Dr. Nelson C Lau
PositionAssociate Professor, Director GSI
Our lab studies how RNA interference mechanisms such as the PIWI/piRNA pathway protects our genomes from the spread of transposable elements (TEs). Our DNA is inherently laden with TEs that have continued to infect our genomes, and through evolution TEs have accumulated to fill over 45% of our genome’s content. If TEs are unchecked, their mobilization causes germ cell death, infertility, and genomic damage during cellular aging. Therefore, our cells critically rely on small regulatory RNAs and their associated PIWI and ARGONAUTE proteins to safeguard genomes from these mobilizing elements. Our lab applies functional and comparative genomics and biochemical approaches to dissect the molecular mechanisms for how PIWI / piRNA complexes silence genomic targets. By understanding the requirements and limitations of the PIWI/piRNA pathway, we may be able to uncover how TEs might evade suppression by these pathways to generate wide-spread TE landscape diversity across animal genomes. Our mechanistic studies will also help us find situations to enhance TE control and link TE mis-regulation to etiologies of genome decline.
Genome Science Institute
Dept of Biochemistry
Boston University, School of Medicine