Discovery Lab for Cell Fate Transition


About Us

Cell fate allocation is the “big bang” process that builds up the whole organism starting from the totipotent single cell --- the fertilized egg.
We are a group of researchers from ZJU-UoE Institute in Zhejiang University (China) working on how cell fate transition is precisely regulated and coordinated at single cell and epigenetic level combining genetic, cellular, and genomic analyses.
With our expertises in both Molecular biology and Computational biology, we hope to address key questions in understanding the fundamental mechanisms of cell fate specification.

Our Research

Topics interest us in cell fate transition include ...

This is my work

Stem Cells
From Embryonic Stem Cells to Germ Cells

Germ cells are the only cell type that re-creates totipotency to start a new life. Germ cell fate determination is a critical but largely unknown process. We are deconstructing the cell fate transition process to understand how genetic and epigenetic mechanisms involved combining cell biology and single cell genomics.

This is my work

RNA-binding proteins
What's their funciton in transcriptional regulation?

RNA-binding proteins are critical for stem cells and germ cells, but their functions are largely unknown. We are developing new techniques and algorithms to map the mRNA targets of RNA-binding proteins to decipher their functions in stem cells and germ cells. Figures modified from Hentze et al., 2018, Nature Reviews Molecular Cell Biology.

This is my work

Cell fate determinants
What are the determinants in cell fate transitions?

Transcription factors regulate groups of gene activation/repression simultaneously and are probably the main drivers for cell fate transition. We are exploring the new functions of transcription factors during cell fate transitions based on our unexpected discoveries.


Members from our groups are higlighted

20. Chen, D.*, Sun, N.*, Lei, H.*, Kim, R., Faith, J., Aslanyan, M., Tao, Y., Zheng Y., Fu, J., Liu, W., Kellis, M., Clark, A. (2019). TFAP2C safeguards Weismann’s barrier to preserve human germline identity during primordial germ cell specification from lineage primed progenitors. * co-first authors.
19. Chen, D.*, Liu, W.*, Zimmerman, J., Pastor, W., Kim, R., Hosohama, L., Ho, J., Aslanyan, M., Gell, J., Jacobsen, S., Clark, A. (2018). The TFAP2C-regulated OCT4 naïve enhancer is involved in human germline formation. Cell Report 25, 3591-3602. * co-first authors.
18. Hancock, G. and Chen, D. (2018). Another step closer to unlocking specification of primordial germ cells. AME Medical Journal 3, 64.
17. Pastor, W., Liu, W., Chen, D., Ho, J., Kim, R., Hunt, T., Lukianchikov, A., Liu, X., Polo, J., Jacobsen, S., Clark, A. (2018). TFAP2C regulates transcription in human naive pluripotency by opening enhancers. Nature Cell Biology 20, 553–564.
16. Chen, D. and Clark, A. (2018). Mitochondrial DNA selection in human germ cells. Nature Cell Biology 20, 118-120.
15. Chen, D., and Hancock, G. (2017). Crosslinking and immunoprecipitation: a new route for dead end. AME Medical Journal 2(8), 119-119.
14. Sosa, E., Chen, D., Rojas, E., Hennebold, J., Peters, K., Wu, Z., Lam, T., Mitchell, J., Tailor, R., Meistrich, M., Orwig, K., Shetty, G., Clark, A. (2017). Differentiation of primate primordial germ cell-like cells following transplantation into the adult gonadal niche. Nature Communication
13. Gell, J., Zhao, J., Chen, D., Hunt, T., Clark, A. (2018). PRDM14 is expressed in germ cell tumors with constitutive overexpression altering human germline differentiation and proliferation. Stem Cell Research 27, 46-56.
12. Chen, D., Liu, W., Lukianchikov, A., Hancock, G., Zimmerman, J., Lowe, M., Kim, R., Galic, Z., Irie, N., Surani, A., Pastor, W., Ho, J., Jacobsen, S., Clark, A. (2017). Germline competency of human embryonic stem cells depends on EOMESODERMIN. Biology of Reproduction 97, 850-861.
11. Clark, A. T., Gkountela, S., Chen, D., Liu, W., Sosa, E., Sukhwani, M., et al. (2017). Primate primordial germ cells acquire transplantation potential by Carnegie stage 23. Stem Cell Reports 9, 329-341.
10. Chen, D., Gell, J. J., Tao, Y., Sosa, E., & Clark, A. T. (2017). Modeling human infertility with pluripotent stem cells. Stem Cell Research 21, 187-192.
9. Tang, Y., Geng, Q., Chen, D., Zhao, S., Liu, X., Wang, Z. (2017). Germline proliferation is regulated by somatic endocytic genes via JNK and BMP signaling in Drosophila. Genetics 206, 189-197.
8. Shan, L., Wu, C., Chen, D., Hou, L., Li, X., Wang, L., Chu, X., Hou, Y., Wang, Z. (2017). Regulators of alternative polyadenylation operate at the transition from mitosis to meiosis. J Genet Genomics 44, 95-106.
7. O'Brien, C.M., Chy, H.S., Zhou, Q., Blumenfeld, S., Lambshead, J.W., Liu, X., Kie, J., Capaldo, B.D., Chung, T.L., Adams, T.E., Phan, T., Bentley, J.D., McKinstry, W.J., Oliva, K., McMurrick, P.J., Wang, Y.C., Rossello, F.J., Lindeman, G.J., Chen, D., Jarde, T., Clark, A.T., Abud, H.E., Visvader, J.E., Nefzger, C.M., Polo, J.M., Loring, J.F., Laslett, A.L. (2017). New monoclonal antibodies to defined cell surface proteins on human pluripotent stem cells. Stem Cells 35, 626-640.
6. Pastor, W.A.*, Chen D.*, Liu, W.*, Kim R., Sahakyan, A., Lukianchikov, A., Plath, K., Jacobsen, S.E. and Clark, A.T. (2015). Naïve human pluripotent cells feature a methylation landscape devoid of blastocyst or germline memory. Cell Stem Cell 18, 323-329. * co-first authors. Introduced by the Preview in the same issue.
5. Chen, D. and Clark, A.T. (2015). Human germline differentiation charts a new course. EMBO J. 34, 975-977.
4. Chen, D.*, Wu, C.*, Zhao, S., Geng, Q., Gao, Y., Li, X., Zhang, Y., Wang, Z. (2014). Three RNA binding proteins form a complex to promote differentiation of germline stem cell lineage in Drosophila. PLoS Genetics 10, e1004797. * co-first authors.
3. Zhao, S., Chen, D., Geng, Q., Wang, Z. (2013). The highly conserved LAMMER/CLK2 protein kinases prevent germ cell overproliferation in Drosophila. Developmental Biology 376, 163-70.
2. Liu. Z., Huang, Y., Chen, D., Zhang, Y. (2011). Drosophila Acyl-CoA synthetase long-chain family member 4 regulates axonal transport of synaptic vesicles and is required for synaptic development and transmission. Journal of Neuroscience 31, 2052-2063.
1. Zhang, Y., Chen, D., Wang, Z. (2009). Analyses of mental dysfunction-related ACSL4 in Drosophila reveal its requirement for Dpp/BMP production and visual wiring in the brain. Human Molecular Genetics 18, 3894- 3905.

