Li wins Tabor award
for characterizing reader proteins

Yuanyuan Li received the Tabor award from JBC Associate Editor Joel Gottesfeld at the 2016 Keystone Symposium on Chromatin and Epigenetics.

Yuanyuan Li, an advanced innovation fellow at Tsinghua University in Beijing, has received the Journal of Biological Chemistry/Herbert Tabor Young Investigator Award for characterizing novel histone reader proteins and their role in transcription.

Li combines X-ray crystallography with biochemical and biophysical techniques to explore reader proteins. These proteins recognize post-translational modifications on histones and help dictate whether genes are transcribed or kept silent. Once the reader proteins identify their target, they can recruit other proteins to allow or prevent transcription. Li has discovered several novel reader proteins and also a family of reader proteins that recognize crotonyl-lysine residues. Lysine residues on histone tails can be modified by many chemical groups, and a crotonyl-group is one such addition. The crotonyl-lysine is recognized by a so-called YEATS domain, which is common to all YEATS family reader proteins. Li says that they also can recognize acetyl groups on lysine residues and that in the future, “by combining the structure based rational design and virtual screening, my … research aims to do inhibitor design and development on these reader proteins.”

Li received a bachelor’s degree in biotechnology from Shandong University in Jinan, China, and a Ph.D. in biochemistry and molecular biology from Tsinghua, where she used structural biology to investigate mechanisms of pathogens in the laboratory of Zihe Rao. She stayed on at Tsinghua for a postdoctoral fellowship in the laboratory of Haitao Li, where she began her reader protein work. She is now a Tsinghua advanced innovation fellow at the Beijing Advanced Innovation Center for Structural Biology.

Dawn Hayward Dawn Hayward is a graduate student in the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine’s pharmacology and molecular sciences department.