Published on 11 May 2023

Gene Regulation Mediated by Transcription Factors and Engineered for Application by Assoc Prof Gao Yonggui

IAS Discovery Science Seminar Jointly Organised with the Graduate Students' Clubs

On 5 May 2023, the IAS NTU and Graduate Students’ Club of SBS and CCEB jointly organised the Discovery Science Seminar titled "Gene Regulation Mediated by Transcription Factors and Engineered for Application," featuring Associate Professor Gao Yonggui from the NTU Institute of Structural Biology and School of Biological Sciences.

Prof Gao's research group focuses on protein translation, gene regulation and quality control in response to stress, antimicrobial resistance mechanisms, and drug discovery targeting ribosomes. He has published several papers in top-tier journals such as Science, Cell, Nat. Struct. & Mol. Biol., and PNAS, which have been widely cited. He was also awarded the National Research Fellowship in 2010.

During the seminar, Prof Gao discussed the significance of gene regulation and presented his group’s two research works on the structure and function of transcription factors. He provided a brief introduction of gene transcription and highlighted some important breakthroughs on transcription factors, such as the Yamanaka factors (Oct3/4, Sox2, Klf4, c-Myc). He then gave two noteworthy examples of structure-based function studies on transcription factors SghR and WRINKLED1 (WRI1). Based on the solved structure of the SghR-DNA complex, he successfully proposed a novel regulation model of the SghR during Agrobacterium infection and host-pathogen interaction. Published in Sci. Advance, the structure of the WRI1-DNA complex inspired Prof Gao and his collaborator, Prof Wei Ma to design several structure-based variants of WRI1 that significantly increased plant oil biosynthesis. With the growing importance of food security, these findings hold practical significance in Singapore and worldwide.

Prof Gao addressing questions from the attentive audience.

In addition to his exciting findings, Prof Gao shared his research experience and encouraged young researchers to persist in their ideas and never give up in difficult situations. He also addressed several questions from the audience, which ranged from the commercial application of the plant oil study to application of AI tools like Alphafold in protein structure study. His useful suggestions and advice garnered applause from the audience.

All in all, Prof Gao's seminar emphasised the crucial role that gene regulation plays in various fields, from medicine to agriculture, and the exciting possibilities for innovation and advancement in these areas through continued research in this field. 

"It was quite informative and I was able to understand to a certain extent with my knowledge." - Ng Yihan Marcus (student, School of Science and Technology, Singapore)

“I truly appreciate the speaker’s response to my question, which not only addressed the immediate topic but also provided a broader perspective on the future work of transcription factors. “ - Zhang Xue Wen (PhD student, CCEB-CBE)

"Induced possibilities to my thinking akin to induced gene expression efforts to fuel plant oil synthesis" - Shi Jing (Undergraduate, SBS)

Written by Jiang Yujun | SBS Graduate Students' Club