Chris T. Amemiya, PhD
Full Member, Director of Genome Resource Center
In my research lab we are interested in the origins of novelty and innovation in vertebrates, with special emphasis on the adaptive immune system and vertebrate bauplan. We use whatever tools are necessary to address fundamental biological questions, particularly large-insert cloning, comparative genomics, computational biology and developmental biology. Although our research is fundamental in scope, we are always looking for ways in which our findings may be relevant and applicable to biomedical research. Our most recent work focuses on stem cell biology in a nonmammalian vertebrate model system, the sea lamprey. We have discovered that the sea lamprey jettisons roughly 20% of its genome during embryonic development, the deleted DNA encompassing both noncoding as well as coding sequences. This rampant loss of chromatin in all resultant somatic lineages raises several questions with respect to mechanism of loss and, more importantly, to the partitioning of gene functions in germline and somatic lineages and the maintenance of genetic totipotency. This work is interrelated with our research on a rearranging gene system that is involved in adaptive immune recognition in lampreys but also requisite for building the early embryo. We are interested in understanding the role of global genome dynamism described above in the evolution and development of this rearranging gene system.