Robert Qi Lab main menu

Home NEWS! Principal investigator Research Publications Lab Members Alumni Lab photo albums Teaching Services Join us Contact Links

Welcome to our website

Microtubule cytoskeleton is an essential scaffold that functions in organizing the cytoplasm of eukaryotic cells. We focus on understanding the molecular mechanisms that regulate microtubule cytoskeletal organization during cell division, migration, and morphogenesis, and how defects in these mechanisms result in diseases such as cancer and neurodegenerative diseases. Our work applies a range of tools from biochemistry, mass spectrometry, molecular and cell biology to study these fundamental questions in cell biology.

News in RQ lab

The Cellular Make Up of an Academic Career

As a successful undergraduate and Master’s student at HKUST, Franco Au in our lab was perfectly placed to recognize the value that continuing his studies at HKUST would have for the budding scientific researcher...

Read more at HKUST PG news sep 2017 feature stories

About Robert Qi

Robert Z. Qi, Ph.D.
Professor
Division of Life Science

Associate Director
Center for Cancer Research

The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology

Prof. Robert Z. Qi obtained Ph.D. in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at The University of Calgary, Canada. Prior to joining The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, he held appointments in the Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology, Singapore as Principle Investigator, Proteomics Group and Protein Chemistry Facility.

Research Overview

In higher eukaryotic cells, the microtubule cytoskeleton is an essential scaffold required for dynamic organization of the cytoplasm and for intracellular transport, thus playing a crucial role in numerous cellular functions. The temporal and spatial distribution of microtubule arrays is controlled largely by centrosomes, which are known as the microtubule-organizing centers. Centrosomal functions depend on the presence of γ-tubulin, a highly conserved protein that exists in γ-tubulin complexes (γTuCs), to initiate assembly of microtubule filaments and to anchor microtubule arrays. Microtubule plus-ends, located distally from the organizing centers and often the fast-growing ends, accumulate a group of proteins called microtubule plus-end tracking proteins. These proteins are positioned to control microtubule dynamics and microtubule interaction with subcellular targets.

Our long-term goal is to unravel molecular mechanisms that regulate microtubule cytoskeletal organization and to understand how defects in such mechanisms result in diseases. Our previous work included the functional characterization of several proteins involved in microtubule assembly and organization. One of these proteins is CDK5RAP2, a widely expressed protein whose mutations cause autosomal recessive primary microcephaly. We have demonstrated the functions of CDK5RAP2both on centrosomes and at the plus ends of microtubules. Localizing throughout centrosomes, CDK5RAP2 associates with the γ-tubulin ring complex (γTuRC), which is the principal nucleator of microtubules, and stimulates its activity of microtubule nucleation. The γTuRC-binding domain found in CDK5RAP2 is highly conserved in γTuC-tethering proteins of lower eukaryotes, suggesting a conserved regulation of γ-tubulin-mediated nucleation of microtubules. At microtubule plus-ends, CDK5RAP2 interacts with EB1, a master controller of protein assembly at the growing tips, to regulate microtubule dynamics. Interestingly, this plus-end association is a gain-of-function during mammalian evolution and has thus been implicated in the control of brain size. Altogether, these findings have revealed a crucial role of CDK5RAP2 in microtubule organization and brain development.

To capitalize on our current achievements, we have been investigating microtubule nucleation and organization by the γTuRC. A multidisciplinary approach combining biochemistry, proteomics, molecular and cell biology is employed to investigate the nature and assembly dynamics of the γTuRC, to systematically identify proteins that associate with the γTuRC, and to understand its association with its associating proteins. Molecular description of the γTuRC and functional determination of its components and associated proteins will allow us to progress on understanding the control mechanisms of microtubule nucleation, dynamics, and array organization.

Recent Publications

Lab members

Prof. Robert Z. Qi
Principle Investigator
Email: qirz@ust.hk

Mr. Jason Po Ming TAM
Technician
Email: bctpm@ust.hk

Dr. Peng Fei LIU
Postdoctoral Fellow
Email: lpfnano@ust.hk

Mr. Chao ZHANG
Postgraduate student
Email: chaozhang@ust.hk

Miss Yue Hong SHEN
Postdoctoral Fellow
Email: yuehongshen@ust.hk

Mr. Franco Kin Chung AU
Postgraduate student
Email: kcfau@ust.hk

Mr.Tao Lue JIANG
Postgraduate student
Email:tjiangaa@ust.hk

Mr. Bill Hau
Postgraduate student
Email:kthauaa@ust.hk

Mr. Shao Zhong YANG
Postgraduate student
Email:syangap@connect.ust.hk

Miss Ke Xin WANG
Postgraduate student
Email:kwangan@connect.ust.hk

Miss Lu FU
Postgraduate student
Email:lfuab@connect.ust.hk

Mr. Can YIN
Postgraduate student
Email:cyinaa@connect.ust.hk

Lab photo albums

2017_11_17

2017-09-19

2017-01-17

2016-12-16

2016-11-4

2016-10-17

2016-1-13

2015-11-19

2015-8-28

2014-12-12

2014-11-6

2014-7-7

Alumni

 

2015

Name

Degree conferred

Mr. Franco Kin Chung AU

M.Phil.

