崔融丰博士

Rongfeng Cui in Calnali
2020-Present副教授
中山大学生态学院
2014-2020博士后
Max-Planck Institute of Aging, Germany
2009-2014博士
Department of Biology, Texas A&M University, U.S.A.
2004-2008本科
School of life sciences, 中山大学, China

大家好,我叫崔融丰!

我来自广州, 2008年本科毕业于中山大學生命科学学院生物科学专业。 我的本科毕业论文是关于珠江口的虾虎鱼类的调查研究。毕业后我到了美国的德克萨斯农工大学跟随 Gil Rosenthal 教授进行博士研究,主攻剑尾鱼的杂交与行为。博士毕业后我到了德国马普所跟随Dario Valenzano博士进行博士后研究,主攻非洲鳉鱼的基因组进化。

物种形成是达尔文所说的“迷中之迷”,因此我对物种形成的基因组机制十分感兴趣。

The first step towards speciation is the establishment of reproductive isolation. I’m therefore attracted to the question of how reproductive isolation evolved between diverging populations in allopatry and sympatry (albeit more difficult). Among the different episodes in which isolation could occur, I am mostly interested in pre-mating, behavioral mechanisms that prevent gene flow. Female mate choice is an important aspect of pre-mating mechanisms, besides other processes such as intra-sexual competition.

Female mate choice in vertebrates is affected by a myriad of factors, both genetic, environmental and indirect genetic effects (IGE). On the genetic front, I want to understand how the female sensory system co-evolve with male signals, particularly in the olfactory sense. I choose this sensory modality mainly due to the fact that the group of fish I study (Cyprinodontiformes) use odorants to discriminate heterospecific males during mate choice. Instead, preference for the visual cues are often asymmetrical, i.e. preferring heterospecific males. For my Ph.D. work with Gil Rosenthal, I studied expression changes and molecular evolution of odorant receptors in Xiphophorus with RNAseq.  After joining Dario Valenzano’s lab at MPI-AGE, I hope to leverage the advance molecular genetic tools in another cyprinodontiform – Nothobranchius furzeri – to better understand developmental dynamics and evolution of odorant receptors. A more ambitious goal is to identify receptors for species-specific sexual cues in N. furzeri, and see whether exposure to these cues affect life span in these fish, given that in many other model organisms exposure to sex pheromones reduce life span.

On the IGE front, I have found that females’ mate preference are affected by male phenotypes in the social context during development. Such IGE effects may lead of important consequences in terms of reproductive isolation on a genomic level. Currently I’m continuing to collaborate with Pablo Delclos on this project in Xiphophorus.

Besides the mechanisms of mate choice, it is interesting to infer the collective evolutionary patterns resulted from these individual events. To achieve this I wrote a forward-time, individual-based, parallelizable population simulator Admix’em. This simulator allows explicit modelling of mate choice as a function of genes, environment and indirect genetic effects. I used this simulator to study the effect of different types of imprinting on reproductive barriers.

Finally, it will be important to collect empirical genomic data to validate models inferred from our understanding of mechanisms. Using RNAseq data, I constructed a reticulate phylogeny of Xiphophorus, revealing a surprisingly high level of gene flow between clades. In collaboration with Molly Schumer, we looked at reproductive barriers reflected in the mosaic genomes of hybrid populations of two Xiphophorus spp.

During my postdoc in the Valenzano lab at Max Planck of Biology of Aging, I used whole genome sequencing to detect selection on African annual and non-annual killifish species. This project involves de novo assembly of 4 new killifish genomes, plus 41 resequenced killifish genomes throughout the Nothobranchiidae phylogeny. We revealed a pervasive relaxation of purifying selection on the annual killifish genomes, which preferentially targets aging-related pathways, as predicted by the mutation accumulation theory of aging.

Besides biology, I am interested in language evolution, in particular, phonetics. I have a keen interest in the evolution of Chinese languages and its hybridization with neighboring linguistic families. I am a native speaker of Cantonese and Mandarin. I can speak enough English as you may see already, and I’m learning German.