The Yang Laboratory uses molecular, cellular, genetic and genomic approaches to investigate critical roles of cell signaling in embryonic morphogenesis and adult physiology. We mainly focus on the mammalian limb, skeleton and liver, and we are exploiting these systems to explore human biology and address the underlying pathophysiological mechanisms of diseases including cancer.
Cell-cell signaling plays essential and pivotal roles in both development and physiology. We are particularly interested in the Wnt, Hedgehog and Hippo signaling pathways that are evolutionarily conserved, act repetitively in different systems and regulate a diverse array of biological processes. Mutations in components of these signaling pathways cause devastating congenital defects, degenerative disorders and cancer.
The vertebrate skeleton and liver provide great systems for us to understand morphogenesis, regeneration and signaling interactions between tissue-specific resident cells with systemic regulation. Our previous work has provided insights into several fundamental aspects of tissue and organ morphogenesis in the limb and skeleton and tumor formation in the liver. Our current efforts are divided into the following major projects:
- Understand the role of signaling pathways in cell fate determination. We are investigating the molecular and cellular mechanisms whereby Gs regulates fate choices of differentiating mesenchymal progenitor/stem cells by controlling several key signaling pathways under both physiological and pathological conditions.
- Understand the function of directional information in development and disease. We are investigating the regulatory mechanisms whereby Wnt signaling controls planar cell polarity (PCP) in various aspects of embryonic morphogenesis, skeletal development and homeostasis.
- Understand the functions of Hippo/Yap signaling in hepatocyte fate plasticity, proliferation and interactions with the immune cells. We are particularly interested in the cellular and molecular mechanism underlying the hepatic roles of Hippo/Yap signaling in shaping the immune microenvironment.
- Understand the molecular and cellular mechanism underlying mechanotransduction in the skeletal system. The musculoskeletal system is a major effector of biomechanic forces. We are investigating the signaling pathways in mediating the effects of mechanotransduction in development, homeostasis and regeneration in the skeleton.
Visiting Graduate Student