19 November 2021

Juan Garaycoechea receives Open Competition Domain Science-M grant from NWO

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Juan Garaycoechea, group leader at the Hubrecht Institute, receives an Open Competition Domain Science-M grant from the Dutch Research Council (NWO). This type of grant is intended for innovative, high-quality fundamental research and studies involving matters of scientific urgency. The Garaycoechea lab will use the grant to investigate how epigenetic DNA modifications cause DNA damage and what mechanisms repair this damage.

The DNA sequence is often referred to as the blueprint of life: it encodes all genetic information of an organism. However, important biological information can also be transmitted in ways that do not alter the DNA sequence, through so-called epigenetic modifications. An example of such a modification is the chemical change of cytosine, which is one of the four building blocks of DNA. The cytosine molecule receives an additional methyl-group, which has a profound impact on various processes including gene expression and the development of cancer.

Using the M grant, Juan Garaycoechea and his group aim to elucidate whether cytosine methylation is a source of DNA damage and what mechanisms counteract it. They will combine three approaches. First, they will investigate what mechanisms are important for the repair of cytosine methylation. They will study this by inactivating the candidate mechanisms one-by-one in cell lines. Second, in collaboration with the lab of Puck Knipscheer, they will use the extracts of frog eggs to define which DNA modifications are damaging and how such damage is replicated in cells. Finally, they will use a DNA-sequencing approach that they recently developed to test if cytosine methylation leads to mutations in the germ cells of mice that lack DNA repair.

About NWO M-grants

The NWO Domain Science-M grants are intended for realizing curiosity-driven, fundamental research of high quality and/or scientific urgency. It offers researchers the possibility to elaborate creative and risky ideas to realize scientific innovations that can form the basis for the research themes of the future. This round, 17 out of 72 applicants receive the grant.