Our lab is broadly interested in transcriptional regulation, which is directed in part by the binding of sequence-specific transcription factors (TFs) to enhancer regions. Identifying cell-type specific enhancers is crucial for understanding the genetic architecture underlying development and disease. Currently we are studying the molecular mechanisms underlying trophoblast invasion, a process that occurs in early placental development and establishes adequate blood flow between mother and fetus. Defects in trophoblast invasion can lead to a number of disorders, such as preeclampsia, intrauterine growth restriction, and placenta creta.
We are applying next-generation sequencing technologies to identify enhancers and transcription factor binding events specific to the process of trophoblast invasion using the mouse model. We use computational approaches to analyze and integrate our data sets, and to construct gene-enhancer networks. Finally, we test functionality of the gene enhancer network components using mouse and human cell lines. Ultimately, we hope that our findings will translate to early detection and prevention of common and serious placental disorders.