Investigating a role of C/T antigens in spermatogenesis and cancer

In the context of germ cell differentiation and cancer, our group studies the function of other testis-specific epigenetic regulators whose expression is elevated in cancers. For more than 20 years, it has been known that various somatic cancers display the aberrant activation of germ cell specific genes, Cancer-Testis antigens (C/T antigens), and many of these proteins are in fact regulators of the epigenome. Our aim is to study the function of C/T antigens in their natural environment, male germ cells, as well as understanding how their upregulation in cancer influences the processes of carcinogenesis. There are more than 280 C/T antigens identified, however, their function in the testis and in cancers is largely unknown. Therefore, understanding their proper role in the testis will be important to elucidate their function in cancer. The project will first identify those C/T antigens that are likely to be epigenetic regulators (for example having DNA or histone-PTM binding domains). These candidates will be characterized further in male germ cells using mouse as a model. For that, the KO mouse models for the most promising C/T antigen candidates could be created to underpin their function in the physiological environment. This knowledge can be used to test whether their intrinsic testis-specific function is sustained or it has evolved in the cancer environment.

This project offers an all-rounding way to fully immerse students into scientific life, as it gives opportunity to master your experimental skills, learn some of the state-of-the-art techniques, as well as find out a lot about very exciting fields of biology, such as epigenetics spermatogenesis and how it can relate to cancer.