Bachelor of Science, Peking University (2009)
Doctor of Philosophy, Johns Hopkins University (2015)
Howard Chang, Postdoctoral Faculty Sponsor
Long noncoding RNAs (lncRNAs) have been shown to act as important cell biological regulators including cell fate decisions but are often ignored in human genetics. Combining differential lncRNA expression during neuronal lineage induction with copy number variation morbidity maps of a cohort of children with autism spectrum disorder/intellectual disability versus healthy controls revealed focal genomic mutations affecting several lncRNA candidate loci. Here we find that a t(5:12) chromosomal translocation in a family manifesting neurodevelopmental symptoms disrupts specifically lnc-NR2F1. We further show that lnc-NR2F1 is an evolutionarily conserved lncRNA functionally enhances induced neuronal cell maturation and directly occupies and regulates transcription of neuronal genes including autism-associated genes. Thus, integrating human genetics and functional testing in neuronal lineage induction is a promising approach for discovering candidate lncRNAs involved in neurodevelopmental diseases.
View details for PubMedID 30628890
Replication-dependent histone genes often reside in tandemly arrayed gene clusters, hindering systematic loss-of-function analyses. Here, we used CRISPR/Cas9 and the attP/attB double-integration system to alter numbers and sequences of histone genes in their original genomic context in Drosophila melanogaster. As few as 8 copies of the histone gene unit supported embryo development and adult viability, whereas flies with 20 copies were indistinguishable from wild-types. By hierarchical assembly, 40 alanine-substitution mutations (covering all known modified residues in histones H3 and H4) were introduced and characterized. Mutations at multiple residues compromised viability, fertility, and DNA-damage responses. In particular, H4K16 was necessary for expression of male X-linked genes, male viability, and maintenance of ovarian germline stem cells, whereas H3K27 was essential for late embryogenesis. Simplified mosaic analysis showed that H3R26 is required for H3K27 trimethylation. We have developed a powerful strategy and valuable reagents to systematically probe histone functions in D. melanogaster.
View details for PubMedID 30595536
Single-cell RNA-seq in samples from the human neocortex demonstrate that long noncoding RNAs (lncRNAs) are abundantly expressed in specific individual brain cells, despite being hard to detect in bulk samples. This result suggests that the lncRNAs might have important functions in specific cell types in the brain.
View details for DOI 10.1186/s13059-016-0933-0
View details for PubMedID 27079200
Sexual identity is continuously maintained in specific differentiated cell types long after sex determination occurs during development. In the adult Drosophila testis, the putative transcription factor Chronologically inappropriate morphogenesis (Chinmo) acts with the canonical male sex determinant DoublesexM (Dsx(M)) to maintain the male identity of somatic cyst stem cells and their progeny. Here we find that ectopic expression of chinmo is sufficient to induce a male identity in adult ovarian somatic cells, but it acts through a Dsx(M)-independent mechanism. Conversely, the feminization of the testis somatic stem cell lineage caused by loss of chinmo is enhanced by expression of the canonical female sex determinant Dsx(F), indicating that chinmo acts in parallel with the canonical sex determination pathway to maintain the male identity of testis somatic cells. Consistent with this finding, ectopic expression of female sex determinants in the adult testis disrupts tissue morphology. The miRNA let-7 downregulates chinmo in many contexts, and ectopic expression of let-7 in the adult testis is sufficient to recapitulate the chinmo loss-of-function phenotype, but we find no apparent phenotypes upon removal of let-7 in the adult ovary or testis. Our finding that chinmo is necessary and sufficient to promote a male identity in adult gonadal somatic cells suggests that the sexual identity of somatic cells can be reprogrammed in the adult Drosophila ovary as well as in the testis.
View details for DOI 10.1242/dev.129627
View details for Web of Science ID 000384749400003
View details for PubMedID 26811385
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC4813340
Local signals maintain adult stem cells in many tissues. Whether the sexual identity of adult stem cells must also be maintained was not known. In the adult Drosophila testis niche, local Jak-STAT signaling promotes somatic cyst stem cell (CySC) renewal through several effectors, including the putative transcription factor Chronologically inappropriate morphogenesis (Chinmo). Here, we find that Chinmo also prevents feminization of CySCs. Chinmo promotes expression of the canonical male sex determination factor DoublesexM (Dsx(M)) within CySCs and their progeny, and ectopic expression of DsxM in the CySC lineage partially rescues the chinmo sex transformation phenotype, placing Chinmo upstream of Dsx(M). The Dsx homolog DMRT1 prevents the male-to-female conversion of differentiated somatic cells in the adult mammalian testis, but its regulation is not well understood. Our work indicates that sex maintenance occurs in adult somatic stem cells and that this highly conserved process is governed by effectors of niche signals. PAPERCLIP:
View details for DOI 10.1016/j.devcel.2014.10.004
View details for Web of Science ID 000345540200012
View details for PubMedID 25453558
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC4254588
Stem cell regulation by local signals is intensely studied, but less is known about the effects of hormonal signals on stem cells. In Drosophila, the primary steroid twenty-hydroxyecdysone (20E) regulates ovarian germline stem cells (GSCs) but was considered dispensable for testis GSC maintenance. Male GSCs reside in a microenvironment (niche) generated by somatic hub cells and adjacent cyst stem cells (CySCs). Here, we show that depletion of 20E from adult males by overexpressing a dominant negative form of the Ecdysone receptor (EcR) or its heterodimeric partner ultraspiracle (usp) causes GSC and CySC loss that is rescued by 20E feeding, uncovering a requirement for 20E in stem cell maintenance. EcR and USP are expressed, activated and autonomously required in the CySC lineage to promote CySC maintenance, as are downstream genes ftz-f1 and E75. In contrast, GSCs non-autonomously require ecdysone signaling. Global inactivation of EcR increases cell death in the testis that is rescued by expression of EcR-B2 in the CySC lineage, indicating that ecdysone signaling supports stem cell viability primarily through a specific receptor isoform. Finally, EcR genetically interacts with the NURF chromatin-remodeling complex, which we previously showed maintains CySCs. Thus, although 20E levels are lower in males than females, ecdysone signaling acts through distinct cell types and effectors to ensure both ovarian and testis stem cell maintenance.
View details for DOI 10.1016/j.ydbio.2014.07.016
View details for Web of Science ID 000341905500012
View details for PubMedID 25093968
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC4165524