Eileen FurlongEileen Furlong (KN03)


Genome Biology Unit
European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL)
Heidelberg, Germany

Keynote's Website

Presentation Title: Genome regulation during embryonic development

Date/Time: Monday, July 13th, 9:00 am - 10:00 am

Introduction by: Janet Kelso




Embryonic development requires the coordinated expression of genes in both a temporal- and tissue-specific manner.  This complex regulation is controlled through the binding of transcription factors (TFs) to enhancer elements, sometimes located at great distances from their target gene.  Chromatin conformation studies have shown that gene activation by remote enhancers is associated with the establishment of a chromatin loop to the promoter element.  However, the dynamics of loop formation during development, as well as their relationship to TF occupancy and chromatin state of enhancers remains poorly understood.  It is also not clear how prevalent long-range enhancer interactions are within organisms with a compact genome.


To resolve the interplay between chromatin loops, enhancer activity and the regulation of gene expression, we generated a high-resolution map of enhancer-promoter interactions during Drosophila embryonic development.  We applied 4C-Seq to 100 developmental enhancers, each with diverse patterns of TF occupancy and chromatin state, and measured their 3D interaction frequencies in a specific cell-type (the mesoderm) as well in the entire embryo at two stages of embryogenesis representing dramatic developmental transitions (before and during cell fate specification).  This talk will discuss these results, and how we are complementing these efforts with very high resolution Hi-C, FISH and mutagenesis at multiple stages of development.



Eileen Furlong received her Ph.D. at Univ. College Dublin, Ireland and did her post-doctoral research at Stanford University, California.  She has been at group leader at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) since Oct 2002.  Since January 2009 she is a senior scientist and Head of the Genome Biology department at EMBL, Heidelberg.  
Over the past decade, Eileen has been instrumental in developing and applying genomic approaches to multicellular developing embryos.


The group’s research focuses on understanding how transcriptional networks drive cell fate decisions during development.  For this purpose, her group combines genomic, genetic and computational approaches to understand (1) the general principles of how cis-regulatory elements, including enhancers, control complex patterns of temporal and spatial activity; (2) to gain an understanding of how robust developmental progression is achieved; and (3) to build predictive models of gene expression