Small regulatory RNAs (and their associated proteins) are dynamic and active participants in controlling the genome and phenotype of cells and animals. Germ cells have a special role in the perpetuation of organisms, but they have also become the richest environment for the study of small regulatory RNAs. In addition to microRNAs, which are vital regulators conserved from plants to people, germ cells express endogenous small interfering RNAs (endo-siRNAs) and Piwi-interacting RNAs (piRNAs). In animal germ cells, like spermatocytes and oocytes, piRNAs are the most abundant class of small RNAs, and together with Piwi proteins, they suppress the mobilization of transposable elements and specify the organization of mRNAs and proteins in the germ cell, which impacts the expression of certain genes
Our group is interested in dissecting the molecular mechanisms of Piwi proteins and piRNAs, with a focus on particular outstanding questions. How exactly do Piwi proteins and piRNAs silence transposons and organize asymmetrically in germ cells? What is the impact of these molecules on global gene expression and chromatin organization and how does this affect germ cell and embryonic development? How do piRNAs get generated and what triggers their specific expression in germ cells? We hope to address these questions with molecular, cell biology, and biochemical approaches in specific model systems, like Xenopus oocytes, a repository and "living test tube" of Piwi proteins and piRNAs. Insights we gain from piRNA studies will complement our examinations of other RNAi pathways, like microRNAs and endo-siRNAs.
Small RNAs in the animal gonad: Guarding genomes and guiding development. Lau NC. Int J Biochem Cell Biol. 2010 Mar 19. [abstract]
Virus discovery by deep sequencing and assembly of virus-derived small silencing RNAs. Wu Q, Luo Y, Lu R, Lau N, Lai EC, Li WX, Ding SW. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2010 Jan 26;107(4):1606-11. [abstract]
A Broadly Conserved Pathway Generates 3'UTR-Directed Primary piRNAs. Robine N*, Lau NC*, Balla S*, Jin Z, Okamura K, Kuramochi-Miyagawa S, Blower MD, Lai EC. Curr Biol. 2009 Dec 16. [abstract]
Systematic and single cell analysis of Xenopus Piwi-interacting RNAs and Xiwi. Lau NC, Ohsumi T, Borowsky M, Kingston RE, Blower MD. EMBO J. 2009 Aug 27. [abstract]
Abundant primary piRNAs, endo-siRNAs, and microRNAs in a Drosophila ovary
cell line. Lau NC*, Robine N*, Martin R, Chung WJ, Niki Y, Berezikov E, Lai EC. Genome Res. 2009 Jul 14. [abstract]
Analysis of small endogenous RNAs. Lau NC. Curr Protoc Mol Biol. 2008 Jan;Chapter 26:Unit26.7. [abstract]
The coming of age for Piwi proteins. Seto AG*, Kingston RE, Lau NC*. Mol Cell. 2007 Jun 8;26(5):603-9. [abstract]
Characterization of the piRNA complex from rat testes. Lau NC*, Seto AG*, Kim J, Kuramochi-Miyagawa S, Nakano T, Bartel DP, Kingston RE. Science. 2006 Jul 21;313(5785):363-7. [abstract]
Diverse roles for RNA in gene regulation. Lau NC, Lai EC. Genome Biol. 2005;6(4):315. Epub 2005 Mar 29.
Microarray analysis shows that some microRNAs downregulate large numbers of target mRNAs. Lim LP, Lau NC, Garrett-Engele P, Grimson A, Schelter JM, Castle J, Bartel DP, Linsley PS, Johnson JM. Nature. 2005 Feb 17;433(7027):769-73. Epub 2005 Jan 30. [abstract]
The MicroRNAs of Caenorhabditis elegans. Lim LP*, Lau NC*, Weinstein EG*, Abdelhakim AH*, Yekta SO, Rhoades MW, Burge CB, Bartel DP. Genes Dev. 2003 Apr 15;17(8):991-1008. Epub 2003 Apr 02. [abstract]
Censors of the Genome. Lau NC, Bartel DP. Scientific American. 2003 Aug;289(2):34-42.
An abundant class of tiny RNAs with probable regulatory roles in Caenorhabditis elegans. Lau NC, Lim LP, Weinstein EG, Bartel DP. Science. 2001 Oct 26;294(5543):858-62.
* equal contributors
Last update: August 9, 2011