Stavros Lomvardas, PhD
Our research program aims to understand the molecular mechanisms of olfactory receptor gene choice. Olfactory receptor (OR) genes compose the largest mammalian gene family consisted of more than 1000 members. These genes are expressed in a stochastic and mutually exclusive fashion in such a way that only one OR allele is expressed in each olfactory sensory neuron. Our data suggest that this unusual expression pattern is orchestrated by a combination of positive and negative regulatory mechanism. According to our findings, OR genes undergo chromatin mediated silencing at a developmental stage that precedes olfactory receptor activation. One of the 3000 alleles is chosen for activation, by the enzymatic removal of the silencing chromatin marks. We currently combine genetic and biochemical approaches that together with cutting edge microscopy should reveal critical mechanistic details of this process.