The physics of epigenetic and chromatin dynamics

16.04.2018 to 17.04.2018
Davide Michieletto, Chris Brackley, Davide Marenduzzo

Higgs Centre for Theoretical Physics

Virtually all cells in our body have the same DNA (hence genetic information), yet a skin, liver and a brain cell all express a very different set of genes. Additionally, when a differentiated cell divides, the daughter has the same set of genes on: a skin cell gives rise to another skin cells, etc. Understanding how cells can establish, maintain and transmit their identity to daughter cells remains a crucial question in biophysics.

It is now understood that this process is associated with "epigenetic factors" -- such as histone post-translational modifications -- which can operate "beyond the genes" and regulate gene expression independently of the underlying genome sequence. In spite of the robustness displayed by cellular identity and memory, the epigenetic factors that are responsible for this stability are highly dynamic and display a fast turn-over. In order to reconcile these two apparently contradictory observations, we need combined experimental and theoretical efforts, involving biologists, physicists and applied mathematicians.

It is also now well established that epigenetic factors are highly correlated with chromatin state, and the folding of chromosomes in three-dimensions within the nucleus. For example, dynamic changes in the distribution of histone modifications are often accompanyied by a change in the conformation of chromosomes. A better understanding of the causal relationship between the dynamics of chromatin and that of epigenetic factors should therefore shed light into the biophysics behind cellular differentiation and reprogramming, cellular response to inflammation and external stimuli and cellular ageing.

The goal of the proposed workshop is to bring together leading experts in the field of epigenetic and chromatin dynamics. In particular, the workshop seeks to:

  • determine the current state of the art of the field
  • foster the exchange of ideas between experiments and theories
  • create a fertile ground for the creation of new collaborations between biologists and physicists
  • set out the direction for future experiments and modelling efforts.


  • The meeting will take place in the James Clerk Maxwell Building, Kings Buildings. 15 minutes by bus from city centre.
  • Edinburgh is well served by trains and planes.
  • Details on getting from the City Centre to JCMB here.
  • A map of the Kings Buildings campus here.

Suggested accommodation

  • There are several good Bed and Breakfasts near the University (5-10 minutes walk) details. They offer University rates.
  • If you prefer a hotel: details.

The physics of epigenetic and chromatin dynamics - Registration Form

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