Neurodegenerative and neurodevelopmental diseases affect millions of people around the globe. Scientists have thought many of these diseases may result from disruptions or failures in the mitochondria, a specialized cellular structure often referred to as the “powerhouse of the cell.”
Mitochondria play a key role in metabolism in cells. Metabolism is a series of biochemical reactions essential for all living organisms. It provides energy and the building blocks for healthy cells. As we age, we lose some of these capabilities of mitochondria, and the quality of our cells declines. This has been implicated in many diseases, including neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s and even cancer.
Our long-term goal is to learn how cells maintain mitochondrial structure and metabolism, how failures in that system may contribute to human pathologies and, ultimately, to find treatments for those diseases.
To do this, we use common fruit flies called Drosophila as a disease model. Because fruit flies share approximately 75 percent of a human’s disease genes, they are near-perfect tools for studying conditions that afflict people. We “humanize” these flies by using state-of-the-art gene editing tools. By studying how their mitochondrial dysfunction contributes to defects in flies, we can get hints into the root causes for human diseases.
My lab also focuses on identifying novel and previously unknown human diseases using the newest technologies in Drosophila. In collaboration with human geneticists, I discovered mitochondrial genes whose mutations cause neuronal and metabolic dysfunction in both flies and humans. This work shows that fruit flies serve as an excellent model system for discovering novel disease genes from human patient data. Using these tiny flies, we can continue to identify new human diseases, perform disease modeling in flies, and understand the mechanisms of their pathogenesis.
B.Sc., Yonsei University, South Korea, 1997
M. Sc., Yonsei University, South Korea, 1999
Ph.D., Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, 2011
2016-2017 Assistant Professor, Department of Molecular and Human Genetics, Baylor College of Medicine
2011-2016 Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Department of Molecular and Human Genetics, Baylor College of Medicine Principal Investigator: Hugo J. Bellen, D.V.M., Ph.D.
1999-2004 Senior Research Scientist, Central Research Institute, Choongwae Pharmaceutical Company, South Korea
2001 Visiting Research Scientist, Pacific Northwest Diabetes Research Institute, Seattle. Principal Investigator: Michael Kahn, Ph.D.
Honors and Awards
2004 Korea Science and Engineering Foundation Fellowship
2005 H.A. and Mary K. Chapman Young Investigator Fellowship
2015 Best Oral Presentation Award, 14th Korean-American Biomedical Scientists Symposium
2016 Oral Presentation Award, 15th Korean-American Biomedical Scientists Symposium
2017 Best Postdoctoral Publication Award, Department of Molecular and Human Genetics, Baylor College of Medicine
Joined OMRF Scientific Staff in 2017
Zhao M, Kao CS, Arndt C, Tran DD, Cho WI, Maksimovic K, Chen XXL, Khan M, Zhu H, Qiao J, Peng K, Hong J, Xu J, Kim D, Kim JR, Lee J, van Bruggen R, Yoon WH, Park J. Knockdown of genes involved in axonal transport enhances the toxicity of human neuromuscular disease-linked MATR3 mutations in Drosophila. FEBS Lett, 2020 June, PMID: 32515490
Yap ZY, Strucinska K, Matsuzaki S, Lee S, Si Y, Humphries K, Tarnopolsky MA, Yoon WH. A biallelic pathogenic variant in the OGDH gene results in a neurological disorder with features of a mitochondrial disease. J Inherit Metab Dis, 2020 May, PMID: 32383294
Gunning AC, Strucinska K, Muñoz Oreja M, Parrish A, Caswell R, Stals KL, Durigon R, Durlacher-Betzer K, Cunningham MH, Grochowski CM, Baptista J, Tysoe C, Baple E, Lahiri N, Homfray T, Scurr I, Armstrong C, Dean J, Fernandez Pelayo U, Jones AWE, Taylor RW, Misra VK, Yoon WH, Wright CF, Lupski JR, Spinazzola A, Harel T, Holt IJ, Ellard S. Recurrent De Novo NAHR Reciprocal Duplications in the ATAD3 Gene Cluster Cause a Neurogenetic Trait with Perturbed Cholesterol and Mitochondrial Metabolism. Am J Hum Genet, 2020 January, PMID: 32004445, PMCID: PMC7010973
Montell DJ, Yoon WH, Starz-Gaiano M. Group choreography: mechanisms orchestrating the collective movement of border cells. Nat Rev Mol Cell Biol. 2012 Oct;13(10):631-45. PMID: 23000794 PMCID: PMC4099007
Yoon WH, Meinhardt H, Montell DJ. miRNA-mediated feedback inhibition of JAK/STAT morphogen signalling establishes a cell fate threshold. Nat Cell Biol. 2011 Aug 21;13(9):1062-9. PMID: 21857668 PMCID: PMC3167036
Aging & Metabolism Research Program, MS 21
Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation
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Oklahoma City, OK 73104
Phone: (405) 271-1574
Fax: (405) 271-3765