Chengyu Liang

PIBBS MENTOR

Associate Professor

Molecular Microbiology and Immunology
Keck School of Medicine

Research Topics

  • Cancer cell biology
  • Alternative cell death pathway
  • Intracellular membrane trafficking
  • viral immune evasion

Research Images

Research Overview

Chengyu Liang Lab Research Overview
Research in my lab is centered on understanding the basic principle of cellular processes including apoptosis and autophagy, cell cycle regulation and genomic stability, as well as intracellular trafficking matrix in the development of cancer and infectious disease.
Being a lysosome-dependent quality control mechanism and house-cleaning activity of the cell, autophagy (Greek for self-eating) has been increasing recognized being essential for cells to maintain homeostasis and also protect the organism against diverse pathogens and cancerous cells.
 We have for the first time identified UVRAG (UV Radiation Resistance Associate Gene) as a robust autophagy activator and tumor suppressor. Using cutting-edge technology including proteomic study, confocal/live cell imaging, cell culture and murine models, we have been able to demonstrate the roles for UVRAG in autophagy pathway, in membrane trafficking, and in tumor development (refer to NCB 2006 8(7): 688-699; NCB 2008 10(7): 759-61; Current Opinion in cell biology 2010 22(2): 226-33). We will continue to probe the underlying mechanism of UVRAG-mediated autophagy and genomic stability in tumor growth and response to cancer therapy.
Furthermore, we have established that the viral Bcl-2 (vBcl-2) of the γ-Herpesviruses (γ-HVs) family suppresses autophagy by directly targeting a key autophagy effector protein, Beclin1, and that vBcl-2s of γ-HVs has evolved enhanced anti-autophagic activity when compared to their host counterpart (PLoS Pathogen 2009 5(10)). We have investigated the functional significance and distinct contribution of virus-mediated autophagy and apoptosis inhibition in viral virulence. Rigorous efforts will continue to further explore the complex interaction between cells’ homeostatic and safeguard processes and viral entry, infection, and pathogenesis.
We believe our studies will not only unravel the molecular basis of ‘day job’ of important cellular process, but also help translate these information to more effective cancer therapy and infection control.