Epigenomics and evolution

Dr. Amos Tanay, Department of Computer Science and Applied Mathematics; Department of Biological Regulation


Dr. Amos Tanay’s group is studying the physical interfaces that associate genomic information with mechanisms that interpret it in the nucleus.

The physical interface to the genome’s information includes marking and packaging of DNA into chromosomes, the organization of chromosomes into tight three-dimensional nuclear space, and the processes that stabilize and propagate the physical form of the genome across cell divisions. Together, these mechanisms broadly define the scope of epigenomics.

Dr. Tanay’s group is an interdisciplinary mixture of computer scientists, biologists, mathematicians, and physicists. The research combines extensive computational work with the development of new experimental techniques for studying the epigenomics of complex, heterogeneous cell populations at the population and single-cell levels.

The team’s goal is to develop realistic models with parameters that can be quantitatively inferred using novel, high-throughput sequencing-based experiments. The team applies much of their research insights to characterize the involvement of epigenetic changes in cancer.

They wish to understand how changes to the epigenome affect the cancer phenotype, and to test if epigenetic errors contribute to or are caused by the main transitions of normal cells toward cancer, an approach inspired by methods and ideas from the theory of evolution.

The team develops methods to measure tumor heterogeneity and diversity and models the processes that combine this diversity with selection to drive tumor initiation, progression, and response to treatment.