Professor (Hongyuan) Rob Yang

Professor & NHMRC Senior Research Fellow
3104, L3 West, Bioscience South E26
(+612) 9385 8133
(+612) 9385 1483

NHMRC Senior Research Fellow 2014-2019


  • Bachelor of Medicine (1993), Peking University, Beijing
  • PhD (1998), Columbia University, New York, USA

Professional Experience

  • 2014-2019: NHMRC Senior Research Fellow B
  • 2013-current: Professor, School of BABS
  • 2010-2013: Inaugural ARC Future Fellow
  • 2009-2012: Associate Professor, School of BABS
  • 2007-2008: Senior Lecturer, School of BABS, UNSW
  • 1999-2007: Lecturer/Assistant Professor/Associate Professor with tenure, Department of Biochemistry, National University of Singapore
  • 1999 (April-July): Visiting Fellow, Harvard University

Research Interests and Contribution

My long-term research interests focus on two fundamental yet emerging areas in cell and medical biology:

  1. Intracellular cholesterol sorting and transport, and its role in heart and neurodegenerative diseases.
  2. The biogenesis and dynamics of lipid droplets, adipocyte development, obesity and diabetes.

These two areas are closely linked because lipid droplets may play a crucial role in cellular sterol transport, and lipid droplets are a primary storage site for both free and esterified cholesterol.

Cellular sterol trafficking is a difficult subject to study given the lack of effective approaches to label sterols in live cells. However, it is an important cell biological question because sterols are actively sorted and transported in all eukaryotic cells. In addition, human diseases such as atherosclerosis, Alzheimer’s and Niemann Pick C diseases are linked to aberrant sterol transport.

My early work led to the identification of two key enzymes that catalyse sterol esterification, an important homeostatic step for storing excess sterols (Yang et al., Science, 1996). Our laboratory subsequently identified novel molecules and schemes that govern cellular sterol transport (Zhang et al., Traffic, 2004; Wang et al., EMBO J, 2005; Yang H, Trends Cell Biol., 2006; Du et al, J Cell Biol., 2011). Currently we aim to identify and characterize a number of novel proteins that regulate the efflux of cholesterol from endosomes.

Lipid droplets are key cellular organelles that regulate energy storage and metabolism.  We have identified a number of factors that impact the size of lipid droplets (Fei et al, J Cell Biol., 2008; Low et al., J Cell Sci., 2008; Fei et al, PLoS Genetics, 2011). One such protein, seipin, also plays an important role in human adipocyte development (Fei et al, Trends in Endo and Metab., 2011; Cui et al., Human Mol Gen., 2011; Fei et al., JLR, 2011). Currently, we aim to understand the molecular function of these proteins. 

Honours & Awards

  • NHMRC Senior Research Fellowship B (2014-2019)
  • Inaugural ARC Future Fellowship (2010-2013)
  • Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine Research Excellence Young Scientist Award (2006)
  • Finalist, Singapore National Young Scientist Award (2005)
  • National University of Singapore (NUS) Technopreneurship 21 Award (2004)
  • National University of Singapore (NUS) Young Scientist Award (2002)

Editorial Service

  • Member of Editorial Board, Contact (2017-current)
  • Member of Editorial Board, BBA Molecular Cell Lipids (2006-current)
  • Editorial Advisor, Biochemical Journal (2006-current)

Active Research Projects

Selected Publications

Wang H., Ma, Q., Qi, Y., Dong, J., Du, X., Rae, J., Brown A.J., Parton R.G., Wu J.W. and Yang H. (2019)
ORP2 delivers cholesterol to the plasma membrane in exchange for phosphatidylinositol 4, 5-bisphosphate (PI(4,5)P2).
Molecular Cell. 73, 1–16. Highlighted by Nature Reviews 

Dong J., Du X., Wang H., Wang J., Lu C., Chen X., Zhu Z., Luo Z., Yu L., Brown A.J., Yang H* and Wu JW*. (2019) Allosteric enhancement of ORP1-mediated cholesterol transport by PI(4,5)P2/PI(3,4)P2.
Nature Communications, Accepted on Jan. 22nd, 2019. * co-corresponding authors.

