School of Biomedical Sciences
The Chinese University of Hong Kong 香港中文大學

A groundbreaking study led by Prof. Stephen K.W. Tsui, Professor and Associate Director (Research) of the School of Biomedical Sciences (SBS), CUHK with researchers from universities in Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Wuxi, Macao, Thailand, South Korea and Singapore, has revealed the divergent evolution of the medically important mites. The findings have been published in Molecular Biology and Evolution, a world-renowned international scientific journal, which can be viewed HERE.

Comprising of Prof. Stephen Tsui as leader, Dr. Angel T.Y. Wan, former Postdoctoral Fellow of SBS, and Dr. Qing Xiong, Postdoctoral Fellow of SBS, the research team reveals the comparative genomics of astigmatic mites using six high-quality genomes and cracking their evolutionary history, from emergence to extreme diversification.

The study involves a wide range of genomic variations and DNA sharing between bacterial and animal genomes via Horizontal Gene Transfer, which is important for the adaptation of mites in different environments. “In our genomic analysis of astigmatic mites, we identified many unusual HGT genes, mainly from soil bacteria. These HGTs introduced functionally important genes and enriched their adaptation novelties, especially in detoxification and digestion. Because these HGT genes have no homologue in humans, they are suggested as perfect drug targets for the pest control of astigmatic mites,” said Prof. Stephen Tsui.

The collaborative research group hopes that this pioneering comparative genomics study not only expands our knowledge of astigmatic mites and provides comprehensive genomic resources for scientific researchers in this field, but also ultimately contributes to the clinical diagnosis of and intervention in mite allergies.

The related coverage by the Communications and Public Relations Office, CUHK can be viewed HERE, whereas the one by CU Medicine is viewable HERE.

(From left) Dr. Angel Wan; Prof. Stephen Tsui; Dr. Agnes S.Y. Leung, Assistant Professor of Department of Paediatrics, CUHK; and Dr. Qing Xiong at the press conference

The study has clearly depicted the whole evolutionary picture of astigmatic mites, especially involving a wide range of genomic variations and DNA sharing between bacterial and animal genomes via Horizontal Gene Transfer for the adaptation of mites in different environments