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Brain development group

Knowledge of how the brain controls its own development during embryogenesis is still relatively poor. What we do know is that a relatively small group of genes, encoding proteins called transcription factors, control the processes by which cells divide, move and mature in the embryo to make the brain. These transcription factors are often thought of as master regulators of development.

Severe defects can result from abnormalities in the activity of any one of these genes in humans or in other animal species, indicating their fundamental importance for normal brain development. Transcription factors work by controlling the activity of other genes; but which genes, how directly are they controlled and are different genes controlled at different times in development? These questions remain largely unanswered, although we know enough to realise that the answer will be complex, with many hundreds of genes falling under the control of each individual transcription factor. Our work aims to use experimental techniques followed by bioinformatic methods to generate and analyse large amounts of data on how loss of transcritpion factors at different ages affects the activity of other genes. This will be a vital step towards the challenging goal of gaining a comprehensive understanding of the molecular functions of a key transcription factor in brain development.

David Price, John Mason, Ian Simpson (Integrative Physiology and Informatics