Gao M. and Yang H. (2018)
VPS13: A lipid transfer protein making contacts at multiple cellular locations. J Cell Biol., 217: 3322-3324.  

Yan R., Qian H., Lukmantara I., Gao M., Du, X., Yan N. and Yang H. (2018)
Human SEIPIN Binds Anionic Phospholipids. Developmental Cell, 47, 1–9.
Access the recommendation on F1000Prime

Du X, Zadoorian A, Lukmantara I, Qi Y, Brown AJ & Yang H. (2018)
Oxysterol-binding protein-related protein 5 (ORP5) promotes cell proliferation by activation of mTORC1 signaling.
Journal of Biological Chemistry, pii: jbc.RA117.001558; doi: 10.1074/jbc.RA117.001558 [epub ahead of print]

Ghai R, Du X, Wang H, Dong J, Ferguson C, Brown AJ, Parton RG, Wu JW & Yang H. (2017)
ORP5 and ORP8 bind phosphatidylinositol-4, 5-biphosphate (PtdIns(4,5)P2) and regulate its level at the plasma membrane.
Nature Communications, 8:757; published online 2 Oct 2017; doi:10.1038/s41467-017-00861-5Access the recommendation on F1000Prime
Du X, Turner N & Yang H. (2017)
The role of oxysterol binding proteins in cancer.
Seminars in Cell and Developmental Biology. pii: S1084-9521(17) 30012-5; doi: 10.1016/j.semcdb.2017.07.017

Qi Y, Kapterian TS, Du X, Ma Q, Fei W, Zhang Y, Huang X, Dawes IW & Yang H. (2016)
CDP-diacylglycerol synthases regulate the growth of lipid droplets and adipocyte development.
Journal of Lipid Research, 57:767-80.

Pagac M, Cooper DE, Qi Y, Lukmantara IE, Mak HY, Wu Z, Tian Y, Liu Z, Lei M, Du X, Ferguson C, Kotevski D, Sadowski P, Chen W, Boroda S, Harris TE, Liu G, Parton RG, Huang X, Coleman RA & Yang H. (2016) SEIPIN regulates lipid droplet expansion and adipocyte development through modulating the activity of glycerol-3-phosphate acyltransferase.
Cell Reports, 17: 1546–1559.

Chu BB, Liao YC, Qi W, Xie C, Du X, Wang J, Yang H, Miao HH, Li BL & Song BL. (2015)
Cholesterol transport through a lysosome-peroxisome membrane contact.
Cell, 161: 291-306.

Du X, Brown AJ & Yang H. (2015)
Novel mechanisms of intracellular cholesterol transport: membrane contact sites and oxysterol binding proteins.
Current Opinion in Cell Biology, in press.

Liu L, Jiang QQ, Wang, X, Zhang Y, Lin RC, Lan S, Shui, G, Zhou L, Li P, Wang Y, Cui X, Gao MM, Zhang L, Lv Y, Xu G, Liu G, Zhao D & Yang H. (2014)
Adipose-specific knockout of seipin/BSCL2 results in progressive lipodystrophy.
Diabetes. 63:1–12 doi 10.2337/db13-0729

Sun Z, Gong J, Wu H, Xu W, Wu L, Xu D,  Gao J, Wu J, Yang H, Yang M & Li P. (2013)
Perilipin1 promotes unilocular lipid droplet formation through the activation of Fsp27 in adipocytes.
Nature Communications. 4:1594.

Du X, Kazim AS, Dawes IW, Brown AJ & Yang H. (2013)
The AAA ATPase VPS4/SKD1 Regulates Endosomal Cholesterol Trafficking Independently of ESCRT-III.
Traffic. 14: 107-19.

