Ting Wu

Last updated
Chao-ting Wu
Ting Wu 25Jul2010.jpg
Wu 8-Jul-2010
Born (1954-01-24) January 24, 1954 (age 68)
Citizenship United States
Alma materHarvard University
Awards National Institutes of Health Director's Pioneer Award
Scientific career
Fields Genetics, homology effects
Institutions Harvard University
Thesis  (1984)
Doctoral advisor William Gelbart
Website www.homologyeffects.org

Chao-ting Wu (Chinese :吳昭婷; pinyin :Wú Zhāotíng; born January 24, 1954) is an American molecular biologist. After training at Harvard Medical School in genetics with William Gelbart, at Stanford Medical School with David Hogness, and in a fellowship at Massachusetts General Hospital in molecular biology, Wu began her independent academic career as an assistant professor in Anatomy and Cellular Biology and then Genetics at Harvard Medical School in 1993. After a period as Professor of Pediatrics in the Division of Molecular Medicine at the Boston Children's Hospital, she returned to the Department of Genetics at Harvard Medical School as a full professor in 2007.


Wu's research has focused on the role of chromosome behavior gene activity and inheritance, with emphasis on widespread homology effects, phenomena in which homology between chromosomes plays a role. Her studies have explored transvection in genetics, polycomb-group genes, chromatin pairing and remodeling, and the mechanisms of bridging promoter and enhancer elements within and between chromosomes. She also studies ultra-conserved elements (UCEs), proposing that these highly conserved sequences play a role in maintaining genome integrity, and has discussed potential opportunities for therapeutics harnessing properties of UCEs in many venues, including in TEDx and the Google-sponsored Solve for X program.

Wu has made significant contributions in the area of science education in genetics, across many age groups, through work with the Smithsonian Institution and the National Museum of Natural History and is founding director of the Personal Genetics Education Project, which works through schools, online curricula, teacher training, and producers and writers of the television and movie industry through involvement with the trade-supporting organization Hollywood, Health & Society. She is daughter of author Nelson Ikon Wu, sister of actor Ping Wu, and colleague and spouse of Harvard and MIT scientist George M. Church.

Training and career

Wu attended Mary Institute (now Mary Institute and St. Louis Country Day School, MICDS) in St. Louis, Missouri, from 1968 to 1972 and then completed her undergraduate BS degree in Biology at Harvard University. She obtained her Ph.D. degree in 1984 from Harvard Medical School in Genetics and then following a brief period at Stanford Medical School with David Hogness, set up a non-profit research institute in Cheshire, Connecticut, called the Station for Natural Studies Inc., which received grant funding from the Whitehall Foundation and the Helen Hay Whitney Foundation. She was affiliated with nearby Yale University during this time.

Wu was a fellow at Massachusetts General Hospital in the Department of Molecular Biology from 1987 to 1991. She moved to Harvard Medical School’s main campus as an assistant professor in the Department of Anatomy and Cellular Biology and then joined the Department of Genetics, also at Harvard Medical School, in 1993. In 2005, she left the Department of Genetics to become a professor of pediatrics in the Division of Molecular Medicine at the Boston Children's Hospital. She returned to the Department of Genetics at Harvard Medical School as a full professor in 2007. [1] [2] [3]


Since 1980, Dr. Wu's research has focused on the role of chromosome behavior in inheritance and gene activity, with emphasis on the widespread phenomena in which homology between chromosomes plays a role. She coined the term "homology effects" to highlight these phenomena. [4] [5] Her studies explore transvection, [6] the zeste gene, chromosome pairing, [7] and Polycomb-group genes and chromatin remodeling. [8] She has also characterized the mechanisms of bridging promoter and enhancer elements within and between chromosomes. [9] [10]

As stated by nobelist Ed Lewis, "Operationally, transvection is occurring if the phenotype of a given genotype can be altered solely by disruption of somatic (or meiotic) pairing. Such disruption can generally be accomplished by introduction of a heterozygous rearrangement that disrupts pairing in the relevant region but has no position effect of its own on the phenotype" [4]

She also studies ultra-conserved elements (UCEs). Her lab has proposed that these highly conserved sequences may play a role in maintaining genome integrity. [11]

Honors and leadership roles

Wu was one of ten people in the US to receive the National Institutes of Health Director's Pioneer Award in 2012. She has also received awards for teaching and mentoring at Harvard University and Harvard Medical School.

