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Teaching Staff

Dr. ZHAI, Yuanliang

Dr. ZHAI, Yuanliang

Assistant Professor, School of Biological Sciences, Faculty of Science, HKU

BSc (Sun Yat-Sen University); MPhil (Sun Yat-Sen University); PhD (HKUST)

  • 2299 0847
  • 2559 9114
  • KBSB 4N10

Teaching Areas

  • Structural biology
  • Molecular and cell biology
  • Physiology

Research Interests

  • Regulation of eukaryotic DNA replication
  • Chromatin organization and Chromosome dynamics
  • Structural determination of macromolecular complexes using cryo-electron microscopy

Current Research

  • Structural and functional characterization of DNA replication complexes
  • Elucidating the mechanisms regulating replication initiation in eukaryotes
  • Understanding the basis of replicative helicase loading and activation


  • Junior Fellow Institute for Advanced Study, HKUST
  • Division of Life Science, HKUST

Publications and News

  • Li, J., Dong, J., Wang, W., Yu, D., Fan, X., Hui, Y., Lee, C., Lam, H., Alary, N., Yang, Y., Zhang, Y., Zhao, Q., Chen, C. #, Tye, B. #, Dang, S. #, and Zhai, Y. # (2023) The Human Pre-replication Complex is an Open Complex. Cell 186, 98-111
  • Li, N., Gao, N., & Zhai, Y. (2023) DDK promotes DNA replication initiation: mechanistic and structural insights. Current Opinion in Structural Biology 78, 102504 
  • Lin, J., Wu, Y., Tian, G., Yu, D., Yang, E., Lam, W., Liu, Z., Jing, Y., Dang, S., Bao, X. #, Wong J. #, Zhai, Y. #, & Li X. # (2023) Menin 'reads' H3K79me2 mark in a nucleosomal context. Science 379, 717-723
  • Cheng, J., Li, N., Huo, Y., Dang, S., Tye, B. #, Gao, N. #, and Zhai, Y. # (2022) Structural Insight into the MCM double hexamer activation by Dbf4-Cdc7 kinase Nature Communications 13:1396 doi: 10.1038/s41467-022-29070-5
  • Lee, S., Cheung, M., Li, J., Zhao, Y., Lam, W., Ho, V., Rohs, R., Zhai, Y.#, Leung, D. #, Tye, B. # (2021) Humanizing the Yeast Origin Recognition Complex. Nature Communications 12, 33 doi: 10.1038/s41467-020-20277-y.

        News: Humanizing yeast ORC sheds light on cancer therapy and human development 

  • Cheng, J., Li, N., Wang, X., Hu, J., Zhai, Y., and Gao, N. (2020) Structural insight into the assembly and conformational activation of autoinhibited human origin recognition complex. Cell Discovery 6, 88 doi: 10.1038/s41421-020-00232-3.
  • Li, N.*, Lam, W.*, Zhai, Y.*#, Cheng, J.*, Cheng, E., Zhao, Y., Gao, N.# & Tye, B.# (2018) Structure of the origin recognition complex bound to DNA replication origin. Nature 559, 217-222, *Co-first authors # co-corresponding authors


       Hi-res image of structure of the origin recognition complex bound to DNA revealed 


  • Zhai, Y.#, Li, N., Jiang, H., Huang, X., Gao, N. #, Tye, B. # (2017) Unique roles played by each of the non-identical MCM subunits in DNA Replication Licensing. Molecular Cell 67, 168-179.
  • Zhai, Y., Cheng, E., Wu, H., Li, N., Yung, P., Gao, N., and Tye, B. Open-ringed Structure of the Cdt1-MCM2-7 Complex as a Precursor of the MCM Double Hexamer. (2017) Nature Structural & Molecular Biology 24, 300-308

       News: Scientists reveal open-ringed structure of Cdt1-Mcm2-7 complex

  • Li, N.*, Zhai, Y.*#, Zhang, Y., Li, W., Yang, M., Lei, J., Tye, B.#, and Gao, N.# (2015) Structure of the Eukaryotic Minichromosome Maintenance Complex at 3.8 Å. Nature, 524, 186–191 *Co-first authors # co-corresponding authors


       Scientists solve the structure of the eukaryotic MCM2-7 complex