Dr. Shdema Filler-Hayut earned both a PhD and a postdoc in plant genetics, in the Plant and Environmental Sciences Department, Weizmann Institute of Science. At the Department of Biological Engineering at MIT, she applies advanced live-cell super-resolution microscopy methods (that were only recently developed in her host lab) to test enhancer-promoter dynamics and the factors influencing it.
A pressing question in the fields of gene regulation and genome architecture is: how do enhancers communicate with and activate their target genes across great distances? An enhancer is a cis-regulatory element (a portion of a gene sequence) that controls gene expression, often by long-range chromosomal loop interactions with a promoter (another element in controlling gene expression). Dr. Filler-Hayut focuses on the human C-MYC gene, and its ~450kb downstream super-enhancer interaction, which naturally occur in epithelial cancers, as a model system. Studying the dynamics of enhancer-promoter looping and their effect on RNA transcription with single-cell super-resolution microscopy will shed light on the connection between 3D genome organization and transcriptional regulation. This system has the potential to serve as a platform for testing different therapeutic approaches, as well as investigating a variety of known and newly discovered disease mutations.