COMPUTATIONAL BIOLOGY - Research:
Gene expression is controlled by a complex network of regulatory interactions involving both transcriptional and post-transcriptional regulators. Our main interest in this context is the study of the general properties of mixed network (comprising transcriptional and microRNA-mediated regulations) and in particular of its most relevant small regulatory motifs.
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MicroRNA and Cancer
MicroRNAs play a crucial role in cancer. Several miRNAs have altered expression associated to pro-oncogenic or tumour suppressor activity in many different Cancer types. In particular, a number of so-called oncomiRs have been identified for their ability to influence key steps in the metastatic process and to be involved in circuits regulating epithelial to mesenchymal transition (EMT), a critical step that drives tumour metastasis. Lot of interesting results may be obtained in this context using computational methods.
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In the last few years several papers have shown that Transposable Elements in the human genome are significantly associated with Transcription Factor Binding Sites and that in several cases their expansion within the genome led to a substantial rewiring of the regulatory network. Our main interest in this contex is to address the role of Transposable Elements in driving the combinatorial organization of transcriptional regulation.
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Long Range DNA correlations
One of the most surprising features of higher eukaryotes genomes is the presence of long range correlations in the composition of the DNA sequence. These correlations were discovered more than 20 years ago when the first long continuous DNA sequences became available. Our main interest in this context is to compare these correlation with the typical behaviour of spin-spin correlations in the long range one dimensional Ising model. This allows us to make some testable hypothesis on the evolutionary mechanisms and on the nature of the interactions between distant portions of the DNA chain which led to the formation of the DNA correlations that we observe today in higher eukaryotes.
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