The long-term research interest of my laboratory is to understand the molecular mechanisms underlying small RNA metabolism and function. Small RNAs, including microRNAs (miRNAs) and small interfering RNAs (siRNAs), are 20 to 24 nucleotide (nt) RNAs that function as sequence-specific regulators of gene expression at both transcriptional and post-transcriptional levels in eukaryotes. These small RNAs are involved in numerous cellular processes including development, differentiation, proliferation, apoptosis, and stress responses. We currently employ a combination of genetic, biochemical, cell biological, and genomic approaches to identify and characterize components involved in small RNA metabolism in Arabidopsis thaliana.
The long-term goal of my research is to elucidate the functions and biochemical mechanisms of RNA silencing in plants. RNA silencing has emerged as a key regulatory process that controls various aspects of biology in eukaryotes including growth and development and antiviral defense. The common themes of RNA silencing include the biogenesis of small RNAs by DICERs, and the incorporation of small RNAs into Argonaute (AGO)-centered RNA-induced silencing complexes (RISCs). The RISCs execute the repressive or regulatory functions on target genes at the transcriptional or post-transcriptional levels. Our research has four major aspects: 1) Arabidopsis AGO10 and stem cell development; 2) Novel biochemical mechanisms of microRNA biogenesis in plants; 3) Interplay between RNA processing and transcriptional gene silencing; and 4) Epigenetic silencing and viral suppressors. We address these fundamental issues using integrated molecular, biochemical, genetic, genomic and high-throughput and other the state-of-the-art approaches.