Intellectual merit: Genes consist of DNA. In order for the genetic information to be expressed, the DNA must be transcribed into an RNA message. This RNA in turn directs synthesis of the proteins through which the cell carries out its various functions. In the cell, genes are tightly packaged by proteins within chromosomes. It is now clear that control of gene expression is exerted not only by direct influence on the machinery which transcribes the DNA into the RNA message, but also by other events which regulate chromosomal unfolding. However, it is not understood how genes are selectively revealed to the molecular machinery that transcribes the genetic information into RNA messages. The studies which will be carried out in this project are intended to provide a mechanistic understanding of the processes through which genes are transcribed in the chromosomal context. Thus, the results from this research should be broadly applicable in elucidating the pathways through which all genes are controlled.
Broader impact: The work carried out in this project should have an important educational impact in several ways. First, it is expected that a significant fraction of this research will be performed by undergraduates. Students majoring in the life sciences may be attracted to careers in research; however, classroom instruction and the typical undergraduate lab exercises do not introduce them to either the excitement or the complexities of an actual hypothesis-driven research project. Because of long-standing relationships between the host institution and local undergraduate colleges it is likely that students will be able to participate in this project not only full-time during the summer but on a part-time basis during the academic year as well. There will also be an impact of the proposed work in the classroom. The cutting-edge research approaches to be employed in this work can be directly applied by the principal investigator for advanced instruction in the areas of gene expression and gene regulation.