The Research area for Molecular & Cell Biology has a wide range of knowledge exchange (KE) activities and various impact cases.

HKU Plant Scientists Identify New Strategy to Enhance Rice Grain Yield

Rice provides a daily subsistence for about three billion people worldwide and its output must keep pace with a growing global population.


Professor Mee Len CHYE’s Lab has identified a rice acyl-CoA-binding protein (OsACBP2) that when overexpressed in transgenic rice enhanced grain size, weight and biomass by 10%.

The research project, funded by the Research Grants Council of Hong Kong and the Wilson and Amelia Wong Endowment Fund, has yielded a paper in The Plant Journal and an international patent has been filed (Patent Application No. WO 2019/104509).

OsACBP2 is a lipid-binding protein that binds lipids such as acyl-CoA esters, the major precursors in seed oil production. OsACBP2 overexpression also improved nutritional value with a 10% increase in lipid content of rice bran and whole seeds. As rice bran oil is considered highly valuable because it contains bioactive components that have been reported to lower serum cholesterol and possess anti-oxidation activities, this technology would not only help address food security but also elevate nutritional properties.

The figure shows that OsACBP2-overexpressing (OE) rice plants produce bigger grains (A) and higher biomass (B). OE-1, OE-3, OE17 and OE-21 are four independent OsACBP2-OE transgenic rice lines. VC, vector-transformed control. ZH11, Zhonghua11 wild type. Scale bar = 1 cm.(*statistically different from the control)

For more details, please visit HKU Plant Scientists Identify New Strategy to Enhance Rice Grain Yield



Dr Karen Wing Yee Yuen and Postdoctoral Fellow Dr Yick Hin Ling discovered cell division requires a balanced level of non-coding RNA for chromosome stability

Dr Karen Yuen and Dr Yick Hin Ling

Dr. Karen Yuen and Dr. Yick Hin Ling

They discovered that centromeric DNA is used as a template to produce a non-protein coding, centromeric RNA (cenRNA), that is essential for chromosome stability. If there is too much or too little cenRNA, the centromere will be defective and chromosomes will be lost.

Abnormally high expression of cenRNA was found in some cancers like ovarian cancers. This indicates that mis-regulation of cenRNA in the cell might contribute to cancer progression.

They will try to see if cenRNA could be used as a cancer biomarker. If the cancer cells release a high level of cenRNA to the blood, it could be used for early detection or for monitoring the malignancy of the tumor.

To know more about this discovery, please visit this page.

Poor dietary habits may increase the risk factors for AMD development

Dr Jetty Lee and Mr Andy Leung

Dr. Jetty Lee and Mr. Andy Leung

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is one of the most common causes of vision impairment among the elderly in Hong Kong.

The major symptom involves the gradual blurring of central sight, triggered by the multifactorial degeneration of retinal cells. As the disease progresses, certain patients with atrophic AMD (dry-form) might develop macular neovascularisation (wet-form), causing rapid loss of vision.

In an observational study, wet-form AMD patients in Hong Kong were deficient in fatty fish (omega-3 fatty acid) and dark green vegetables (carotenoids), and had excessive red meat (omega-6 fatty acid) in the diet, which increased the risk of developing AMD.

The poor dietary habits were also associated with the generation of fatty acid oxygenated products via free radicals/ROS, which promoted inflammation and further increased the risk factors for AMD development. It is the first of such research in Asia.

To know more about this research, please visit Researchers see red over bad diet

More KE activities and impact cases could be found Here.


Patents Issued

Round Plate with scientific samples
Patents issued (2013-present)
  • Inventors: M-L. Chye, S. Xiao and QF. Chen. Methods in using acyl-CoA-binding proteins to enhance low-temperature tolerance in genetically modified plants.

US Patent No. 8,378,172 issued 19 Feb 2013

  • Inventors: M-L. Chye, Z.Y. Du and M. Chen. Methods of using acyl-CoA-binding proteins to enhance drought tolerance in genetically modified plants.

European Patent Office No. 2773765 issued 20 Jul 2016

Chinese Patent No. ZL201280053262.3 issued 12 April 2017

  • Inventors: M-L. Chye, P. Liao, H. Wang and M. Wang. Methods of using 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl-CoA synthase to enhance growth and/or seed yield of genetically modified plants.

Chinese Patent No. ZL201480034890.6 issued 8 Oct 2019