She has chaired the 2005 Epigenetics Gordon Research Conference, [12] the 2003 FASEB Conference on Chromatin and Transcription, and the GETed Conferences. [13]

Technology Development

Ting Wu has four patents pending on topics related to biomedical research and health applications “Oligonucleotide Trapping “ (2013), “High-Throughput In Situ Hybridization” (2012), “Methods For Sequencing Nucleic Acid Molecules” (2012), and “Oligonucleotide Paints” (2010). [14]

She has been interviewed by the Boston Globe on the topic of inventors. [15] In the context of TEDx and Google "Solve for X" she has discussed potential opportunities for therapeutics harnessing properties of UCEs. [16] [17]

Genetics Education

She has worked with the Smithsonian and the National Museum of Natural History as part of the exhibit on “Genome: Unlocking Life's Code” which opened June 14, 2013. [18] [19]

She is founding director of the Personal Genetics Education Project (pgEd; link), which works through schools, online curricula, teacher training, and producers and writers of the television and movie industry through Hollywood, Health & Society [20] of the Norman Lear Center and the National Academy of Sciences' program on Science & Entertainment Exchange. [21] Her work with Hollywood Health and Society and Grey’s Anatomy brings accurate and engaging information about genetics to a broader audience. [22] [23]

PgEd Logo PgEdSymboldoc.jpg
PgEd Logo

In bringing genetics directly to high school students across a broad socioeconomic spectrum throughout the US and in workshops with high school and college teachers, she uses empirically engaging topics like prenatal diagnosis and the biological challenges of Mars colonization. [24] [25] [26] [27]

She is featured in the documentary series "Genome: The Future is Now", produced by Marilyn Ness of Necessary Films. [28]

Personal life

Ting Wu is married to fellow Harvard Medical School faculty in genetics, George M. Church. [29] She is daughter of author Nelson Ikon Wu, and sister of actor Ping Wu.[ citation needed ]

Related Research Articles

Chromosome DNA molecule containing genetic material of a cell

A chromosome is a long DNA molecule with part or all of the genetic material of an organism. Most eukaryotic chromosomes include packaging proteins called histones which, aided by chaperone proteins, bind to and condense the DNA molecule to maintain its integrity. These chromosomes display a complex three-dimensional structure, which plays a significant role in transcriptional regulation.

Chromosomal crossover Cellular process

Chromosomal crossover, or crossing over, is the exchange of genetic material during sexual reproduction between two homologous chromosomes' non-sister chromatids that results in recombinant chromosomes. It is one of the final phases of genetic recombination, which occurs in the pachytene stage of prophase I of meiosis during a process called synapsis. Synapsis begins before the synaptonemal complex develops and is not completed until near the end of prophase I. Crossover usually occurs when matching regions on matching chromosomes break and then reconnect to the other chromosome.

David C. Page is an American biologist and professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the director of the Whitehead Institute, and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) investigator. He is best known for his work on mapping the Y-chromosome and on its evolution in mammals and expression during development. He was cited by Bryan Sykes in Adam's Curse: A Future Without Men.

Sequence homology Shared ancestry between DNA, RNA or protein sequences

Sequence homology is the biological homology between DNA, RNA, or protein sequences, defined in terms of shared ancestry in the evolutionary history of life. Two segments of DNA can have shared ancestry because of three phenomena: either a speciation event (orthologs), or a duplication event (paralogs), or else a horizontal gene transfer event (xenologs).

Transvection is an epigenetic phenomenon that results from an interaction between an allele on one chromosome and the corresponding allele on the homologous chromosome. Transvection can lead to either gene activation or repression. It can also occur between nonallelic regions of the genome as well as regions of the genome that are not transcribed.

Polycomb-group proteins are a family of protein complexes first discovered in fruit flies that can remodel chromatin such that epigenetic silencing of genes takes place. Polycomb-group proteins are well known for silencing Hox genes through modulation of chromatin structure during embryonic development in fruit flies. They derive their name from the fact that the first sign of a decrease in PcG function is often a homeotic transformation of posterior legs towards anterior legs, which have a characteristic comb-like set of bristles.

Chromosome conformation capture

Chromosome conformation capture techniques are a set of molecular biology methods used to analyze the spatial organization of chromatin in a cell. These methods quantify the number of interactions between genomic loci that are nearby in 3-D space, but may be separated by many nucleotides in the linear genome. Such interactions may result from biological functions, such as promoter-enhancer interactions, or from random polymer looping, where undirected physical motion of chromatin causes loci to collide. Interaction frequencies may be analyzed directly, or they may be converted to distances and used to reconstruct 3-D structures.

Barbara J. Meyer is a biologist and genetist, noted for her pioneering research on lambda phage, a virus that infects bacteria; discovery of the master control gene involved in sex determination; and studies of gene regulation, particularly dosage compensation. Meyer’s work has revealed mechanisms of sex determination and dosage compensation—that balance X-chromosome gene expression between the sexes in Caenorhabditis elegans that continue to serve as the foundation of diverse areas of study on chromosome structure and function today.


