The Chuong lab is interested in the evolution of gene regulation in adaptation and disease. We are particularly interested in transposons — abundant “selfish” genetic elements which constitute over 50% of the human genome. Despite their parasitic origins, recent work suggests an important role for transposons in shaping the evolution of life on earth. Our interdisciplinary approach combines large-scale analyses of genomic datasets with hypothesis-driven experiments in mammalian cells, focusing on immunity and cancer.
September 2017: Eutherian mammals (e.g. human, mouse) are often referred to as “placental” mammals, yet marsupials (e.g. kangaroo, koala) also have a fully functioning placenta, made out of the yolk sac. The evolutionary relationship between eutherian and marsupial placentas had not been investigated at the molecular level, so we performed RNA-Seq on a prized collection of wallaby placentas, provided by the Renfree lab! This was a collaboration with Michael Guernsey of Julie Baker’s lab (Stanford) and Marilyn Renfree (Univ of Melbourne).
eLIFE | Commentary | Stanford press release
May 2017: I’m delighted to announce I will be joining the Biofrontiers Institute at the University of Colorado Boulder as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology!
November 2016: Transposable elements are genomic parasites that are masters of hijacking the cell to promote their own replication. At the same time, they provide a rich stock of “pre-made” regulatory elements ripe for evolutionary co-option by the host. A number of recent studies provide evidence that transposable elements have contributed to the evolution of plants, insects, and mammals. Read more in our review, just published in Nature Reviews Genetics.
March 2016: Vertebrate genomes are littered with remnants of ancient retroviruses. Our study, just published in Science, reveals that some of these viral elements have been domesticated to help activate the innate immune response against modern-day viruses. As Sun Tzu stated in The Art of War, “The opportunity for defeating the enemy is provided by the enemy himself.” It seems host-virus evolutionary battles are no exception.