The Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (BMB) Department is fortunate to have a multitude of graduate students within its Biochemistry, Microbiology and Molecular Biology (BMMB) Program dedicated to developing their research and teaching skills. Our students are making discoveries and generating independent knowledge through their research within our labs.
Meet Manyu Du, a recent graduate of the Biochemistry, Microbiology, and Molecular Biology Program (BMMB) at Penn State. Manyu traces her love for science back to her early childhood, crediting her father, Gongbai Du, for cultivating her curiosity. “I remember when I was young and in elementary school, we would take a walk after dinner once a week just chatting. Most of the topics were related to science and nature, like why is the sky blue, how is incandescent light bulb invented, and how plants breathe in carbon dioxide and breathe out oxygen etc,” said Manyu. “He would relate a lot of the things we saw along the road to the science behind it, making our walks interesting.”
Additionally, Manyu’s father, a businessman and owner of a small textile factory, encouraged the development of her problem-solving abilities by allowing her to spend time in the room he stored broken machinery. She refers to this place as her “giant lego room.” “It’s where I started to love building things and solving problems,” said Manyu. The curiosity she and her father had cultivated over the years led her to attend Wuhan University, in the Hubei Province of China, and study gene regulation. “I became fascinated by how cells coordinate many complicated processes together in such an accurate rigorous way to control all kinds of activities in life,” commented Manyu. “Transcription, is one of the early and essential steps in gene regulation.”
Manyu came to Penn State, in large part, because of the Center for Eukaryotic Gene Regulation (CEGR). CEGR is composed of ten laboratories with over 70 students and staff. The Center aims to provide a conducive learning environment for making cutting edge discoveries on fundamental mechanisms of eukaryotic gene regulation. Manyu works with one of CEGR’s ten faculty, Lu Bai, associate professor of biochemistry and molecular biology as well as physics. There her research is focused on the mechanistic dissection of long-distance chromosomal interactions that regulate gene expression.
If a strand of DNA was stretched, its length would be approximately six and a half feet. However, the diameter of a cell is on a micrometer scale. This difference in scale means that a DNA molecule has to be packed into a more compressed form, in 3D, in order to fit the volume of a nucleus. This is done through a complex of DNA and protein found in eukaryotic cells called chromatin. Long-distance chromosomal interactions are an important feature in high order chromatin structures, and Manyu is utilizing a variety of strategies to investigate the mechanism of gene regulation by chromatin structure at various levels.
Using genetics, molecular tools and fluorescence microscopy, she has identified a clustered subset of Methionine related genes in the genome and discovered that these genes gain higher activity. Her research is challenging widely held views regarding gene regulation in budding yeast, in which a lack of long-distance gene regulation was thought to be true.
Additionally, Manyu has developed a genetic tool, Chemically Induced Chromosomal Interactions (CICI), that manipulates chromosomal interactions within the genome. This tool can be used to study the causal relationship between chromosomal interaction and gene expression, which is essential to understand gene regulation by chromatin structures. Manyu believes that her research has the potential of having a lasting impact on the understanding of fundamental mechanisms of gene regulation within cells.
Outside of the laboratory Manyu is a drummer, an interest she developed as part of a worship band in a local State College church. She enjoys playing table tennis and is a “foodie” who enjoys exploring different restaurants in new places. Manyu is now a postdoctoral researcher in the laboratory of Dr. Ibrahim Cisse at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
Learn more about the research being conducted in the Bai Laboratory