B.Sc. (Hons), Universiti Sains Malaysia
M.Sc., University of Sussex, UK
Ph.D., University of Oxford, UK
Postdoc., University of Oxford, UK
Ext: 4005
Developmental Genetics and Molecular Biology


Research Profile

Our group uses animal models such as the fruit fly (Drosophila melanogaster), Zebrafish (Danio rerio) and the emerging mosquito (Aedes aegypti) as well as cell culture to understand specific pathways and diseases. Using the latest techniques in molecular biology and biotechnology, we focus our research towards the understanding of the mechanism and pathway to develop novel therapeutic approaches. In order to do this, we take advantage of all the cutting edge techniques including molecular biology, biochemistry (RNA and DNA), genomics, proteomics, bioinformatics, advance imaging and genome engineering (CRISPR and TALENs).

1. CTP synthase and cytoophidia

CTP synthase have been shown to play a role in human diseases and cancers (e.g. leukaemia, hepatomas, colon cancer, african sleeping sickness, malaria, and infectious blindness). We are using model organisms, fruit fly (Drosophila melanogaster), Zebrafish (Danio rerio) and mosquitos (Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus) to understand the biochemical pathway of CTP synthase.









Cytoophidia (green), labelled by CTP Synthase (CTPS) antibody staining in the ovary of Drosophila melanogaster.

2. Small RNA Biology (miRNA and siRNA)

Another research focus is on small RNA biology. One of the goal is to elucidate the role of miRNA regulation on CTP synthase and its related diseases. We are also characterizing and studying mosquito small RNAs.













miRNA, mirtron and siRNA biogenesis in Drosophila

Current Research


  • Characterizing CTP synthase and cytoophidia in fruitfly, zebrafish and mosquito
  • Understanding the role of small RNAs in cytoophidia assembly
  • Investigating the relationship of small RNAs in dengue-infected mosquito



University of Oxford, UK


Selected Publications

1. Bassett, A.*, Azzam, G.*, Wheatley, L.*,Tibbit, C., Rajakumar, T., McGowan, S., Stanger, N., Taylor, S., Ponting, CP., Sauka-Spengler, T., Liu, JL. and Fulga, TA.* (2014). (*Joint first authors) Understanding functional miRNA–target interactions in vivo by site-specific genome engineering. Nature Communication 5:4640 (2014). doi:10.1038/ncomms5640

2. Smibert, P.*, Yang J.*, Azzam, G.*, Liu, JL., Lai, EC. (2013). (*Joint first authors) Homeostatic control of Argonaute stability by microRNAs. Nature Structural & Molecular Biology 20: 789–795 (2013) doi:10.1038/nsmb.2606

3. Azzam, G. and Liu, JL. (2013). Only one isoform of Drosophila CTP synthase forms the cytoophidium. PLoS Genetics 9(2): e1003256. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1003256

4. Azzam, G., Smibert, P., Lai, EC. and Liu JL. (2012). Drosophila Argonaute 1 and its miRNA biogenesis partners are required for oocyte formation and germline cell division. Developmental Biology (2): 384-94. (Cover story)

5. Thomsen, S., Azzam, G., Kaschula, R., Lucy S. Williams, and Alonso, C.R. (2010). Developmental RNA processing of 3'UTRs in Hox mRNAs as a context-dependent mechanism modulating visibility to mi-croRNAs. Development, 137 (17):2951-2960 [With "In this issue" highlight comment in Development 137 (17)]
[***RECOMMENDED by the Faculty of 1000 Biology, see McDougall C, Degnan B: 2010.***]

6. Siti Azizah, M.N., Abu Talib A., Mohd Ghows, M.A., and Samsudin B. (2008). A Preliminary Genetic In-vestigation of Rastrelliger kanagurta Based on Random Amplified Polymorphic DNA and Mitochondrial ND2 Gene. Wetland Science Vol.6 No.4 Dec, 2008