Seminar series — Drug Delivery and Translational Medicine

Chemical Approaches to Decoding Histone Epigenetics

Department of Pharmacology & Pharmacy

26 March 2024 (Tuesday) at 3:30 pm - 4:30 pm

Prof. Xiang David Li
Department of Chemistry,
The University of Hong Kong

Histone posttranslational modifications (PTMs), such as phosphorylation, methylation and acetylation, play crucial roles in regulating many fundamental cellular processes, such as gene transcription, DNA replication, DNA damage repair, chromosome segregation, and cell differentiation. Increasing evidence has indicated that PTMs of histones can serve as a heritable ‘code’ (so-called ‘histone code’), which provides epigenetic information that a mother cell can pass to its daughters. Histone code is ‘written’ or ‘erased’ by enzymes that generate or remove the modifications of histones. Meanwhile, ‘readers’ of histone code recognize specific histone modifications and ‘translate’ the code by executing distinct cellular programs necessary to establish the diverse cell phenotypes.

While a large number of PTMs have been identified on histones, the biological significance of vast majority of them remains poorly understood. This is particularly the case for those newly discovered histone modifications such as lysine crotonylation, succinylation, fatty-acid acylation, and the modifications present at histone cores such as methylation at H3 lysine 79. Studies of these new PTMs are hindered by the lack of knowledge about their regulating enzymes (i.e., ‘writers’ and ‘erasers’) and functional binding proteins (i.e., ‘readers’). To fill this knowledge gap, here I present the development of novel chemical tools and approaches, in combination with the state-of-the-art biochemistry, proteomics and cell biology methods, to comprehensively identify ‘writers’, ‘erasers’ and ‘readers’ of histone PTMs and examine their regulatory mechanisms and cellular functions.

Professor Xiang David Li obtained his B.Sc. in chemistry from Fudan University in 2003, and Ph.D. in organic and bioorganic chemistry in 2008 from The University of Hong Kong under the supervision of Professor Dan Yang. He then moved to New York to conduct his postdoctoral training in chemistry and cell biology with Prof. Tarun M. Kapoor at Rockefeller University. In 2011, he returned to The University of Hong Kong to start his independent career as an assistant professor and was promoted to full professor in 2020.

His research, at the interface of chemistry and biology, aims at deciphering the landscape of histone PTMs using chemical approaches. His most important contribution to the field of epigenetics is the development of a variety of new and robust chemical tools and methodology for the comprehensive identification of proteins that are responsible for ‘writing’, ‘erasing’, or ‘translating’ histone PTMs, which helped to unravel biological roles played by specific histone modification and to clarify how the histone PTMs are interpreted in normal physiology and disease pathogenesis. He has been recognized by multiple prizes and awards, including the Tetrahedron Young Investigator Award, CAPA Distinguished Faculty Award, NSFC Excellent Young Scientists Award, Early Career Award from the Hong Kong Research Grant Council, and HKU Outstanding Researcher Award.



Seminar Room 608,
6/F, William MW Mong Block,
21 Sassoon Road
Hong Kong

All are welcome