Research Projects
The Functional Impacts of Aberrant RNA Modifications in Liver Carcinogenesis

Programme(s) to which this project applies:

☑ MPhil/PhD ☒ MRes[Med] ☒ URIS

Previous epigenetic studies are mainly focused on aberrant DNA methylation and histone modifications. Recently, emerging evidence suggested that besides DNA and histone proteins, mRNA are also subjected to various reversible chemical modifications. N6-methyladenosine (m6A) is the most abundant chemical modification on eukaryotic mRNA and is important to the regulation of mRNA stability, splicing, and translation. However, limited studies have addressed the pathological implications of m6A deregulation in disease models. We found that deregulation of m6A modification may play a crucial role in human carcinogenesis. We discovered that the major RNA m6A methyltransferase METTL3 was frequently up-regulated in liver cancer and multiple solid tumours. We also identified putative tumor suppressor SOCS2 as a novel target of METTL3. m6A modification promoted SOCS2 degradation through m6A reader YTHDF2 dependent mechanism. Conceptually, our findings suggested that in addition to hyper-methylation in CpG island at DNA level, cancer cells also develop m6A hyper-methylation at mRNA level to silence tumour suppressor gene expression. Our findings of METTL3-m6A-YTHDF2-SOCS2 pathway exemplified the critical role of m6A epi-transcriptomic change in human carcinogenesis (Chen M et al., Hepatology 2018, 57: 2254). We are currently working on the identification and characterization of novel m6A modified mRNAs and investigating their implications in liver carcinogenesis.

Dr JCM Wong, Department of Pathology

Dr Chun-ming Wong is an associate professor of the Department of Pathology and a Principal Investigator of the State Key Laboratory of Liver Research. He is keen on investigating the genome and epigenome of liver cancer and is one of the pioneers working on RNA modification and liver cancer.

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.