Centromere protein A, also known as CENPA, is a protein which in humans is encoded by the CENPA gene. CENPA is a histone H3 variant which is the critical factor determining the kinetochore position(s) on each chromosome in most eukaryotes including humans.

BRD4 Protein-coding gene in the species Homo sapiens

Bromodomain-containing protein 4 is a protein that in humans is encoded by the BRD4 gene.

Long non-coding RNA Non-protein coding transcripts longer than 200 nucleotides

Long non-coding RNAs are a type of RNA, generally defined as transcripts more than 200 nucleotides that are not translated into protein. This arbitrary limit distinguishes long ncRNAs from small non-coding RNAs, such as microRNAs (miRNAs), small interfering RNAs (siRNAs), Piwi-interacting RNAs (piRNAs), small nucleolar RNAs (snoRNAs), and other short RNAs. Long intervening/intergenic noncoding RNAs (lincRNAs) are sequences of lncRNA which do not overlap protein-coding genes.

HOTAIR Gene found in humans

HOTAIR is a human gene located between HOXC11 and HOXC12 on chromosome 12. It is the first example of an RNA expressed on one chromosome that has been found to influence transcription of HOXD cluster posterior genes located on chromosome 2. The sequence and function of HOTAIR is different in human and mouse. Sequence analysis of HOTAIR revealed that it exists in mammals, has poorly conserved sequences and considerably conserved structures, and has evolved faster than nearby HoxC genes. A subsequent study identified HOTAIR has 32 nucleotide long conserved noncoding element (CNE) that has a paralogous copy in HOXD cluster region, suggesting that the HOTAIR conserved sequences predates whole genome duplication events at the root of vertebrate. While the conserved sequence paralogous with HOXD cluster is 32 nucleotide long, the HOTAIR sequence conserved from human to fish is about 200 nucleotide long and is marked by active enhancer features.

Meiotic recombination checkpoint

The meiotic recombination checkpoint monitors meiotic recombination during meiosis, and blocks the entry into metaphase I if recombination is not efficiently processed.

Sarah Elgin American biologist

Sarah C.R. Elgin is an American biochemist and geneticist. She is the Viktor Hamburger Professor of biology at Washington University in St. Louis, and is noted for her work in epigenetics, gene regulation, and heterochromatin, and for her contributions to science education.

An ultra-conserved element (UCE) is a region of DNA that is identical in at least two different species. One of the first studies of UCEs showed that certain human DNA sequences of length 200 nucleotides or greater were entirely conserved in human, rats, and mice. Despite often being noncoding DNA, some ultra-conserved elements have been found to be transcriptionally active, giving non-coding RNA molecules.

David M. Knipe is the Higgins Professor of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics in the Department of Microbiology at the Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts and co-chief editor of the reference book Fields Virology. He returned to the Chair of the Program in Virology at Harvard Medical School in 2019, having previously held the position from 2004 through 2016 and served as interim Co-Chair of the Microbiology and Immunobiology Department from 2016 through 2018.

Topologically associating domain Self-interacting genomic region

A topologically associating domain (TAD) is a self-interacting genomic region, meaning that DNA sequences within a TAD physically interact with each other more frequently than with sequences outside the TAD. The median size of a TAD in mouse cells is 880 kb, and they have similar sizes in non-mammalian species. Boundaries at both side of these domains are conserved between different mammalian cell types and even across species and are highly enriched with CCCTC-binding factor (CTCF) and cohesin binding sites. In addition, some types of genes appear near TAD boundaries more often than would be expected by chance.

Homologous somatic pairing

Somatic pairing of homologous chromosomes is similar to pre- and early meiotic pairing, and has been observed in Diptera (Drosophila), and budding yeast, for example. Mammals show little pairing apart from in germline cells, taking place at specific loci, and under the control of developmental signalling.

Nuclear organization Spatial distribution of chromatin within a cell nucleus

Nuclear organization refers to the spatial distribution of chromatin within a cell nucleus. There are many different levels and scales of nuclear organisation. Chromatin is a higher order structure of DNA.

Jeannie T. Lee is a Professor of Genetics at Harvard Medical School and the Massachusetts General Hospital, and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator. She is known for her work on X-chromosome inactivation and for discovering the functions of a new class of epigenetic regulators known as long noncoding RNAs (lncRNAs) for example Xist and Tsix.


