Dr. Wenbo Li
The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston
McGovern Medical School
Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
An amazing feature of eukaryotic nuclei is that as long as 2 meters of DNA in linear length (3 billion base pairs in humans) is packaged into a space of less than 10 μm a diameter, while the information stored in all regions of this stretch of DNA can still be very quickly (in minutes or seconds) and effectively retrieved. (This process is so effective and precise that it very likely outperforms the Google search engine!). Despite being so small, every human genome hosts millions of regulatory genomic elements, including enhancers, promoters and insulators, that they cross talk to each other every single second to control DNA replication, genome integrity and gene transcription. The ultimate goal of Dr. Li’s lab is to understand how the genome is organized in the three-dimension (3D), and how the elements in the genome, including both DNAs and RNAs, cross-talk to each other.
Importantly, the mutations of genome regulatory elements, such as enhancers and promoters, are associated with various diseases, but are mostly mysterious in terms of their underlying mechanisms. The basic molecular insights into 3D genome will be doomed to help us fight human disease such as cancers.
What students can learn during tutorial: Dr. Li’s lab uses highly interdisciplinary approaches combining biochemistry and molecular biology, epigenetics/epigenomics, genome editing (i.e. Crispr/Cas9), and bioinformatics. For example, his team is conducting a novel technique called enhanced RNA associated protein identification by mass-spectrometry (eRAP) to study the protein partners of noncoding RNAs transcribed from enhancers. Li lab also extensively utilizes omics tools like ChIP-Seq, GRO-Seq, 4C-Seq and HiChIP. Interested students will learn to conduct one of these assays from the beginning to the end during her/his tutorial. Students may also have opportunities to learn and use bioinformatics tools.