Division of Molecular and Cell Biology

Endocrinology with special focus on Bioactive peptides:

This research area focuses on the biology of bioactive peptides in different models and systems. There are 19 key members in the group working on of 2 interrelated research themes: 1) Bioactive peptides and energy and water homeostasis, 2) Bioactive peptides and cell division and adhesion. Using disease models for hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, cancer and reproduction, members of this research area seek to develop and screen innovative peptide agonists and antagonists as therapeutic interventions to these diseases.



Members within the group also provide support to each other via sharing generic skills, bioinformatics and systems biology platforms for generating genuine and long-lasting collaborations. The group has been highly productive in publications in relevant and high impact journals as well as extremely successfully in securing external grant with funding over 50 million HKD in the past.



Photosynthesis provides energy directly or indirectly to all life forms on this planet. Plants not only produce food, but also play a key role in maintaining the carbon and nutrient cycle of the ecosystem.

The understanding of plant biology will therefore benefit mankind in improving food production to meet the demand of the growing global populations. In agrobiotechnology, improving crop yield can be achieved by two approaches:

  1. Improving the efficiency of energy harvest and production by chloroplasts and mitochondria in plant cell;
  2. Enhancing the resistance of plants in response to biotic and abiotic stresses brought about by phytopathogens, extremes in temperature, water deficiency and heavy metals.

SBS researchers in Plant Sciences have expertise in Plant Biochemistry, Organelle Biology, Secondary Metabolism, and Stress Responses. In addition to food, plant also contributes economically valuable products. An understanding of plant biology will enable the genetic manipulation of economically useful plant products to benefit mankind.

New species Thismia hongkongensis (香港水玉杯) found in HK by Prof. Saunders

Evolution is the central concept that underpins and interconnects all biological studies. Evolutionary biology research focuses on both the process of evolution and the pattern resulting from this process. Research collaborations amongst Plant Sciences members employ molecular phylogenetic analyses as the basis for understanding evolutionary processes, including interpretations of morphological, physiological and chemical adaptations.

The above investigations can be achieved using a multidisciplinary approach involving SRA members with expertise in plant biochemistry, genomics, phylogenetics, proteomics, metabolomics and natural product chemistry.


Major Research Areas
Molecular biology and biotechnology:

Endocrinology, reproduction and cancer

Molecular neuroendocrinology of secretin and brain-gut family of peptides and their receptors; reproductive growth factors and cell junction dynamics in mammalian testes; molecular biology and signal transduction of growth hormone-regulated gene expressions; molecular mechanism of cell adhesion dynamics pertinent to cancer metastasis and development of new cancer therapies; role of cytokines and cell junction proteins in cancer cell invasion and spermatogenesis; molecular and functional studies of myokines; hormonal regulations of glucose and lipid metabolisms.


Plants and microbes

Function of stress-induced plant proteins including plant acyl-CoA-binding proteins and their applications in the generation of transgenic plants tolerant to abiotic and biotic stresses; characterisation of cysteine/cystine transporters and ethylene biosynthesis in fruit and rice at different ripening stages; phosphorus metabolism and molecular characterisation of purple acid phosphatase in plants and microbes; characterisation and detoxification application of dehalogenases in bacteria; microbial stress adaptation; microbial physiology and metabolism; antibiotic and multidrug resistance.


Gene and genome

Prokaryotic genomic sequencing proposed by computer simulation; two-dimensional and reverse-phased liquid chromatography for shotgun and quantitative proteomics applications; functional and sequence analysis of human neuroglobin gene promoter; centromere establishment and propagation and its role in directing chromosome segregation.

RNA-seq and Tn-seq analyses of the fitness of haloacid-degrading bacteria.


Major Research Areas
Food for Health:

Value-added processing of grains

Value-added processing of grains; bioactive and functional materials from plants.


Food safety and food toxicology

Transplacental transfer of natural and synthetic contaminants and impact on disease development later in life; toxins and development of cancers; gut derived microbial exposure in health and disease.


Environmental microbiology and microbial ecotoxicology

Anaerobic ammonium oxidation and nitrification; microbial transformation of organic pollutants and detoxification of metals and metalloids; plasmids and diversity; diversity of Vibrio species and gene transfer; extracellular enzymes and activity; phytoremediation.


Nutrigenomics, food toxicology and gene regulatory elements

Nutrient gene interaction, food toxicants and gene expression; molecular characterisation of regulatory elements of the cytoglobin and neuroglobin genes.


Engineering plant metabolic pathways to improve food production

Overexpression of wild-type and mutant 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl-CoA synthase from the isoprenoid pathway in transgenic plants; engineering genes in isoflavanoid biosynthesis; molecular dissection and metabolic engineering of flavonoid and tetrapyrrole biosynthesis pathways in model and crop plants.


Probiotics and genomic and bioinformatic analyses, prebiotics and functional foods

Health properties of probiotics and prebiotics; genomic and bioinformatic analyses, metabolic pathways and gene expression of EPS producing LAB and probiotics, bioactivities and antioxidants and antioxidative properties of bioactive peptides and isoflavones and their role in management of blood pressure, cholesterol, and osteoporosis.


Functional foods and food toxicology

Dietary phytochemicals for health; thermally induced food toxicants and dietary approach to reduce their formation; natural products and traditional Chinese medicine.



Chinese health foods, molecular nutrition and application of proteomic analysis in food toxicology.


Biotoxin in marine food

Contaminants and biotoxin in food.


Molecular mechanisms of bioactive ingredients

Fetal programming on metabolic regulation of progeny; molecular mechanisms of bioactive food ingredients; obesity and body weight regulation.


Diet and obesity

Diet-induced metabolic changes in muscle and liver.


Nutritional toxicology

Toxic products of lipid peroxidation from fatty acids and lipid profiling of biological samples; antioxidant; oxidative stress in human nutrition and disease development.


Zoonotic viruses and bacteria

Next generation sequencing to study virus and bacterial evolution; virus and bacteria pathogenesis; molecular epidemiology.


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