Using the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster, we study the cells and molecular pathways that maintain the healthy state of animals throughout their life course, and how these biological processes are influenced by environmental conditions and social opportunities. Our work aims to provide conceptual and mechanistic insights into contemporary challenges to human health.
The Lyu laboratory is built to rigorously investigate a set of biomedical traits that incorporates an understanding of aging, neurobiology, molecular genetics, and systems biology. We believe invertebrate models, such as Drosophila, offer a unique opportunity to understand the complex processes behind aging, to discover novel mechanisms for translational application, and to equip next-generation scientists with interdisciplinary perspectives and skills. Our team welcomes everyone who appreciates scientific curiosity, intellectual diversity, and inclusion.
The current research in our laboratory follows three interconnected aspects of aging:
It has been known for decades that the brain processes and integrates extrinsic inputs to elicit neuronal and behavioral changes. However, little is known about the health outcomes of these brain activities. We have recently discovered that behavior, metabolism, and lifespan in Drosophila are affected by whether flies are provided a choice of different nutrients or a single, complete medium (Ro et al. 2016). Multiple lines of evidence strongly suggest that a serotonin dependent motivation or reward for sugar feeding (i.e., a sugar ‘craving’), rather than its consumption, may be the cause for changes in lifespan (Lyu et al. 2021a). Manipulating a specific serotonin receptor is sufficient to change longevity and metabolic health, likely through instructing the body to process nutrients in different ways (Lyu et al. 2021a). This portion of our research is powered by combining cutting-edge techniques including optogenetics, metabolomics, and computational modeling to understand how crosstalk between neurons and peripheral cells influences longevity.
Aging arises from complex interactions among multiple biochemical products. Instead of thinking of each molecule acting in isolation, we realized that the homeostatic states of cells are determined by the collection of the whole (i.e. biological networks, see Hoffman et al. 2017). Using genetic perturbations and systems biology approaches, our work has found links between network integrity, physiological robustness, and mortality (Lyu et al. 2021b). We are currently seeking to understand how network structures and highly connected “hub” molecules together shape the healthy states of animals.
Does the brain regulate how it ages? Maybe. We think the answer could be found in glia, the non-neuronal cells in the nervous system, whose main function is to nourish, support, and protect neurons. We are interested in how these cells respond to environmental stress, and hypothesize that the failure of intrinsic protective mechanisms leads to the onset and progression of neurodegeneration. This branch of our research will build disease models to investigate environmental triggers and genetic components of neurodegenerative disorders, with a particular interest in defining the molecular nature of the diseased state of the brain.
Yang Lyu, Ph.D.
yang.lyu AT rutgers.edu
I was born and raised in Wuhan, a busy city port famous for its history, commerce, and cuisine in Central China. I left my hometown to Beijing for college and then went south to Guangzhou for graduate school. I obtained my Ph.D. in Bioinformatics from Sun Yat-sen University in 2014. To build a career abroad, I joined the laboratory of Scott Pletcher at the University of Michigan to study the neuronal modulation of aging. In September 2022, I became an Assistant Professor in the Department of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry at Rutgers University.
Outside my research, I always have a good time exploring mountains and local restaurants.
I received my Bachelor of Science in Behavioral Neuroscience from Northeastern University in 2019. I joined the Lyu lab at the beginning of 2023 and my project is centered on the regulation of health and longevity by nutrient choice via the serotonin 2A receptor (5-HT2A). I hope to use a combination of Drosophila genetic tools including the GAL4-UAS system and optogenetics to identify the serotonergic neuronal circuits involved in translating food choice and food perception into stress, sleep, and/or metabolic alterations that ultimately modulate longevity.
I have been interested in science for as long as I can remember. I pursued this passion by taking classes at Cold Spring Harbor Labs in high school, and then receiving my B.A. in Genetics from Rutgers University in 2017. I spent two years as a lab technician studying aneuploidy in cancer at Columbia University before coming back to Rutgers for graduate school in the Cell and Developmental Biology program.
Joel Villa (Lab Manager)
I am an EOF graduate and received my B.A. in Biological Sciences in 2021 from Rutgers University - New Brunswick. Throughout my life, I have always been intrigued by the brain’s many mechanisms and behaviors that affect the body. I have previously researched “Asymmetric Cerebral Atrophy of the Temporal Lobe” while participating in a program at Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine. I joined the Lyu lab near the beginning of 2023 and hope to use the knowledge and skills from my previous experiences to contribute to this research. On my free time, I enjoy reading various genres of books but mostly true-crime novels. I also enjoy listening to music, especially Ginger Root.
Wesley is a second year student at Rutgers University studying MBB. His hobbies include climbing and gaming.