Lab Members

Meet our scientists

Di Chen

Principal Investigator

Assistant Professor, ZJU-UoE Institute, Zhejiang University


Siqian jin

Siqian Jin

Lab Manager

Major in Clinal Medicine (Ophthalmology), Wenzhou Medical University


Hongling Yu

Undergraduate Thesis Student

Major in Biotechnology, Nankai University

Ziqi Wang

Undergraduate Thesis Student

Major in Bioscience, Shandong Agricultural University

Jin Zhang

Master Student

Yan Xu

Undergraduate Researcher

Major in Biomedical Sciences, ZJU-UoE Institute, Zhejiang University

Qizhe Shao

Undergraduate Researcher

Major in Biomedical Sciences, ZJU-UoE Institute, Zhejiang University

Chao Dai

Undergraduate Researcher

Major in Biomedical Sciences, ZJU-UoE Institute, Zhejiang University

Yutong Lang

Undergraduate Researcher (SRTP)

Major in Biomedical Sciences, ZJU-UoE Institute, Zhejiang University

Moming Guo

Undergraduate Researcher (SRTP)

Major in Biomedical Sciences, ZJU-UoE Institute, Zhejiang University

Yi Chai

Undergraduate Researcher

Major in Biomedical Science, ZJU-UoE Institute, Zhejiang University

Jinyan Shi

Undergraduate Researcher

Major in Biomedical Science, ZJU-UoE Institute, Zhejiang University


Previous students

Jingxian Zhao

Undergraduate Researcher

Major in Bioinformatics, ZJU-UoE Institute, Zhejiang University

Join Us at Chen Lab


Positions are available in the Chen Lab to study the precise mechanisms governing the cell fate transition from human embryonic stem cells to cells of different germ layers including primordial germ cells, ectoderm, mesoderm, and endoderm. Excellent communication skills are required, together with a strong background in developmental biology, cell biology, and/or genomics. Please submit a PDF copy of your curriculum vitae and research interests to Di Chen at

Graduate Students

We are recruiting graduate students through the ZJU-UoE dual Ph.D. program every year. Ph.D. student entered this program will be awared Ph.D. degree from both Zhejiang University and the University of Edinburgh. If you are interested in stem cells, germ cells, single cell genomics, and would like to challenge yourself, please contact Di Chen at to discuss potential projects.

Undergraduate Students

We welcome enthusiastic and motivated students who would like hands-on exposure to embryonic stem cells and cell differentiation. Please contact Di Chen at to discuss potential projects.


We are seeking for technicians with a strong background in stem cell culture, stem cell differentiation, and basic molecular biology. Please submit a PDF copy of your curriculum vitae to Di at


If you have any further questions , here are the best ways to connect with us!

Email :
Location : A313, ZJU-UoE Institute,718 East Haizhou Rd., Haining, Zhejiang 314400, P.R. China