Research Highlights

  • Multiple generations of backcrossing partially restored an otherwise sterile ask1 mutant, which led us not only experimentally demonstrate a polymorphic role of Skp1-Cul1-F-box complexes but also uncover a multitude of intracellular functions involving ASK1-containing SCF ubiquitin ligases.(Yapa et al., Plant J 2020 doi:10.1111/tpj.14939.
  • Bioinformatic and evolutionary studies indicate diversifying functions of the ubiquitin-26S proteasome system in rice and Arabidopsis (Hua and Yu, Int J Mol Sci 2019 (20):3226).
  • Phylogenetic analysis demonstrates a single origin of retroposed Arabidopsis Skp1-Like genes (Hua and Gao, PeerJ 2019 (7):e6740).
  • Comprehensive biochemical and functional studies discovered a new class of autophagy adaptors and receptors from yeast, human to plants. (Marshall et al., Cell 2019 (177):766-781).
  • Duplication analysis in 50 plant genomes suggests more divergent roles of UB and SUMO proteins than those of ATG8 and MUB. (Hua et al., Plant J 2018 (95):296-311).


The Ubiquitin-26S Proteasome System (UPS)

The UPS has been demonstrated to involve in a wide range of intracellular processes in all eukaryotes. However, due to its large size (predicted to contain over 1,500 gene products,Hua and Yu, IJMS 2019 (20):3226) our view of this system in plants is yet rudimental. We are particularly interested in tackling the role of this system in plant development, e.g. the role of F-box genes in seed development (NSF-CAREER award to Z.H.).

Regulation of Chloroplast Function

In addition to the long-studied topic of communication between chloroplast and nucleus genomes, new emerging evidence suggests that cytoplasmic proteolysis of nucleus-encoded chloroplast proteins is influential to the proper function of chloroplasts. In this project, we focus on the group of these proteins to address two questions:1) what is the degradation pathway? 2) how does it impact the function of chloroplasts?

Evolution of Gene Superfamilies

Gene duplication is the driving force increasing the genome size. This evolutionary feature provides a good opportunity to decode genome function. The extremely large size of plant UPS serves as a perfect system for developing innovative approaches to address how million years of evolution shaped the genome function. In this project, we utilize various number of publicly available datasets along with new data generated from our own experiments to develop a landscape view of UPS function in plant genomes.

Active Awards

National Science Foundation-CAREER Award

(06/2018 - 05/2023)

PI: Zhihua Hua

Ohio University PACE funds for Undergraduates (three)

(06/2020 - 05/2021)

PI: Zhihua Hua

Accomplished Awards

Ohio University PACE Funds for Undergraduates (three)

(06/2018 - 05/2019)

PI: Zhihua Hua

Ohio University PACE Funds for Undergraduates (two)

(06/2017 - 05/2018)

PI: Zhihua Hua

Ohio University Provost's Undergraduate Research Fund

(01/2017 - 12/2017)

PI: Caroline Siegert and Jacob Sieg

Ohio University Provost's Undergraduate Research Fund

(01/2017 - 12/2017)

PI: William Vu

The Ohio University Baker Fund

(01/2017 - 12/2017)

PI: Zhihua Hua

The Ohio University Research Committee (OURC) Award

(05/2016 - 05/2017)

PI: Zhihua Hua

Ohio University PACE Funds for Undergraduates (two)

(06/2016 - 05/2017)

PI: Zhihua Hua

Ohio University PACE Funds for Undergraduates (three)

(06/2015 - 05/2016)

PI: Zhihua Hua

Ohio University Startup Fund

(07/2014 - 07/2018)

PI: Zhihua Hua

Motivated in Joining the Lab

Our lab utilizes both experimental and bioinformatic approaches. It is equipped with a comprehensive set of state-of-art instruments and expertise in carrying out modern functional genomic studies, including mass spectrometer, AKTA-FPLC, kinetic analysis systems for proteins/enzymes, comprehensive protein gel electrophoresis and immunoblotting systems, Bio-Rad CFX qPCR, high-performance computer servers, in-house bioinformatics programs, etc. The PI has strong experience in both dry and wet lab research. If you are motivated and commit to our Collaborative Learning approach, we welcome you to apply for positions available in the lab. Please do not hesitate to click the button below and send inquiries.

Contact to Join Us

1) Postdoctoral Applicants

Currently not available due to budget constraints. However, any prospective candidates are strongly encouraged to contact the PI to discuss the opportunities if you are keen into the directions of our research.

2) Graduate Students

The successful candidates are expected to publish good science in high impact journals, present research in national and international meetings, and assist the PI to apply for competitive research grants. Please get more information about the admission process in the Plant Biology and Molecular and Cellular Biology graduate programs where the PI is affiliated with.

3) Undergraduate Students

The lab often opens 3 to 4 positions (including one work-study position) in each academic year to provide research experience for undergraduate students to aid career exploration and resume development. In general, the applicants should have a 3.0 GPA or above.

4) NSF Research Experience for Undergraduate (REU) positions

Two summer NSF REU positions are available to study the genetics and biochemistry of F-box proteins in plants. The awardee will be able to

* conduct publishable research in cutting-edge environment,
* be mentored by both Dr. Hua and experienced graduate students in the lab,
* receive a generous stipend (up to $5,000),
* expand your personal and professional network,
* own opportunities to attend national conferences.

Applicants should have coursework related to molecular and cellular biology. Students with a 3.5 or above GPA are preferred, but those with 3.0 to 3.5 GPA will be considered if the student has a great deal of work experience in the related field. Those who are enrolled in Ohio University Athens campus will have the opportunity to continue the work in the following 2021-2022 academic year. Interested applicants should submit 1) a transcript, 2) a one-page research statement that demonstrates your work ethics, motivation and research experience, and 3) one recommendation letter to Dr. Zhihua Hua at by April 30, 2022.

5) NSF Research Experience for Post-Baccalaureate Students (REPS) positions

In response to a new Dear Colleague Letter (DCL), Research Experience for Post-Baccalaureate Students (REPS), that NSF BIO has issued recently, my lab is eligible to submit a supplemental funding request to support the research training of post-baccalaureate students. This REPS will be paid with "a stipend (recommended at $650/week for full-time participation) and, as appropriate, fringe benefits, and travel" according to the full information on this invitation available on the NSF website at:

If you are interested in pursuing graduate studies in biology, particularly in plant molecular biology, and have a bachelor's degree but is not currently enrolled in another degree program, please write a one-page (Arial font, 11 point size, single space) personal statement to me by June 20th, 2021.

We will provide you with a state-of-the-art research experience in genetics, plant physiology and biochemistry focusing on the role of protein ubiquitylation and degradation in plant development and growth. I look forward to hearing from you.