Functional genomics of ankylosing spondylitis
My research involves understanding the genetic determinants of ankylosing spondylitis (AS), a chronic inflammatory arthritis. Genome wide association studies have identified a strong association of AS with the Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC), especially HLA-B27. Outside of the MHC there are many other loci also associated with the disease. To understand the genetic determinants of AS we are using a functional genomic approach. The research involves defining the landscape of gene expression by investigating chromatin accessibility, structure and modifications. These datasets can then be integrated with expression quantitative trait mapping to determine hypothesis regarding specific functional variants and modulated genes or pathways.
I obtained my PhD in molecular biology from Imperial College and the Pirbright Institute by investigating the molecular interactions of a viral oncoprotein called Meq, encoded by the alphaherpesvirus Marek’s Disease Virus (MDV). I continued this research in my subsequent Post-Docs at Imperial College and the Pirbright Institute, looking at how the virus remains latent and causes the oncogenic transformation of infected T-cells. The viral oncoprotein Meq plays a major role in this through its interactions with host cell proteins. By investigating the modifications to the chromatin and DNA we built an understanding of the epigenetic landscape of the disease.