation.  Francis’ lab studies epigenetic information and inheritance.

Says Francis, “In our work, we propose to explore how changes in chromatin can be inherited through the steps in cell division by studying how the fundamental component of chromatin, the nucleosome, behaves during DNA replication.  Nucleosomes consist of two copies of each of the four histone proteins and about 150 base pairs of DNA which wraps around the histone proteins.  They are separated by short stretches of linker DNA so that chromatin resembles beads (nucleosomes) on a string (DNA).  Exactly which sequences of DNA are inside versus between nucleosomes, and modifications of the histone proteins can affect gene expression patterns.  During DNA replication, nucleosomes are disrupted by the multiprotein complexes that carry out genome duplication, so that chromatin structure needs to be restored each time a cell replicates its DNA.”
“Although it is clear that nucleosomes are restored on newly replicated DNA, it is not known how precisely the gene regulatory information in chromatin structure, such as the positions of nucleosomes along the DNA, is restored.  We will carry out DNA replication in cell free systems to answer two basic questions about how chromatin is replicated and how chromatin-based information might be inherited through cell division.  First, we will determine whether histones return to their pre-replicative position following DNA replication.  Second, we will test whether the histone proteins from each nucleosome can be segregated such that each new DNA molecule receives half of the proteins from each old nucleosome”.
The Ellison Medical Foundation supports creative and new research on aging, age-related disease and lifespan development.  New Scholar Awards consists of financial support up to $100,000 per year for four years, with the intention of providing support to young researchers during their first 3 years after their post-doctoral training.   New Scholars are recommended by their universities or institutions.