Yingqun Huang PhD, MD

Associate Professor of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Sciences

Research Interests

RNA biology; Stem cells; Post-transcriptional regulation of gene expression; Metabolism


Research Summary

Dr. Huang’s research interest has been the post-transcriptional regulation of gene expression in the mammalian system. Recently, her research interest has extended to the imprinted, developmentally regulated H19 long noncoding RNA (lncRNA) as a result of her serendipitous discovery of its relationship with the let-7 family of microRNAs. Abundantly expressed in fetal tissues and adult skeletal muscle, H19 has been implicated in human genetic disorders and cancer. However, how H19 acts to regulate gene function has remained enigmatic. Dr. Huang and her team noted that vertebrate H19 harbors binding sites for let-7 microRNAs, which play important roles in development, cancer, and metabolism. Using H19 knockdown and overexpression, combined with in vivo crosslinking and genome-wide transcriptome analysis, they have demonstrated that H19 modulates let-7 availability by acting as a molecular sponge. The physiological significance of this interaction is highlighted in culture where H19 depletion causes precocious muscle differentiation, a phenotype recapitulated by let-7 overexpression. Together, these results reveal an unexpected mode of action of H19 and identify this lncRNA as an important regulator of the major let-7 family of microRNAs. Currently, Dr. Huang’s lab is focusing on the identification and characterization of the molecular composition of H19-associated complexes, which will be followed by determination of biological significance of interactions of H19 with identified RNA and protein components. The ultimate goal of the studies is to gain a comprehensive mechanistic understanding of how H19, through dynamic interactions with associated components, functions to regulate gene expression under both normal and pathological conditions, with a particular focus on metabolism and reproduction.

Extensive Research Description

Dr. Huang’s research interest has been the post-transcriptional regulation of gene expression in the mammalian system. Recently, her research interest has extended to the imprinted, developmentally regulated H19 long noncoding RNA (lncRNA) as a result of her serendipitous discovery of its relationship with the let-7 family of microRNAs. Abundantly expressed in fetal tissues and adult skeletal muscle, H19 has been implicated in human genetic disorders and cancer. However, how H19 acts to regulate gene function has remained enigmatic. Dr. Huang and her team noted that vertebrate H19 harbors binding sites for let-7 microRNAs, which play important roles in development, cancer, and metabolism. Using H19 knockdown and overexpression, combined with in vivo crosslinking and genome-wide transcriptome analysis, they have demonstrated that H19 modulates let-7 availability by acting as a molecular sponge. The physiological significance of this interaction is highlighted in culture where H19 depletion causes precocious muscle differentiation, a phenotype recapitulated by let-7 overexpression. Together, these results reveal an unexpected mode of action of H19 and identify this lncRNA as an important regulator of the major let-7 family of microRNAs. Currently, Dr. Huang’s lab is focusing on the identification and characterization of the molecular composition of H19-associated complexes, which will be followed by determination of biological significance of interactions of H19 with identified RNA and protein components. The ultimate goal of the studies is to gain a comprehensive mechanistic understanding of how H19, through dynamic interactions with associated components, functions to regulate gene expression under both normal and pathological conditions, with a particular focus on metabolism and reproduction.


Selected Publications

  • Kallen AN, Zhou XB, Xu J, Qiao C, Ma J, Lei Y, Lu L, Liu C, Yi JS, Zhang H, Min W, Bennett AM, Gregory RI, Ding Y, and Huang Y. The imprinted H19 long noncoding RNA antagonizes let-7 miRNAs. Mol Cell, doi: 10.1016/j.molcel.2013.08.027, 2013.
  • Lei X-X, Xu J, Ma W, Qiao C, Newman MA, Hammond SM, and Huang Y. Determinants of mRNA recognition and translation regulation by Lin28. Nucleic Acids Res, 40:3574-3584, 2012.
  • Peng S, Chen L-L, Lei X-X, Yang L, Lin H, Carmichael GG, and Huang Y. Genome-wide studies reveal that Lin28 enhances the translation of genes important for growth and survival of human embryonic stem cells. Stem Cells, 29:496-504, 2011.
  • Jin J, Jing W, Lei X-X, Feng C, Peng S, Boris-Lawrie K, and Huang Y. Evidence that Lin28 stimulates translation by recruiting RNA helicase A to polysomes. Nucleic Acids Res, 39:3724-3734, 2011.
  • Peng S, Maihle NJ, and Huang Y. Pluripotency Factors Lin28 and Oct4 Identify a Subpopulation of Stem Cell-like Cells in Ovarian Cancer. Oncogene 29, 2153-2159, 2010

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