Faculty Profile

Dr. Wei-Li Liu, Ph.D.

Wei-Li Liu, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, Department of Anatomy & Structural Biology

Professional Interests

Nanoscale probing of gene expression

A number of devastating human diseases arise from aberrant protein-coding gene expression in cells. Indeed, precise gene expression in humans is tightly controlled. This process requires highly coordinated interactions between the transcription initiation machinery and specific activators to ensure proper response to various physiological stimuli. The development of potent and novel disease treatments demands a nanoscale and fundamental understanding of how the transcription machinery and activators interact to initiation gene expression programs that direct cell growth/death, differentiation, aging, etc. in human cells. Therefore, the principal focus of our work is to interrogate how protein-coding genes are transcribed at the early stage of gene expression in human cells in order to express a number of critical factors that participate in diverse cellular processes including stem cell-/cell type- specific differentiation, proliferation, cell cycle arrest, and apoptosis.

To accurately transcribe a gene, a pre-initiation complex (PIC) is required to form at specific regions of the promoter DNA. TFIID is a principal component within the transcriptional machinery responsible for recognizing and binding specific promoter DNA. TFIID directs a recruitment of eight other basal transcription complexes including TFIIA and RNA Polymerase II to produce RNA from an accurate, discrete location of a gene. In order to properly respond to various physiological cues, sequence-specific DNA binding activators act as key regulators of gene expression to stimulate transcription, in part by targeting TFIID and aiding in its recruitment to promoter DNA.

We currently use a combination of high-resolution single particle electron microscopy (cryo-EM), high-precision single molecule microscopy, and a number of biochemical assays to visualize several distinct human mega-Dalton size macromolecule transcription assemblies during activated transcription initiation involved in tumor suppression, embryonic stem cell differentiation, and ovarian development.

Key Words: gene expression, transcription, TFIID, single particle cryo-EM imaging

Selected Publications

  1. Liu WL, Song L, Dailey G, Piasecka A, and Coleman RA. (2017) Identifying a TFIID interactome via integrated biochemical and high-throughput proteomic studies. BioRxiv 111682; DOI:  http://dx.doi.org/10.1101/111682.
  2. Kenworthy CK, Wong V, Dziuba P, Lavis LD, Liu WL, Singer RH, and Coleman RA. (2017) Genomic binding dynamics of PBAF are regulated via select chromatin states. BioRxiv 111674; DOI:  http://dx.doi.org/10.1101/111674.
  3. Liu WL, Coleman RA, and Singh SK. (2017) A new era of studying p53-mediated transcription activation. Transcription. Aug 10:1-6. PMID: 28795863 DOI: 10.1080/21541264.2017.1345354.
  4. Coleman RA, Qiao Z, Singh S, Peng CS, Cianfrocco M, Zhang Z, Song L, Piasecka A, Aldeborgh H, Basishvili G, Rice W, and Liu WL. (2017) p53 dynamically directs TFIID assembly on target gene promoters. Mol Cell Biol. Jun 15;37(13). pii: e00085-17. PMID: 28416636 DOI: 10.1128/MCB.00085-17.
  5. Singh S, Qiao Z, Song L, Jani V, Rice W, Eng E, Coleman RA, and Liu WL. (2016) Structural visualization of the p53/RNA Polymerase II assembly. Genes and Development 30(22):2527-2537 PMID: 27920087 DOI: 10.1101/gad.285692.116
  6. Liu WL, Coleman RA, Ma E, Grob P, Yang JL, Dailey G, Nogales E, and Tjian R. (2009) Structures of three distinct activator-TFIID complexes. Genes & Development 23(13):1510-21.
  7. Liu WL, Coleman RA, Grob P, King DS, Florens L, Washburn MP, Geles KG, Yang JL, Ramey V, Nogales E, and Tjian R. (2008) Structural changes in TAF4b-TFIID correlate with promoter selectivity. Molecular Cell 29: 81-91.
  8. Geles KG, Freiman RN, Liu WL, Zheng S, Voronina E, and Tjian R. (2006) Cell type- selective induction of c-Jun by TAF4b directs ovarian-specific transcription networks. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A.103(8):2594-9.
  9. Liu WL, Midgley C, Stephen CW, Saville M, and Lane DP. (2001) Biological significance of a small highly conserved region in the N-terminus of the p53 tumour suppressor protein. Journal of Molecular Biology 313(4): 711-731.
  10. Bottger A, Bottger V, Sparks A, Liu WL, Howard SF, and Lane DP. (1997) Design of a synthetic Mdm2-binding mini protein that activates the p53 response in vivo. Current Biology 7: 860-869.
  11. Hsu YS, Tang FM, Liu WL, Chung JY, Lai MY, and Lin YS. (1995) Transcriptional Regulation by p53- Functional interactions among multiple regulatory domains. The Journal of Biological Chemistry 270: 6966-6974.

More Information About Dr. Wei-Li Liu

Wei-Li Liu Lab website

Material in this section is provided by individual faculty members who are solely responsible for its accuracy and content.

Albert Einstein College of Medicine
Jack and Pearl Resnick Campus
1300 Morris Park Avenue
Forchheimer Building, Room 628D
Bronx, NY 10461

Tel: 718.430.2876
Fax: 718.430.8996