Tunghai University, Taiwan, B.Sc. Biology, 1976;
University of British Columbia, Ph.D. Population Genetics, 1982
We are interested mainly in the molecular and population genetics of species and racial differentiation. The three main areas of research given below all center around this theme. The first area consists of genomic approaches to genes of species differentiation. The second area concerns gene expression differences between species, focusing on the roles microRNAs play in expression divergence. The third area of research activities is about interpreting genomic data by developing theories of natural selection and speciation.
I. Molecular genetics of species differentiation - The main interest is in the genetic and molecular basis of species differences. (You can think of human vs. chimpanzee, if you wish. How many genetic differences delineate us from them?) We use sibling species of Drosophila to get to the answers (see Wu, C.-I and C.-T. Ting 2004 Genes and speciation. Nature Review Genetics 5: 114-122). Among the traits of special interest are hybrid incompatibility and sexual behavior divergence. These traits are what define species.
II. Evolution of microRNAs in relation to expression divergenece - One of the most intriguing class of regulatory molecules are microRNAs which have attracted great interest only recently (see the picture below). These are small RNA molecules that guide the RISC enzyme to degrade the targeted transcripts. The molecular action of miRNAs is reminiscent of the genetic basis of species differentiation (multiple factors, each with weak effect).
III. Genomics and population genetics -The torrent of genomic data by DNA sequencing and expression microarrays have provided unprecedented opportunities for analyzing natural selection and adaptation. Speciation is the consequence of natural selection driving populations to adapt to different environments. It is also a genome-scale phenomenon.