• Title Associate Professor
  • Education PhD: Biology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA
  • Office K201
  • Phone 617-638-5090
  • Area of Interest Transposable element regulation, RNAi, regulatory RNAs, gene silencing

Our lab studies how RNA interference mechanisms such as the PIWI/piRNA pathway protects our genomes from the spread of transposable elements (TEs). Our DNA is inherently laden with TEs that have continued to infect our genomes, and through evolution TEs have accumulated to fill over 45% of our genome’s content. If TEs are unchecked, their mobilization causes germ cell death, infertility, and genomic damage during cellular aging. Therefore, our cells critically rely on small regulatory RNAs and their associated PIWI and ARGONAUTE proteins to safeguard genomes from these mobilizing elements.

Our lab applies functional and comparative genomics and biochemical approaches to dissect the molecular mechanisms for how PIWI / piRNA complexes silence genomic targets.  By understanding the requirements and limitations of the PIWI/piRNA pathway, we may be able to uncover how TEs might evade suppression by these pathways to generate wide-spread TE landscape diversity across animal genomes. Our mechanistic studies will also help us find situations to enhance TE control and link TE mis-regulation to etiologies of genome decline.


Saptaparni Bandyopadhyay – Postdoctoral Associate
Nachen Yang – Postdoctoral Associate
Joseph Douglass –  Lab Technician
Linda Yang – Lab Technician
Satyam Srivistav – Research Technician
Qicheng Ma – Bioinformatics Specialist

  1. Clark JP, Rahman R, Yang N, Yang LH, Lau NC.  Drosophila PAF1 Modulates PIWI/piRNA Silencing Capacity. (2017)Curr Biol. 2017 Sep 11;27(17):2718-2726.e4. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2017.07.052. Epub 2017 Aug 24.
  2. Toombs, T., Sytnikova, Y., Ang, I., Chirn, GW, Lau, NC*, Blower, MD*.  Xenopus Piwi proteins interact with a broad proportion of the oocyte transcriptome. RNA. (2017) Apr;23(4):504-520. doi: 10.1261/rna.058859.116. Epub 2016 Dec 28. *Co-corresponding Author.
  3.  Madison-Villar,M., Sun, C., Lau, NC, Settles,M., Mueller, RL.  Small RNAs from a big genome: the piRNA pathway and transposable elements in the salamander species Desmognathus fuscus. (2016). J Mol Evol. Oct;83(3-4):126-136. Epub 2016 Oct 14.
  4.  Rahman, R., Chirn, GW, Kanodia, A, Sytnikova, Y., Brembs, B, Bergman, CM, Lau, NC.  (2015) Unique transposon landscapes are pervasive across Drosophila melanogaster genomes. Nucleic Acids Research. Dec 15;43(22):10655-72.  doi: 10.1093/nar/gkv1193.  PMCID: PMC4678822.
  5.  Chirn,GW, Rahman, R, Sytnikova, YA, Matts, JA, Zeng, M, Gerlach, D,  Yu, M, Berger, B, Kile, BT, and Lau, NC. (2015) Conserved piRNA expression from a distinct set of piRNA cluster loci in Eutherian mammals. Plos Genetics 11 (11): e1005652. doi:10.1371/ journal.pgen.1005652.  PMCID: PMC4654475.
  6.  Sytnikova, Y., Rahman, R., Chirn, G.W., Post, C., Clark, J., and Lau, N.C. (2014). Transposable element dynamics and PIWI regulation impacts lncRNA and gene expression diversity in Drosophila ovarian cell cultures. Genome Research. 2014 Dec;24(12):1977-90. PMID: 25267525. PMCID: PMC4248314
  7.  Post, C, Clark, J, Sytnikova, Y., Chirn, G.W., and Lau, N.C. (2014). The capacity of target silencing by the Drosophila Piwi protein and piRNAs. RNA.  2014 Dec;20(12):1977-86. PMID: 25336588. PMCID: PMC4238361.
  8.  Arnold CD, Gerlach D, Spies D, Matts JA, Sytnikova YA, Pagani M, Lau NC, Stark A.  (2014). Quantitative genome-wide enhancer activity maps in five Drosophila species reveal the extent of functional enhancer conservation and turnover during cis-regulatory evolution.  Nature Genetics, Jul;46(7):685-92. PMID: 24908250 PMCID: PMC425027
  9.  Ghiretti AE, Moore AR, Brenner RG, Chen LF, West AE, Lau NC, Van Hooser SD, Paradis S. (2014)  Rem2 is an activity-dependent negative regulator of dendritic complexity in vivo.  J Neurosci. Jan 8;34(2):392-407. PMID: 24403140 PMCID: PMC3870928.
  10.  Zeng, M., Kuzirian M.S., Harper, L., Paradis, S., and Lau, N.C..  Organic small hairpin RNAs (OshR): a Do-It-Yourself platform for transgene-based gene silencing.  Methods. 2013 Sep 15; 63(2):101-9. PMID:23707624
  11.  Hall, S.E. †, Chirn, G., Lau, N.C†. and Sengupta, P. RNAi pathways contribute to develop-mental history-dependent phenotypic plasticity in C. elegans.  RNA. 2013 Mar;19(3):306-19. † Co-corresponding Author.

Complete list can be found at BU Profiles

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