Dr. Anne Villeneuve's lab investigates the molecular and cellular events underlying the faithful inheritance of chromosomes during meiosis, the specialized cell division program by which diploid organisms generate haploid gametes. These events are crucial for reproduction, since failure to execute them correctly leads to aneuploidy, one of the leading causes of miscarriages and birth defects in humans.
One major goal of the lab is to understand the mechanisms and regulation of genetic recombination, which is responsible both for reassortment of genetic traits and for promoting segregation of homologous chromosomes during meiosis. An inter-related goal is to understand how meiosis-specific chromosome organization is established, maintained, and remodeled to bring about successful genome inheritance. The Villaneuve lab approaches these issues primarily using the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans, a simple organism that is especially amenable to combining sophisticated microscopic, genetic and genomic approaches in a single experimental system. Their research interrogates the process of meiosis at multiple different scales:
- at the level of the DNA repair complexes that assemble at the sites of meiotic recombination;
- at the level of the meiosis-specific chromosome structures that promote, regulate and respond to meiotic recombination events;
- at the level of DNA organization at the whole-chromosome scale; and
- at the level of cell biological mechanisms that promote developmental progression of meiosis and execute chromosome segregation.