  1. "Harvard Medical School Genetics Faculty" . Retrieved 25 May 2013.
  2. "Personal Genetics Education Project staff" . Retrieved 31 Oct 2013.
  3. "Wu Lab, Department of Genetics, Harvard Medical School, home page" . Retrieved 29 Dec 2013.
  4. 1 2 Wu CT, Morris JR; Morris (April 1999). "Transvection and other homology effects". Curr. Opin. Genet. Dev. 9 (2): 237–46. doi:10.1016/S0959-437X(99)80035-5. PMID   10322135.
  5. C-ting Wu, ed. (March 20, 2002). Homology Effects. Academic Press. pp. 564 pages. ISBN   012401366X.
  6. Morris JR, Chen J-l, Geyer PK, Wu C-t.; Chen; Geyer; Wu (1998). "Two modes of transvection: Enhancer action in trans and bypass of a chromatin insulator in cis". Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 95 (18): 10740–5. Bibcode:1998PNAS...9510740M. doi: 10.1073/pnas.95.18.10740 . PMC   27965 . PMID   9724774.{{cite journal}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  7. Joyce EF, Williams BR, Xie T, Wu C-t.; Williams; Xie; Wu (2012). "Identification of genes that promote or antagonize somatic homolog pairing using a high-throughput FISH-based screen". PLOS Genetics. 8 (5): e1002667. doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1002667. PMC   3349724 . PMID   22589731.{{cite journal}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  8. Emmons RB, Genetti H, Filandrinos S, Lokere J, Wu C-t.; Genetti; Filandrinos; Lokere; Wu (2009). "Molecular genetic analysis of Suppressor 2 of zeste identifies key functional domains". Genetics. 182 (4): 999–1013. doi:10.1534/genetics.108.097360. PMC   2728886 . PMID   19528329.{{cite journal}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  9. Lee AM, Wu CT; Wu (December 2006). "Enhancer-promoter communication at the yellow gene of Drosophila melanogaster: diverse promoters participate in and regulate trans interactions". Genetics. 174 (4): 1867–80. doi:10.1534/genetics.106.064121. PMC   1698615 . PMID   17057235.
  10. Ou SA, Chang E, Lee S, So K, Wu CT, Morris JR; Chang; Lee; So; Wu; Morris (October 2009). "Effects of chromosomal rearrangements on transvection at the yellow gene of Drosophila melanogaster". Genetics. 183 (2): 483–96. doi:10.1534/genetics.109.106559. PMC   2766311 . PMID   19667134.{{cite journal}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  11. Chiang CWK, Derti A, Schwartz D, Chou MF, Hirschhorn JN, Wu C-t.; Derti; Schwartz; Chou; Hirschhorn; Wu (2008). "Ultraconserved elements: Analyses of dosage sensitivity, motifs, and boundaries". Genetics. 180 (4): 2277–93. doi:10.1534/genetics.108.096537. PMC   2600958 . PMID   18957701.{{cite journal}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  12. "Epigenetics Gordon Research Conference, Holderness, NH; Chairs: Chao-Ting Wu & Judith Bender". August 7–12, 2005.
  13. "GETed Conference". April 26–27, 2013.
  14. "Chao-ting Wu Patents and Applications". Harvard University Office of Technology Development. Retrieved 3 Nov 2013.
  15. Carolyn Y. Johnson (2 Jul 2013). "Do inventors get enough respect in science?". Boston Globe.
  16. "Google Solve For X, TEDxBeaconStreet". 16 Nov 2013.
  17. Ting Wu (11 Dec 2013). Ancient Puzzles, Genomic Canaries, Medical X: Ting Wu at TEDxBeconStreet. Brookline, MA: TEDxTalks. Retrieved 29 Dec 2013.
  18. Megan Gambino (June 26, 2013). "The Scientist Comes to the Classroom". Smithsonian Magazine.
  19. Dana Waring (June 12, 2013). "Genome: Unlocking Life's Code at the Smithsonian – Ting Wu and Map-Ed".
  20. "Hollywood, Health & Society" . Retrieved 4 Nov 2013.
  21. "Science and Entertainment Exchange Event Recap: Science speed dating". 6 Jan 2014.
  22. Melissa Malamut (3 Oct 2013). "The Science Behind Grey's Anatomy. How Harvard's Ting Wu made Dr. Meredith Grey's genetic testing storyline believable". Boston Magazine.
  23. Bernstein R (29 Aug 2013). "Science on set" (PDF). Cell. 154 (5): 949–50. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2013.08.011 . PMID   23993085. S2CID   2253663.
  24. pgEd (May 24, 2013). "Ting visits Capital City Public Charter School in Washington, DC".
  25. Ann Marie Menting (October 2013). "Dilemmas of Destiny. Genetic predictors of disease can raise thorny ethical issues". Harvard Medicine.
  26. Ting Wu & Dana Waring. (2009). "The next generation ..... is in high school". Genomics Law Report.
  27. Alvin Powell (September 11, 2008). "When genetics gets personal". Harvard Gazette.
  28. Marilyn Ness. ""Genome: The Future is Now", produced by Necessary Films" . Retrieved 3 Nov 2013.
  29. "Do inventors get enough respect in science?". The Boston Globe. 2013-02-07.