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Dr. Zhijian Jake Tu
Dr. Tu uses modern genomics and bioinformatics tools to study the basic genetics and physiology of mosquitoes with the long-term goal of reducing the burden of vector-borne infectious diseases.
Mosquito transmitted diseases, such as malaria, dengue fever, and encephalitis, claim millions of lives worldwide each year. My laboratory is using modern genomics and bioinformatics tools to study the basic genetics and physiology of mosquitoes with the long-term goal of reducing the burden of vector-borne infectious diseases. My research program covers three areas. First, we are developing a novel synthetic gene drive system called MEDEA (Maternal-effect dominant embryonic arrest) for efficient and safe spread of refractory genes in mosquito populations to control infectious diseases such as dengue and malaria. We employ systems biology and bioinformatics approaches to identify and study the function of the key components of the MEDEA system, including early zygotic promoters, maternal promoters, and microRNAs. We are also studying Y-chromosome genes in Anopheline mosquitoes. These genes are powerful markers for evolutionary analysis and some of them may be important in sexual differentiation. Understanding mosquito sex-determination has significant practical implications as only females take blood and transmit diseases. Finally, we are interested in mosquito transposable elements (TEs), which are mobile genetic elements that have the ability to replicate and spread in the genome. Our objectives are to understand the fundamental biology of TEs and their genomic and evolutionary impacts as well as to explore the applications of TEs as molecular tools to manipulate mosquito genomes for the purpose of interrupting transmission of pathogens.