Dr. Rong Di


We use C. elegans model system to study the anti-diabetic, anti-obesity and anti-Alzheimer's (AZ) effects of plant extracts from health food and medicinal plants. Mutant worms with defects in insulin signaling pathway and survival and transgenic worms expressing AZ biomarkers are used to screen plant extracts for their lifespan-extending effects in these worms. RNAi (RNA interference) library of C. elegans is employed to further delineate the underlying molecular mechanisms of plant extracts' anti-diabetic, anti-obesity and anti-AZ characteristics. We use mammalian cells and mice to study the anti-inflammatory, anti-carcinogenic and anti-UV effects of botanical extracts such as mogrosides from Momordica grosvenori and steroidal glycosides from Lilium longiflorum. C. elegans is also used to study the mechanisms of toxicity of fungal toxins such as deoxynivalenol (DON) produced by Fusarium spp. that cause wheat and barley Fusarium head blight (FHB) through the RNAseq and CRISPR/Cas9 (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats-associated endonuclease) technologies. Gut microbiome platforms are being developed to assess the health promoting properties of several natural products including polymethoxyflavones isolated from orange peels, mogrosides and Chinese tea. Additionally, our lab uses genetic engineering tools including CRISPR-gene editing to produce disease resistant and nutrition enhanced plants.

Title and Address:
Associate Research Professor
Department of Plant Biology
School of Environmental and Biological Sciences
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
Primary Focus Area: Plant Biotechnology
Secondary Focus Area: Natural products for human health, pathogen detection