BBS Faculty Member - Maofu Liao

Maofu Liao

Department of Cell Biology

Harvard Medical School
Seeley G. Mudd Building, Room 509
250 Longwood Ave.
Boston, MA 02115
Tel: 617-432-4009
Fax: 617-432-1144
Visit my lab page here.

Electron cryo-microscopy (cryo-EM) is a rapidly advancing research area, powered by the knowledge of biology, physics, material science and computation. Single-particle cryo-EM is a 'rising star' in structure biology, providing remarkably versatile and powerful tools to study the structure and function of biological macromolecules.

Single-particle cryo-EM has achieved near-atomic resolution for biological samples ranging from large icosahedral viruses (~100 MDa) to relatively small membrane ion channel (~300 kDa). Compared to more traditional methods such as X-ray crystallography and NMR spectroscopy, cryo-EM demonstrates a number of important advantages, including small amount of sample required for EM analysis, flexibility in studying different functional states, computational sorting of mixed conformations, etc.

The research interests of my group focus on understanding the structure and function of membrane proteins such as transporters and ion channels. One particular interest is to reveal the mechanisms of how proteins sense, move and metabolize specific lipid molecules in the lipid bilayer. This will be achieved by obtaining high-resolution structures of lipid-interacting proteins, and by studying the dynamic protein conformations in native membrane environment.

Last Update: 12/7/2016


For a complete listing of publications click here.



Maofu Liao*, Erhu Cao*, David Julius and Yifan Cheng. (2013) Structure of the TRPV1 ion channel determined by electron cryo-microscopy. Nature 504, 107–112. (* equal contribution)

Erhu Cao*,
Maofu Liao*, Yifan Cheng and David Julius. (2013) TRPV1 structures in distinct conformations reveal activation mechanisms. Nature 504, 113–118. (* equal contribution)

Daniele Canzio,
Maofu Liao, Nariman Naber, Ed Pate, Adam Larson, Shenping Wu, Diana Marina, Jennifer Garcia, Hiten Madhani, Roger Cooke, Peter Schuck, Yifan Cheng, Geeta J. Narlikar. (2013) A conformational switch in HP1 releases auto-inhibition to drive heterochromatin assembly. Nature 496: 377–381.

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