Ubiquitin is named from its ubiquitous presence in all eukaryotes, ranging from yeast to human to the diverse plant kingdom.  Its highly evolutionary conservation further demonstrates its important roles in eukaryotic life.

A biological system is organized in a hierarchical structure manner, making many of its master regulators hidden deeply in numerous heavily buffered networks.  Next-generation biological sciences urge to develop systems approaches to decode biological questions through unraveling these master regulators.

Ubiquitylation is a eukaryotic post-translational modification process that adds a 76-amino acid peptide, called ubiquitin (Ub), on to a myriad of proteins to determine their functions.  Most of the time, ubiquitylated proteins are recognized and degraded by the 26S proteasome, a 2.5 MDa proteolytic complex, in all eukaryotes.  Given the wide range and important regulatory roles of ubiquitylation, the finding of Ub won the Nobel Prize for chemistry in 2004.

Compared to other eukaryotic organisms, ubiquitylation is particularly important for plants in protein functional regulation, which is in part implied from the dramatic expansion of the ubiquitin-26S proteasome system (UPS) in plants.  For example, in Arabidopsis thaliana, one of the most important model organisms for biological sciences, ~12% of its proteome (encoded by >3,000 genes) has been predicted to be either directly involved in the ubiquitylation process or regulated by ubiquitylation.

Our lab is interested in the roles of ubiquitylaiton in plant developmental and physiological processes.  Taking advantage of high throughput sequencing technologies, we are tackling these roles in A. thaliana and rice, through the integration of evolutionary and computational biology, plant omics, genetics, biochemistry, and molecular biology.  Our ultimate goal is to develop systems approaches for improving crop production through predictable manipulation of the UPS.

Lab Philosophy:  Curiosity drives hard work; hard work and intelligence help us solve the curiosity!

Lab Strategy:  To solve biological questions, we dig data (dry bench); we generate data (wet bench).


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