Miss. Shao Hua LI

M.Phil.

Mr. Yi Chen ZHAO

M.Phil.

Mr. Feng Yuan HUO

M.Sc.

Mr. Yuan GAO

M.Sc.

 

2014

Name

Degree conferred

Dr. Peng Fei LIU

Ph.D.

Mr. Yu HU

M.Phil.

Mr. Xu Lun SUN

M.Phil.

Ying CHEN

M.Sc.

Chun Ting LAU

M.Sc.

 

2013

Name

Degree conferred

Dr. Jia YUE

Ph.D.

Miss Jing XIONG

M.Phil.

 

2012

Name

Degree conferred

Miss Yue Hong SHEN

M.Phil.

Mr. Chao ZHANG

M.Phil.

 

2011

Name

Degree conferred

Dr. Litchi Yuk Kwan CHOI

Ph.D.

Dr. Zhe WANG

 

Ph.D

Mr. Feng ZHU

 

M.Sc.

 

2010

Name

Degree conferred

Dr. Zhe WANG

Ph.D.

 

2008

Name

Degree conferred

Dr. Will Ka Wing FONG

Ph.D.

Mr. Thomas Yik Shing KHO

M.Phil.

 

2007

Name

Degree conferred

Dr. Zhi Bo HOU

Ph.D.

Dr. Li Sheng HE

Ph.D.

Mr. Gary Kar-Ho NG

M.Sc.

 

2005

Name

Degree conferred

Mr. Yan YU

M.Phil.

Miss Karen Ka-Man CHING

M.Sc.

 

Teaching

My major goal of teaching is to provide students with strong foundations in biological sciences that will allow them to develop good understanding and capabilities in this field. This is done through infusing students with the same enthusiasm I have for the subjects and to teach a class with the same level of attention as if I am focusing on only one student.

 

Introduction to Biochemistry (LIFS2210)

This course introduces students to major classes of biochemical compounds; primary, secondary, tertiary and quaternary structures of macromolecules; enzyme kinetics and mechanisms; biosynthesis of DNA and RNA; transfer RNA and protein synthesis.

 

Nature of Biochemistry and Biotechnology (LIFS2030)

This course introduces students to major classes of biochemical compounds; enzymic catalysis, metabolic pathways; genetic information; genetic coding of protein synthesis, genetic engineering; industrial, medical and agricultural applications of biochemistry.

 

Cellular Regulation (LIFS5710)

This course introduces students to molecular basis of cellular regulation and cellular signal transduction cascades.

Services

Prof. Robert Qi established two mass spectrometry facilities at the university and has been supervising their operations. The first facility was set up in 2003 with a triple quadrupole/time of flight hybrid mass spectrometer (QSTAR-Pulsar, Applied Bisystems/Sciex), liquid chromatography systems (LC Packings/Dionex Ultimate NanoLC System and Agilent 1100 HPLC System), and a protein sample processing robot (ProGest Workstation, Genomic Solutions). In 2008, Prof. Qi set up another mass spectrometry facility as part of the Biosciences Central Research Facility. Two different mass spectrometric instruments, ultrafleXtreme MALDI-TOF/TOF mass spectrometer (Bruker Daltonics) and LTQ Velos linear ion trap LC-MS system (Thermo Fisher Scientific), were installed. Mass spectrometry services, including molecular weight determination (organic compounds and biomolecules), protein sequencing, identification and sequence analysis, are provided to investigators at the university and also to the Hong Kong scientific community.

Join Us

Postgraduate and postdoctoral opportunities are available for highly motivated candidates. If you are interested in joining the lab, please contact Prof. Robert Qi (qirz@ust.hk).

Contact

Robert Z. Qi, Ph.D.

 

Office Address:

Room 5458, Division of Life Science
Hong Kong University of Science and Technology
Clear Water Bay, New Territories
Hong Kong
Tel: (852) 2358 7273
Fax: (852) 2358 1552
Email: qirz@ust.hk

 

Lab Address:

Room 6305/6310G, Division of Life Science
Hong Kong University of Science and Technology
Clear Water Bay, Kowloon
Hong Kong
Tel: (852) 2358 8702
Fax: (852) 2719 8158