A central task in evolutionary biology is to understand how genotypes affect phenotypes and whether/how natural selection operates during this process. We are interested in a wide range of topics related to this question. Our current research focuses on gene regulation mediated by small RNAs (microRNAs, endogenous siRNAs and piRNAs) and long intergenic non-coding RNAs (lincRNAs) from perspectives of evolutionary biology.
The whole genome sequencing projects in flies (~ 500 strains of Drosophila melanogaster and > 20 Drosophila species) and in humans (1000 Genomes Project) provide us a golden opportunity to study the evolutionary patterns and functional impacts of non-coding RNAs on transcriptomes and phenotypes at the intra- and inter-species levels. We are currently combining approaches of next-generation sequencing, computational, comparative and functional genomics with evolutionary theory and population genetics modeling. The goal of our research is to understand how non-coding RNA regulation confers robustness to biological processes and how genetic variations related to non-coding RNA regulation contribute to phenotypic changes and diseases at the systems level.
Specifically, we are conducting the following research projects: