Pilong Li:Research

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Li Lab for Phase transition

School of Life Sciences, Tsinghua University

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Research Fields

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 ( proteins or RNAs) 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-transitional modifications.

Research Interests

Roles of phase transition

My lab is dedicated to elucidate the roles of phase transition in many aspects of cell biology, in which membrane-less organelles are involved. Placeholder.png

Application of phase transition

In addition, the macroscopic phase transition is the manifestation of microscopic molecular interaction. 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 vivo.