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Dr Richard Jenner
534D
UCL Cancer Institute, Paul O'Gorman Building
72 Huntley Street
London
WC1E 6BT
Tel: 020 7679 6815
Fax: 020 7209 0470
Appointment
  • Reader in Molecular Biology
  • Research Department of Cancer Bio
  • Cancer Institute
  • Faculty of Medical Sciences
Biography


Each of our cells contains the same copy of our genome but it is how distinct parts of the genome are accessed in different cells that allows embryogenesis to proceed and for specialised cell types to emerge and be maintained. Defects in this process can lead to developmental disorders, immunodeficiency and cancer. The overall aim of our lab is to understand how access to the genome is controlled during cell differentiation. We are currently focused on understanding how interactions between transcriptional and chromatin regulators and RNA function to direct cell differentiation. We have identified a new class of short RNAs that are transcribed from repressed
polycomb target genes and that interact with polycomb group proteins. To understand how genes are regulated to control cell fate, we have mapped the target genes of T cell lineage master regulators across the genome and are continuing to use this as a model system to understand the control of cell differentiation.

Previously, I was awarded a BA in Natural Sciences at the University of Cambridge and I completed my Ph.D. thesis with Paul Kellam and Chris Boshoff at UCL profiling viral and host gene expression in human B-cell lymphoma. I then moved to the US as a postdoctoral associate in Rick Young’s lab at the Whitehead Institute where I applied ChIP-Chip technology to determine how polycomb maintains ES cell pluripotency and how NF-kappaB coordinates the transcriptional response to infection. I returned to UCL as a MRC Career Development Fellow in 2006 and have since been awarded further funding from the Wellcome Trust, NIHR, EMBO, AICR, and most recently, an ERC Consolidator Grant.

Research Summary


Each of our cells contains the same copy of our genome but - it is how distinct parts of the genome are accessed in different cells that allows embryogenesis to proceed and for specialised cell types to emerge and be maintained. Defects in this process can lead to developmental disorders,  immunodeficiency and cancer. The overall aim of our lab is to understand how access to the genome is controlled during cell differentiation. We are currently focused on understanding how new types of non-coding RNAs function with transcriptional and chromatin regulators to direct cell differentiation.

We have two main research programmes:

1. Role of RNA in chromatin and transcriptional regulation.
Polycomb proteins maintain cell identity by repressing the expression of developmental regulators specific for other cell types. We and others have found that PRC2 interacts with RNA in cells and that this regulates the association of PRC2 with chromatin (Kanhere et al., 2010). We are currently seeking to identify the RNAs that directly interact with PRC2 in cells, the PRC2 subunits that mediate this interaction, and the relationship between PRC2 RNA binding and chromatin recruitment across the genome. We have also discovered that the HIV transcription factor Tat interacts with human RNA in cells and that this is associated with changes in host RNA abundance during HIV infection (Bouwman et al., 2014).

2. Transcriptional regulation of CD4+ T-cell differentiation.
CD4+ T helper (Th) cells can differentiate into a number of effector types that tailor the immune response to different pathogens and we use this system to understand how genes are regulated to specify different cell types. We have mapped the binding sites of the Th1 and Th2 master regulators T-bet and GATA3 in primary human T cells and found that these factors act through a shared set of target genes (Jenner et al., 2009). More recently, we have discovered that T-bet and GATA3 act through distal sites and that T-bet redistributes GATA3 to different sites in Th1 cells (Kanhere et al., 2012; Evans and Jenner, 2014). We are continuing to probe the mechanisms through which T cell lineage-specific expression is regulated.

Teaching Summary

I lecture on the UCL MSc courses in Infection and Immunity and Cancer and the Intercalated BSc in Immunology, Infection & Cell Pathology.

Academic Background
2003 PhD Doctor of Philosophy – Molecular Biology University College London
2001 MA Master of Arts – Natural Sciences University of Cambridge
1997 BA Bachelor of Arts – Natural Sciences University of Cambridge
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