Frank Grosveld and Steven Henikoff are Editors-in-Chief of BioMed Central’s Epigenetics & Chromatin – launched in October 2008 to showcase high quality research in this growing field.
We caught up with Grosveld and Henikoff at BioMed Central’s inaugural conference on ‘Epigenetics & Chromatin: interactions and processes’, held in March 2013 in Boston. Taking time out from three packed days of presentations, Grosveld and Henikoff spoke to us about how the field has changed and what questions are yet to be answered.
Both leading researchers have spurred on the growth of epigenetics and chromatin research over the last few decades. Frank Grosveld, head of the Department of Cell Biology at Erasmus MC, the Netherlands, has pioneered research in gene regulation; from his studies on the beta-globin gene that led to the first description of locus control regions to recent work describing 3D interactions within the nucleus. Grosveld continues to probe how transcription is regulated during development, specifically in mammalian erythroid cells. In recognition of his scientific contributions he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society and a member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences.
“Sometimes a gene is on, sometimes it’s off. The rest is epigenetics.”
Frank Grosveld, Erasmus MC
Over the course of his career Grosveld has seen substantial changes in his area of research: “I remember very much the days where chromatin meetings were basically listings of histones and a few other proteins”, he recalls. “With new technology […] it became very much a different field and very dynamic in fact.”
Steven Henikoff, investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, USA, has also made his mark in chromatin research, for which he was elected a member of the US National Academy of Sciences and a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Henikoff’s interests lie in understanding the relationship between epigenetic inheritance and chromatin, with a particular emphasis on histones and DNA methylation. Recent progress springing from Henikoff’s research includes a new paradigm for gene silencing and the development of bioinformatics tools such as SIFT.
“I think the biggest questions are still out there. For example; how is epigenetic inheritance transmitted?”
Steve Henikoff, Howard Hughes Medical Institute
Both Henikoff and Grosveld enthuse about the importance of chromatin interactions and epigenetics. “It has an increasing impact and as the methods become more enabling and become more precise, I think we’ll see more and more of an effect of epigenomics, covering other fields as well”, says Henikoff.
The need for a journal to highlight the ever-growing impact of this research led to the launch of Epigenetics & Chromatin. Commenting on the benefits of this and other open access journals, Grosveld says: “It’s all about accessibility if you want to successfully publish.” With epigenetics throwing up more questions as the discipline develops, there is a wealth of knowledge to be discovered and disseminated. “I think the biggest questions are still out there. For example; how is epigenetic inheritance transmitted?” says Henikoff. “We have many questions. Too many to actually list!”