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Yao's Laboratory

Hongjie Yao, Ph.D.
Principal Investigator

Dr. Yao received his P.D. in Institute of Botany, Chinese Academy of Sciences in 2005. He received his post-doctoral training in Pennsylvania State University, US National Institutes of Health from 2005 to 2010. Then Dr. Yao worked as a Research associate in Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, US Department of Defense. In October 2011, Dr. Yao joined Guangzhou Institutes of Biomedicine and Health, Chinese Academy of Sciences as a Principal Investigator.


Dr. Yao’s lab currently has three research assistants, three graduate students.


Epigenetics is the study of changes in gene expression or cellular phenotype, caused by mechanisms other than changes in the underlying DNA sequence. Dr. Yao’s lab currently focuses on the epigenetic regulation of gene expressions during cell fate transition. 


1) Nucleosome positioning and Transcription regulation

Nucleosome positioning and histone modifications play an important role in regulating transcription. Transcription machinery is highly related to gene activity and changes significantly during cell fate determination. To understand the fundamental questions about how genes are regulated in cells either on or off, One of Dr. Yao’s research interests is studying how nucleosome positioning and histone modifications regulate gene activity during cell fate transition.


2) CTCF and chromatin organization

In recent years, we moved our view of the genome organization from a linear model to a looped model of the genome. It is now well established that intra- and inter-connections occur between chromosomes and play a major role in gene regulations. These interconnections are mainly orchestrated by the chromatin insulator binding protein CCCTC-binding factor (CTCF), which is also known as the "master weaver" of the genome. Dr. Yao’s lab is also focusing on how CTCF mediated high order chromatin organization in mammalian system.


3) Long noncoding RNAs (LncRNAs) and their biological functions

LncRNAs are pervasively transcribed and critical regulators of the epigenome. A lot of LncRNAs were identified in recently years; however, the functions of most LncRNAs are still unknown. When Dr. Yao worked with Dr. Gary Felsenfeld at NIH, he identified that breast cancer related non-coding RNA SRA binds to insulator binding protein CTCF and regulates CTCF mediated insulator function and changes imprinted gene H19/Igf2 expression. However, how noncoding RNA SRA is involved in insulator function and breast cancer regulation and what is the biological function are still unknown. In Dr. Yao’s lab, the third research direction is defining the molecular mechanisms of SRA in CTCF insulator function and in breast cancer invasion and identifying small inhibitors which target and repress SRA activity in order to treat or slow down breast tumor invasion. 



1. Yao H, Brick K, Evrard Y, Xiao T, Camerini-Otero RD, Felsenfeld G. Mediation of CTCF transcriptional insulationby DEAD-box RNA binding protein p68 and steroid receptor RNA activator SRA. Genes & Development 2010, 24(22): 2543-2555.


2. Hu J*, Yao H*(*Co-first author), Gan F, Tokarski A, and Wang Y. 2012. Interaction of OKL38 and p53 in Regulating Mitochondrial Structure and Function. PLoS One 2012, 7(8): e43362.


3. Yao H, Li P, Venters B, Zheng S, Thompson PR, Pugh BF, Wang Y. Histone Arg modifications and p53 regulate the expression of OKL38, a mediator of apoptosis. Journal of Biological Chemistry2008, 283(29): 20060-20068.


4.  Ghirlando R, Giles K, Gowher H, Xiao T, Xu Z, Yao H, Felsenfeld G. Chromatin domains, insulators, and the regulation of gene expression. Biochim Biophys Acta2012, 1819 (7): 644-651.


5.  Li P, Wang D, Yao H, Doret P, Hao G, Shen Q, Qiu H, Zhang X, Wang Y, Chen G, Wang Y. Coordination of PAD4 and HDAC2 in the regulation of p53-target gene expression. Oncogene 2010, 29(21): 3153-3162.


6.  Li P, Yao H, Zhang Z, Li M, Luo Y, Thompson PR, Gilmour D, Wang Y. Regulation of p53 target gene expression by peptidylarginine deiminase 4. Molecular and Cellular Biology2008, 28(15): 4745-4758.

7.  Mochizuki K, Nishiyama A, Jang MK, Dey A, Ghosh A, Tamura T, Natsume H, Yao H, Ozato K. The bromodomain protein Brd4 stimulates G1 gene transcription and promotes progression to S phase. Journal of Biological Chemistry 2008, 283(14): 9040-9048.


8.  Tian S, Yao H, Deng X, Xu X, Qin G, Chan Z. Characterization and Expression of beta-1, 3-Glucanase Genes in Jujube Fruit Induced by the Microbial Biocontrol Agent Cryptococcus laurentii. Phytopathology 2007, 97(3): 260-268.


9. Yao H, Tian S. Effects of a biocontrol agent and methyl jasmonate on postharvest diseases of peach fruit and the possible mechanisms involved.Journal of Applied Microbiology 2005, 98(4): 941-950.


10. Yao H, Tian S. Effects of pre- and postharvest application of salicylic acid or methyl jasmonate on inducing disease resistance of sweet cherry fruit in storage.Postharvest Biology and Technology 2005, 35(3): 253-262.


11. Yao H, Tian S, Wang Y. Sodium bicarbonate enhances biocontrol efficacy of yeasts on fungal spoilage of pears. International Journal of Food Microbiology 2004, 93(3): 297-304.


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