Hua Yan

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Job Description

Neuroscience and Social Behavior
Social animals develop more complex neural system to regulate their social behavior, but it is not clear how these neurons and neural circuits are established, maintained and even altered in response to social cues. We have developed genetic tools in the ant Harpegnathos saltator, which facilitate studies to investigate the molecular and cellular mechanisms underlying neural development and behavioral plasticity.

Reproductive Longevity
In Harpegnathos saltator, altered environment triggers caste switches between non-reproductive workers and reproductive pseudo-queens (gamergates), accompanied by a dramatic 5-fold change in lifespan. The features of aging plasticity foster studies to identify longevity genes and characterize their molecular functions in regulating aging and rejuvenation using multiple model systems.

Ant Pest Control
Ants cause multiple problems when they seek for food or water, and when they make nests in fields or gardens. Some ant species become serious agriculture pests. As eusocial insects, ants rely on chemosensory system to communicate and perform tasks. Recent studies have demonstrated strong developmental plasticity in the ant olfactory sensory neurons, providing a promising method for ant pest control. We conduct research to reveal how odorant receptors on the membrane of sensory neurons distinguish chemicals and how these sensory neurons regulate caste-specific behavior in ants.

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