Dr Alexandra Sapetschnig

Senior Postdoctoral Research Associate


This person is a member of Sanger Institute Alumni.

I am a senior postdoctoral Research Associate in Eric Miska's lab at the Gurdon Institute and recently joined the Sanger Institute as a Visiting Scientist to start up our Associate Faculty lab. My main research focus is the function of germline-specific small non-coding RNAs.

Nongenetic (epigenetic) inheritance of acquired traits has been observed in many organisms, including plants and animals. I have previously studied a link between transgenerational epigenetic inheritance and germline-specific small non-coding RNAs, so-called piRNAs, in the model organism Caenorhabditis elegans. In the germline of the nematode, piRNAs and other small non-coding RNAs are required to silence transposable (mobile) elements thereby providing genome stability to the offspring. Recently, we demonstrated that induction of gene silencing by piRNAs can be stably inherited even in the absence of the initial trigger. This transgenerational epigenetic inheritance is achieved by relaying the silencing signal to endogenous small-interfering RNAs (endo-siRNAs) that can be stably maintained over many generations. Now I focus my research on the biological function of piRNAs in mammals with a specific focus on a putative role of piRNAs in epigenetic inheritance.

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