In the nucleus of the cell, DNA is packaged into a nucleoprotein complex of histones and histone-associated proteins that together comprise chromatin. We are interested in how chromatin affects meiosis, the specialized cell cycle in which chromosomes are segregated into egg and sperm. Defects in chromosome segregation during gamete formation are the most significant cause of miscarriage and genetic abnormalities including birth defects, mental retardation, and infertility. As these abnormalities increase with maternal age, we are also investigating the impact of age on the meiotic process.
The Yanowitz lab focuses on how chromatin influences meiotic crossover recombination when homologous chromosomes exchange genetic material. This process is key to increasing genetic diversity and is critical for ensuring the correct complement of chromosomes in germ cells. We have identified chromatin-associated factors that influence crossover formation and are actively trying to decipher when and how they function. We have also uncovered changes in germline chromatin with maternal age and are investigating how these changes impinge on meiotic processes. Our work is performed in the model organism Caenorhabditis elegans which allows us to combine genetic, molecular, cytological, and genomic approaches.