Translational genomics is a new emerging science combining translational and clinical research with statistics, genomics, clinical informatics, bioinformatics, medical informatics, information technology, and mathematics together. One of our current research goals is to develop appropriate computational tool to analyze the high-throughput genomic and genetic data obtained from animal models or human patients to optimize the development of disease-specific biomarkers, aid medical decision-making, and supervise drug target identification and clinical validation. We are currently working with Dr. Qi Chen's Lab to identify the “disease RNA code” composed of non-canonical small non-coding RNAs (e.g. tRNA-derived small RNAs [tsRNAs], rRNA-derived small RNAs [rsRNAs], and YRNA-derived small RNAs [ysRNAs]), which potentially paves a new avenue for future molecular diagnosis/prognosis in precision medicine.
POST-TRANSCRIPTIONAL REGULATION AND RNA STRUCTURE
Increasing evidence indicates that the secondary structure of mRNA plays a critical role in post-transcriptional regulation. Alteration in global or local mRNA secondary structure may dramatically change translation efficiency and thus affect protein expression level. Our research in this area demonstrates that there is a universal trend of reduced mRNA stability near the start codon in both prokaryotes and eukaryotes, which facilitates translation initiation. Also, we found that the local mRNA secondary structure in 5’-UTR and microRNA binding region plays an important role in miRNA-mediated gene regulation.
NON-NEUTRAL EVOLUTION AT SYNONYMOUS SITES
Synonymous mutations (so called silent mutations) are the change of one base for another in an exon of a gene, such that the produced protein primary sequence is not modified. When a synonymous or silent mutation occurs, the change is often assumed to be neutral, meaning that it does not affect the fitness of the individual carrying the new gene to survive and reproduce. However, increasing evidence indicates that synonymous mutations have significant consequences for cellular processes in all taxa. Evolutionary research on synonymous sites is becoming increasingly important as these analyses make their way into clinical utilizations of academic results, which has numerous implications not only for the understanding of basic biology but also for methods development in bioengineering and for the diagnosis and treatment of genetic disease.