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Gang Liu , D. Phil.
Associate Professor


1990 - D. Phil. from University of Oxford, UK

Current Research

The research interest of this laboratory is to understand the mechanisms and effects of mRNA localization on directed cell migration. It has been known that directed cell migration plays an important role in many normal and pathological processes such as embryo development, immune defense, wound healing and tumor metastasis. However, the intracellular mechanisms that regulate directed cell migration are poorly understood. Emerging evidence indicates that asymmetric distribution of mRNA in the cells determines local protein synthesis and influences directed cell migration. For example, beta-actin protein and its corresponding mRNA are localized at the leading lamellae of fibroblasts and delocalization of beta-actin mRNA results in loss of local synthesis of actin, impaired cell polarity and migration. We have found for the first time that all the mRNAs for the seven subunits of the Arp2/3 complex, a key factor for actin assembly, are localized at the protrusions of fibroblasts. The finding suggests that mRNA localization, through local protein synthesis and complex assembly, plays an important role in targeting the Arp2/3 protein complex to the leading lamellae for directed cell migration. It is totally unknown as to how the localization of the Arp2/3 complex mRNAs is regulated and what are the consequences in cell migration if the localization of the Arp2/3 complex mRNAs is disrupted. Insights obtained from studying the regulatory mechanisms for Arp2/3 complex mRNA localization and directed cell migration would likely provide useful means in manipulating cell migration for therapeutic benefits. To this end, current projects in the laboratory are trying to address these questions using approaches of molecular genetics, cell biology, biochemistry and microscopic imaging techniques. Ongoing studies include: 1). To study the mechanism of Arp2/3 complex mRNA localization; 2) To disrupt the normal localization of the Arp2/3 complex mRNA; 3) to study the effects of delocalizing Arp2/3 complex mRNA on cell migration in cultured cells and in wound healing animal models.


  1. Wu X, Yoo Y, Okuhama NN, Tucker PW, Liu G and Guan JL. (2006) Regulation of RNA-polymerase-II-dependent transcription by N-WASP and its nuclear-binding partners. Nat Cell Biol 8: 756-763.

  2. Liu G, Amin S, Okuhama NN, Liao G, and Mingle LA. (2006) A quantitative evaluation of peroxidase inhibitors for tyramide signal amplification mediated cytochemistry and histochemistry. Histochem Cell Biol 126: 283-291.

  3. Mingle LA, Okuhama NN, Shi J, Singer RH, Condeelis J, Liu G. (2005) Localization of all seven messenger RNAs for the actin-polymerization nucleator Arp2/3 complex in the protrusions of fibroblasts. J Cell Sci 118: 2425-2433.

  4. Liu G, Grant WM, Persky D, Latham VM Jr, Singer RH, Condeelis J. (2002) Interactions of elongation factor 1alpha with F-actin and beta-actin mRNA: implications for anchoring mRNA in cell protrusions. Mol Biol Cell 13: 579-592.