Plenary lecture

Zhenfeng Liu
Institute of Biophysics, CAS


1998-2004: Doctor of Science in Biophysics, August, 2004, Instiute of Biophysics, Chinese Academy of Sciences Beijing, China
1994-1998: Bachelor of Science in Biology, July, 1998, Department of Biology, Xiamen University, Fujian Province, China

Employment history

Dec. 2004 - Dec. 2010 Research Associate, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Postdoctoral Scholar Division of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California, USA
Jan. 2011 - present Investigator, Institute of Biophysics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing
Nov. 2011- supported by the Young Thousand Talents Program

Research summary

Membrane proteins have fundamental roles in energy absorption and conversion during photosynthesis, electron transfer and oxidative phosphorylation during respiration process, transport of substances across the cellular membrane, signal transduction and catalysis of intramembrane enzymatic reactions such as proteolysis and lipid biosynthesis/hydrolysis. It was estimated that 20-30% of the open reading frames in both prokaryotic and eukaryotic genomes encode membrane proteins, underscoring the importance of membrane protein research. So far, membrane protein structures only account for ~1% of the total protein structures deposited in the Protein Data Bank (PDB), indicating the field of membrane protein structural research largely lags behind that of soluble proteins. This is mainly due to the challenge in heterologous overexpression, purification and crystallization of membrane proteins. Nevertheless, membrane protein structural biology is becoming a leading-edge branch of structural biology and attracts more and more researchers to join and develop this field which is still at its early stage of exponential growth (
My laboratory studies structure and function of membrane proteins from different biological systems, using (but not limited to) the techniques of X-ray crystallography and Cryo-electron Microscopy. The targets include the bacterial mechanosensitive channels involved in osmotic pressure regulation, intramembrane enzymes catalyzing phospholipid biosynthesis and remodeling and membrane protein complexes related to photosynthetic state transition. The goal is to elucidate the molecular mechanism of these fundamental biological processes through in-depth structural and functional analyses.