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Your Environment. Your Health.

Single Cell Dynamics Group

Gene Expression Heterogeneity

Joseph Rodriguez
Joseph Rodriguez, Ph.D.
Principal Investigator
Tel 984-287-3104
P.O. Box 12233
Mail Drop D4-02
Durham, N.C. 27709

Research Summary

graphic showing proccess of MS2 labeling of endogenous loci
Current technology allows the group to image transcription sites in real time, leading to an understanding of how heterogeneity in gene expression is regulated.

Joseph Rodriguez, Ph.D., leads the Single Cell Dynamics Group and holds a secondary appointment in the NIEHS Signal Transduction Laboratory. The Single Cell Dynamics Group studies how the environment influences expression heterogeneity in real time and how those impacts affect tissue composition. The group also wants to determine how different compounds affect heterogeneity and how they lead to disease.

The work is important because the current understanding of gene regulation is based on studies using bulk cells and ground up tissues. The Single Cell Dynamics Group has found that individual cells, even of the same cell type, respond differently to upstream signals, which include the environment. Recent research from the group suggests that in diseases, such as cancer, or the process of aging, cells express a lot of heterogeneity. Understanding the mechanisms of that heterogeneity at the single cell level is vital for figuring out what happens in normal and diseased states.

Major areas of research:

  • Defining the mechanisms of expression heterogeneity
  • Determining the functional impact of the environment on expression heterogeneity
Imaging of transcription in live cells
Imaging of transcription in live cells reveals deep repressive periods that cause expression heterogeneity.

Rodriguez graduated from MIT in 2001 and worked for six years performing bioinformatics analysis of human genome assembly. In 2007, he began work under the direction of Nobel Laureate Michael Rosbash, Ph.D., at Brandeis University, studying RNA processing and gene expression dynamics during circadian rhythm. Those efforts led to shared authorship on eleven publications, including first author papers in Molecular Cell and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. After receiving his doctorate in 2012, Rodriguez joined the laboratory of Daniel Larson, Ph.D., at the National Cancer Institute and studied transcriptional regulation of estrogen responsive genes in single human cells. Rodriguez joined NIEHS in 2018.

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