Year 5

During the tenure of this award, we have made some exciting discoveries about how genes are regulated during the process of heart cell formation from embryonic stem cells. In particular, we focused our efforts on a group of proteins that regulate other genes using a process called chromatin remodeling. We discovered that one such chromatin remodeling protein is required for genes that are specific to the heart to be turned on in heart cells. We also discovered new proteins that are also important for the formation of the heart. In studying these chromatin remodeling proteins in an embryonic stem cell system, we identified how these proteins turn on the “right” set of genes in the earliest stages of commitment of stem cells to heart cell progenitors. Finally, we identified the nature of the group of proteins that work together as part of chromatin remodeling “complexes”, which for the first time tells us how these proteins assemble together to regulate heart genes. These results have paved the way for studies aimed at creating new heart cells, and have opened up some exciting new possibilities to improve this process.