Pilong LI    Ph.D.

Associate Professor

1996-2000 B.S., Beijing University

2000-2002 M.S., Hong Kong University of Science and Technology

2002-2009 Ph.D., University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center

2009-2010 Postdoc, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center

2010-2015 Postdoc, University of Pennsylvania

2016-present Assistant Professor, Associate Professor, Tsinghua University


Research interest

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. My 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 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.


Selected publications

1. Li R, Li T, Lu G, Cao Z, Chen B, Wang Y, Du J*, Li P*. (2022) Programming cell-surface signaling by phase-separation-controlled compartmentalization. Nat Chem Biol. 18:1351-1360.

2. Buttress T#, He S#, Wang L#, Zhou S#, Saalbach G, Vickers M, Li G, Li P*, Feng X*. Histone H2B.8 compacts flowering plant sperm through chromatin phase separation. (2022) Nature. 611:614-622.

3. Chen Z, Hou C, Wang L, Yu C, Chen T, Shen B, Hou Y, Li P*, Li T*. (2022) Screening membraneless organelle participants with machine-learning models that integrate multimodal features. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 119:e2115369119.

4. Feng X, Du W, Ding M, Zhao W, Xirefu X, Ma M, Zhuang Y, Fu X, Shen J, Zhang J, Lei X, Sun D, Xi Q, Aisa Y, Chen Q, Li Y, Wang W, Huang S, Yu L, Li P*, Mi N*. (2022) Myosin 1D and the branched actin network control the condensation of p62 bodies. Cell Res. 32:659-669.

5. Xu W#, Pei G#, Liu H#, Ju X, Wang J, Ding Q, Li P*. (2021) Compartmentalization-aided interaction screening reveals extensive high-order complexes within the SARS-CoV-2 proteome. Cell Rep. 36:109482.

6. Huang X#, Chen S#, Li W, Tang L, Zhang Y, Yang N, Zou Y, Zhai X, Xiao N, Liu W, Li P*, Xu C*. (2021) ROS regulated reversible protein phase separation synchronizes plant flowering. Nat Chem Bio. 17:549-557.

7. Zuo L, Zhang G, Massett M, Cheng J, Wang L, Gao Y, Li R, Huang X*, Li P*, Qi Z*. (2021) Loci-specific phase separation of FET fusion oncoproteins promotes aberrant gene transcription. Nat Commun. 12:1491.

8. Zhou M#, Li W#, Li J#, Xie L, Wu R, Wang L, Fu S, Su W, Hu J, Wang J, Li P*. (2020) Phase-separated condensate-aided enrichment of biomolecular interactions for high-throughput drug screening in test tubes. J Biol Chem. 295:11420-11434.

9. Wang L#, Hu M#, Zuo M, Zhao J, Wu D, Huang L, Wen Y, Li Y, Chen P, Bao X, Dong M, Li G*, Li P*. (2020) Rett syndrome mutations compromise MeCP2-mediated liquid-liquid phase separation of chromatin. Cell Res. 30:393-407.

10. Fang X#, Wang L#, Ishikawa R#, Li Y, Fiedler M, Liu F, Calder G, Rowan B, Weigel D, Li P*, Dean C*. (2019) Arabidopsis FLL2 promotes liquid–liquid phase separation of polyadenylation complexes. Nature. 569:265-269.

11. Gao Y#, Pei G#, Li D#, Li R, Shao Y, Zhang QC, Li P*. (2019) Multivalent m6A motifs promote phase separation of YTHDF proteins. Cell Res. 29:767-769.

12. Wang L#, Gao Y#, Zheng X#, Liu C, Dong S, Li R, Zhang G, Wei Y, Qu H, Li Y, Allis CD, Li G, Li H*, Li P*. (2019) Histone modifications regulate chromatin compartmentalization by contributing to a phase separation mechanism. Mol Cell. 76:646-659.

13. Sun D#, Wu R#, Zheng J, Li P*, Yu L*. (2018) Polyubiquitin chain-induced p62 phase separation drives autophagic cargo segregation. Cell Res. 28:405-415.

14. Li P#, Banjade S#, Cheng HC#, Kim S, Chen B, Guo L, Llaguno M, Hollingsworth JV, King DS, Banani SF, Russo PS, Jiang QX, Nixon BT, Rosen MK*. (2012) Phase transitions in the assembly of multivalent signalling proteins. Nature. 483:336-340.

#: equal contribution;    *: corresponding authorship

Contact information

Tel:+86-10-62794071 (Lab)

E-mail: pilongli/at/mail.tsinghua.edu.cn