Ong Chin Tong, Ph.D, Principal Investigator

Ong Chin Tong obtained his bachelor in cell and molecular biology from the National University of Singapore. After working in Bill Chia’s lab at IMCB, he moved to Washington University in St Louis for his Ph.D. in developmental biology. His doctoral work under Raphael Kopan focussed on understanding the transcriptional mechanisms of Notch signalling. He continued his interest in gene regulation during his postdoctoral training with Victor Corces at Emory University where he studied the epigenetic mechanisms that regulate genome organization. He joined TLL as a Principal Investigator in Nov 2014.

 

You may wish to contact Dr ONG Chin Tong at:

Tel: (65) 6872 7000, (65) 6872 7978 (DID) Email: chintong@tll.org.sg

For information on PhD studies at TLL, click HERE

Research Interests

  • Epigenetic regulation of genome architecture
  • Regulation of aging in stem cells

Research Projects

Background and significance

Population aging poses significant social and economic challenges to Singapore. The current national healthcare expenditure of around 4% GDP is likely to increase with the rapidly aging population (10.5% of population aged ≥65 in 2013 compare to 8.3% in 2006). Therefore, understanding the mechanisms that regulate aging may provide better intervention against aged-onset diseases. Gene expression is in a large part regulated by the genome organization within the nucleus. CTCF is a highly conserved architectural protein that plays an important role in regulating genome organization and gene expression. Mutation in CTCF gene is also highly associated with several types of cancers. We have identified a possible aged-dependent modification of CTCF that alters genome architecture, suggesting that epigenetic mechanisms may play a wider role in regulating gene expression during aging. My lab is interested in using mammalian cells and Drosophila model system to study the epigenetic regulatory mechanisms involved in aging as well as aged-onset diseases like cancer.

Epigenetic regulation of CTCF function and genome architecture

CTCF exhibits substantial cell-type specific binding patterns and its mutation is significantly associated with breast, endometrial, head and neck cancer. We aim to study the regulatory mechanisms of CTCF in the context of aging and cancer progression. The lab would explore how specific mutations in CTCF affect its function in different cells and identify new nuclear mechanisms that may affect CTCF as well as the three dimensional genome organization.

Animal model of aging of stem cells

We are using Drosophila as a model system to identify the epigenetic signatures that are associated with the aging of stem cells population. We aim to identify new pathways and epigenetic machineries that may affect aging as well as the overall vitality of the animal.

Figure: Model of cell-type specific organization of a hypothetical genomic region. CTCF shows substantial cell-type specific binding patterns. It can interact with other CTCF proteins that are bound at distant sites across the genome to form distinct chromosomal loops. As a result of CTCF dimerization, various regulatory elements and genes can be brought into close proximity which in turn affect their expression patterns in a specific manner. We aim to uncover the regulatory mechanisms of genome architecture that are associated with aging and cancer progression.