Vivian Cheung investigates the genetic basis of complex human traits and develops tools that facilitate such studies.
Genetics of Gene Expression
Expression levels of genes vary extensively among individuals. This variation is in part genetically regulated. This allows us to search for regulators that influence expression levels of genes by genetic mapping. We use microarrays and high-throughput sequencing to measure gene expression in cells from a large number of related and unrelated individuals. We then treat the expression levels as quantitative traits and carry out genetic linkage and association mapping to identify the sequence variants that influence gene expression. Thus far, we have identified the regulators for more than 1,000 human genes. In this project, the student has the opportunity to learn about gene expression, genetic mapping, and molecular methods to study how genes regulate expression levels of other genes.
The cells that we study are those at rest and following treatment with stresses such as radiation or hormones such as insulin. Thus, in addition to understanding gene regulation, we will learn about why individuals differ in their responses to stress and hormonal/nutritional needs.