Yang H, Galea A, Sytnyk V & Crossley M. (2012)
Controlling the size of lipid droplets: protein and lipid factors.
Current Opinion in Cell Biology. 24:509-16. (Yang as the corresponding author)

Cui X, Wang Y, Meng L, Fei W, Deng J, Xu G, Peng X, Ju S, Liu G, Zhao L & Yang H. (2012)
Overexpression of a short isoform of human seipin/BSCL2 in mouse adipose tissue results in mild lipodystrophy.
Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 302:E705-13.

Du X, Kazim A, Brown AJ & Yang H. (2012)
An essential role of Hrs/Vps27 in endosomal cholesterol trafficking.
Cell Reports, 1: 29-35. (Inaugural Issue)

Fei W, Shui G, Zhang Y, Krahmer N, Ferguson C, Kapterian TS, Lin RC, Dawes IW, Brown AJ, Li P, Huang X, Parton RG, Wenk MR, Walther TC & Yang H. (2011)
A role for phosphatidic acid in the formation of “supersized” lipid droplets.
PLoS Genetics, 7: e1002201.
Access the recommendation on F1000Prime

Cui X, Wang Y, Tang Y, Liu Y, Zhao L, Deng J, Xu G, Peng X, Ju S, Liu, G & Yang H. (2011)
Seipin ablation in mice results in severe generalized lipodystrophy.
Human Molecular Genetics, 20: 3022-30

Fei W, Du X & Yang H. (2011)
Seipin, adipogenesis and lipid droplets.
Trends in Endocrinology and Metabolism, 22: 204-10.

Du X, Kumar J, Ferguson C, Schulz TA, Ong YS, Hong W, Prinz WA, Parton RG, Brown AJ & Yang H. (2011)
A role for oxysterol-binding protein-related protein 5 in endosomal cholesterol trafficking.
Journal of Cell Biology 192: 121-135.

Fei W, Wang H, Fu X, Bielby C & Yang H. (2009)
Conditions of endoplasmic reticulum stress stimulate lipid droplet formation in Saccharomyces cerevisiae.
Biochem J. 424:61-7.

Low CP, Shui GH, Liew LP, Buttner S, Madeo F, Dawes IW, Wenk MR & Yang H. (2008)
Caspase-dependent and -independent lipotoxic cell-death pathways in fission yeast. J Cell Sci. 121:  2671-2684. (Selected as an editorial highlight by JCS)

Fei W, Shui G, Gaeta B, Du X, Kuerschner L, Li P, Brown AJ, Wenk MR, Parton RG & Yang H. (2008)
Fld1p, a functional homologue of human seipin, regulates the size of lipid droplets in yeast.
J. Cell Biol. 180: 473-482.

Yang H. (2006)
Nonvesicular sterol transport: two protein families and a sterol sensor?
Trends Cell Biol. 16: 427-32. Epub 2006 Jul 28.

Wang P, Zhang Y, Li H, Chieu HK, Munn AL & Yang H. (2005)
AAA ATPases regulate membrane association of yeast oxysterol binding proteins and cellular sterol metabolism.
EMBO Journal. 24: 2989-99

Zhang S, Ren J, Zhang Q, Armstrong JS, Munn AL & Yang H. (2004)
Ncr1p, the yeast ortholog of mammalian Niemann Pick C1 protein, is dispensable for endocytic transport.
Traffic, 5(12): 1017-1030.

Zhang Q, Chieu HK, Low CP, Zhang S, Heng CK & Yang H. (2003)
Schizosaccharomyces pombe cells deficient in triacylglycerols synthesis undergo apoptosis upon entry into the stationary phase.
J Biol. Chem. 278: 47145-55

Yang H, Bard M, Bruner DA, Gleeson A, Deckelbaum RJ, Aljinovic G, Pohl T, Rothstein R & Sturley SL. (1996)
Sterol Esterification in Yeast: A two gene process.
Science. 272, 1353-1356.

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