I am a second-year undergraduate student pursuing a Molecular Biology and Biochemistry major. With prior experience in chemistry-related research, I am excited to learn about experimentation methods in a biological lab as well as understand the biology of aging and its role in the health and longevity of Drosophila. Outside of science, my hobbies include dancing, reading, and running– with the advent of covid, hiking has been a newfound interest of mine.
Rajat Khurana is currently a Sophomore in Rutgers University. He’s currently pursuing a degree in Biology, and joined the Lyu lab in January 2023. In his free time, he’s an avid enjoyer of snowboarding, having a season pass at Camelback mountain. He also enjoys the company of his friends, and occasionally plopping down in front of his TV and playing games. He’s worked with fruit flies since 2021, and is excited to see what knowledge he can uncover at his time in the Lyu Lab!
I am a first year student pursuing a biological sciences major in the Honors College, with the hopes of attending medical school. Although I am mostly interested in the human body, I believe that studying smaller life forms like Drosophila will lead to better understanding of our more complex systems. In contrast to my interest in science, all my hobbies are related to art, such as drawing, watching cartoons, and recently, learning the guitar.
I am currently a second year undergraduate student pursuing a major in Cell Biology and Neuroscience as well as a minor in Cognitive Science. I joined the Lyu Lab in Fall 2023 with hopes of gaining research experience while learning more about cognitive behaviors and complex brain systems in smaller species such as Drosophila to get a better understanding of the human brain. On my free time, I enjoy doing physical activities such as lifting, climbing, and sports, as well as doing more leisurely activities such as singing, playing the guitar, gaming, and making arts
Eli James (2023, Lab Tech) Tim Qi (2023, Lab Tech)
Our laboratory is located in the Department of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, New Brunswick (Busch Campus). The campus is located within one hour of New York City and Philadelphia.
We are actively looking for talented researchers – from PhDs to undergraduate students – to join our team. We are committed to building an intellectual, diverse, collaborative, and inclusive environment in our lab. If you are interested in our research and enthusiastic about joining us, please reach out to me: yang.lyu AT rutgers.edu.
Yang’s Postdoc Work:
Yang Lyu, Kristina J. Weaver, Humza A. Shaukat, Marta L. Plumoff, Maria Tjilos, Daniel E.L. Promislow, Scott D. Pletcher. (2021) Drosophila serotonin 2A receptor signaling coordinates central metabolic processes to modulate aging in response to nutrient choice. eLife. 10: e59399
(Featured by eLife insight - Aging and Diet: To choose or not to choose)
Yang Lyu*, Daniel E.L. Promislow, Scott D. Pletcher*. (2021) Serotonin signaling modulates aging-associated metabolic network integrity in response to nutrient choice in Drosophila melanogaster. Communications Biology. 4 (1), 1-13 (*co-corresponding authors)
Jessica M. Hoffman*, Yang Lyu*, Scott D. Pletcher, Daniel E.L. Promislow. (2017) Proteomics and metabolomics in aging research: From biomarkers to systems biology. Essays in Biochemistry. 61 (3), 379-388 (*These authors contributed equally to this work)
Yang’s PhD Work:
Yang Lyu, Yang Shen, Heng Li, Yuxin Chen, Li Guo, Yixin Zhao, Eric Hungate, Suhua Shi, Chung-I Wu, Tian Tang. (2014) New microRNAs in Drosophila –birth, death and cycles of adaptive evolution. PLoS Genetics. 10(1):e1004096
Yang Lyu*, Zhongqi Liufu*, Juan Xiao, Tian Tang. (2021) A rapid evolving microRNA cluster rewires its target regulatory networks in Drosophila. Frontiers in Genetics. 12:760530 (*These authors contributed equally to this work)Visit Yang's full publication list
Oct 9 - Welcome our new undergraduate research assistant Bianca, to the Lyu lab! Our lab is growing bigger and bigger.
Sep 7 - Nick Pontillo, our first graduate student, has passed his qualifying exams and is now officially a Ph.D. candidate. Congratulations, Nick!
Aug 9 - Madison presented her research project titled “Protein Perception Modulates Lifespan and Reproduction in Drosophila” to RU students and professors alike at the DLS-SURF Research Symposium.
Jun 21 - This summer marked the inaugural Lyu Lab Flympics - an event already destined to become a time-honored tradition! In a display of Drosophila prowess, Laura emerged as the esteemed Flympics Champion, while Madison secured the promising title of Future Fly Star. The spirit of our Jersey roots was alive as we played music from the legendary Bon Jovi to commemorate these achievements and the initiation of this exciting new tradition in the Lyu Lab.
May 1 - Madison was awarded the DLS Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship!! CONGRATULATIONS Madison!