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Thomas P. Yang, Ph.D.

Contact Information

Dr. Thomas P. Yang
Dept. of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
University of Florida College of Medicine
Box 100245
1600 SW Archer Rd.
Gainesville, FL 32610
Rm R3-295, Academic Research Bldg.
tpyang@ufl.edu
352-392-6472 (office)
352-846-1636 (lab)

Position

Professor, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
University of Florida College of Medicine

Research Area

My laboratory studies the epigenetic regulation of gene expression, and the epigenetic consequences of developmental exposure to alcohol.

Training

Undergraduate – B.A., Biology; Cornell University, Ithaca, NY; 1968-1972.
Graduate – Ph.D., Molecular Biology and Biochemistry; University of California, Irvine, CA; 1976-1982. Advisor: Dr. Barbara Hamkalo.
Postdoc – 1) Medical Genetics; Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX; 1982-1986. Advisor: Dr. C. Thomas Caskey.
2) Epigenetics; City of Hope National Medical Center, Duarte, CA; 1986-1988. Advisor: Dr. Arthur Riggs.

Current Research

The main research focus of my laboratory is on the epigenetic regulation of gene expression. Epigenetics is the study of heritable changes in phenotype or gene expression that are not due to due to changes in DNA sequence. Epigenetic mechanisms modulate chromatin structure and contribute to regulation of the major molecular processes in the nucleus including transcription, replication, repair, and RNA processing. We focus on the epigenetic regulation of transcription and study two aspects of epigenetics in mammals: genomic imprinting, and the epigenetic effects of environment and diet in utero.

It is becoming apparent that conditions a developing embryo is exposed to in utero have the potential to affect the epigenome, stably alter patterns of gene expression throughout development, and influence long-term health outcomes and the risk for diseases in adulthood. Therefore, we are currently studying the epigenetic effects of prenatal ethanol exposure using a mouse model for fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS). We hypothesize that exposure to ethanol in utero causes stable changes in the epigenome (e.g., DNA methylation) and in normal patterns of gene expression during development that persist into adulthood and contribute to FAS etiology. Thus, we are examining genome-wide changes in DNA methylation and gene expression patterns in brain cells from offspring of mothers fed a diet supplemented with ethanol during pregnancy as compared to offspring fed a control diet. This study may reveal specific loci that undergo changes in DNA methylation and/or mRNA expression levels in the brain in response to ethanol exposure in utero, and allow us to identify candidate genes whose aberrant regulation may contribute to FAS. These studies are being performed in collaboration with Drs. Henry Baker (UF Dept. of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology, UF College of Medicine), Marieta Heaton (UF Dept. of Neurosciences), and Lucia Notterpek (UF Dept. of Neurosciences). We are also interested in using rodent models to examine the effects of prenatal diet and prenatal exposure to environmental contaminants on the epigenome and subsequent changes in gene expression patterns. Our long-term interests include examining the possibility that epigenetic changes in response to prenatal ethanol exposure, environmental contaminants, and/or diet may be transmitted transgenerationally and affect gene expression patterns and disease risk in subsequent generations.

Recent Publications

Kang, S.-H. Lee, Kieffer, C.M., Yang, T.P. Role of the promoter in maintaining transcriptionally active chromatin structure and DNA methylation patterns in vivo. Molec. Cell. Biol. 23:4150-4161 (2003).

Rodriguez-Jato, S., Nicholls, R.D., Driscoll, D.J., Yang, T.P. Characterization of cis- and trans-acting elements in the imprinted human SNURF-SNRPN locus. Nucleic Acids Res. 33:4740-4753 (2005).

Wroclawska, E., Brant, J.O., Yang, T.P., Moore, K. Improving efficiencies of locus-specific DNA methylation assessment for bovine in vitro produced embryos. Systems Biol Reproductive Med. 56:96-105 (2010).

DuBose, A.J., Smith, E.Y., Yang, T. P., Johnstone, K.A., Resnick, J.L. A new deletion refines the boundaries of the murine Prader-Willi syndrome imprinting center. In press, Human Molec. Genet. (2011).