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Pilong Li

Pilong Li




Research Area:

Eukaryotic cells contain numerous important membrane-less 3D micron-sized organelles. The mechanisms of their formation are elusive. Previously we discovered that multivalent proteins and their multivalent ligands can “liquid-liquid demixing” phase transition and generate a protein-rich sticky liquid phase floating in ambient solution. The physical properties of the second phase are very similar to those of some of the membrane-less organelles. Multivalent proteins and RNAs are prevalent in the cell, especially in these membrane-less organelles. So multivalence-driven “liquid-liquid demixing” phase transition might be one important mechanism for the assembly of the membrane-less organelles. Cells can regulate the potential to phase transition via various post-translational modifications. The Li Lab is dedicated to elucidate the roles of phase transition in many aspects of cell biology, in which membrane-less organelles are involved.

In addition, the macroscopic phase transition is the manifestation of microscopic molecular interactions. As such, phase transition can serve as readout of molecular interactions. We are developing “liquid-liquid demixing” phase transition based biochemical assays for investigation arbitrary molecular interactions in vitro and in cells.


Selected Publications:

1.  Li, P.*, Martins, I. R. S.*, Amarasinghe G. K.* and Rosen, M. K. (2008). Internal Dynamics Control Activation and Activity of the Autoinhibited Vav DH Domain. Nat. Struct. Mol. Biol. 15, 613-618.

2.  Yu, B.*, Martins, I. R. S.*, Li, P., et al. and Rosen, M. K. (2010). Structural and Energetic Mechanisms of Cooperative Autoinhibition and Activation of Vav1. Cell. 140, 246-256.

3.  Zhang, R., So, B.*, Li, P.*, Yong, J., Glisovic, T., Wan, L. and Dreyfuss, G. (2011). Structure of a Key Intermediate of the SMN Complex Reveals Gemin2’s Crucial Function in snRNP Assembly. Cell. 146, 384-395.

4.  Li, P.#, Martins, I. R. S. and Rosen, M. K. (2011). The Feasibility of Parameterizing Four-state Equilibria Using Relaxation Dispersion Measurements. Journal of Biomolecular NMR. 51, 57-70.

5.  Li, P.*, Banjade, S.*, Cheng, H.*, et al. and Rosen, M. K. (2012). Phase transitions in the assembly of multivalent signalling proteins. Nature. 483, 336-340.

6.  Sun, D.*, Wu, R.*, Zheng, J., Li, P.#, and Yu, L.#. (2017. Submitted to Nature)

 *: Co-first author;     #: Corresponding author




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