Research Projects
Chemical and Optogentical Approaches to Investigate Cellular Phosphatidylinositol Biogenesis

Programme(s) to which this project applies:

☒ MPhil/PhD ☑ MRes[Med] ☒ URIS

Objective and Significance:

  1. To develop chemical and optogentical molecular tools to decipher spatiotemporal regulation phosphatidylinositol (PI) biogenesis
  2. To suppress cancer cell invasion by modulating PI biogenesis
  3. To study the functional role of lipid phosphatase in cell-matrix adhesion

Research Plan and Methodology:

We aim to develop effective and reversible molecular switches to alter PI biogenesis in live cells. PI is one of the key secondary messengers in many cellular signal pathways. We will apply chemical and optogentical approaches to spatiotemporally manipulate PI production at various organelles. Specifically, we will focus on the functional outcome of PI biogenesis alteration in cell migration and cancer invadosome formation.

  1. To construct FRB*/MaRAP/FKBP12 and PIF/PhyB fused PI kinase/phosphatase. We will develop two sets of probes to manipulate PI production. FRB*/FKBP12 dimerization can be triggered by MaRAP, and PIF/PhyB dimerization can be reversibly activated by 650nm light. PI kinase and phosphatase (such as p85 and PTEN) will be tagged with these molecular switches, and PI production can be then controlled and sorted to different cellular compartments.
  2. To investigate the functional role of PI biogenesis in invaodsoome formation. We will first validate the alteration of PI production by advanced fluorescence confocal microscopy. In particular, we seek to inhibit PIP3 production at plasma membrane. Furthermore, we will examine the change of invasive migration behavior in cancer cell lines when PIP3 level is suppressed.
  3. To examine the functional role of lipid phosphatase in cell-matrix adhesion. We will further utilize developed molecular switches to study the role of PI phosphatase, such as PTEN and SYNJ2 in adhesion assembly and disssembly.

Professor CH Yu, School of Biomedical Sciences

My research team aims to decipher the molecular reorganisation and signal transduction at the cell-matrix adhesion. We provide four-year scholarship and are looking for one to two talented PhD students.

Laboratory Homepage

For more information or to express interest for this project, please email the supervisor or the specified contact point in the project description.  Interested candidates are advised to enclose with your email:

  1. your CV,
  2. a brief description of your research interest and experience, and
  3. two reference letters (not required for HKUMed UG students seeking MRes[Med]/URIS projects).

Information on the research programme, funding support and admission documentations could be referenced online at the Research Postgraduate Admissions website. General admission enquiries should be directed to

HKUMed MBBS students interested in the Master of Research in Medicine (MRes[Med]) programme may visit the programme website for more information.  

HKUMed UG students interested in the Undergraduate Research Internship Scheme (URIS) may visit the scheme’s website for more information.