Li Tao Research Summary


Li Tao, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Biology Department
University of Hawaii at Hilo

Biochemical analysis of centralspindlin, a key motor complex to regulate cytokinesis

This research is expected to characterize the structure and function of centralspindlin and will contribute new knowledge on the mechanism of cytokinesis. Centralspindlin is proposed to be the key factor controlling cytokinesis. However, the role of centralspindlin in modulating cytokinesis has remained unresolved in large measure due to difficulties in expressing and purifying soluble full -length kinesin-6 and RacGAP. With his expertise in protein purification and biochemical assays, the PI is in a good position to tackle this fundamental question in cell division. The in vitro system of reconstituting cytokinesis, once established, will be a breakthrough to the field and open new avenues for the study of cytokinesis.

On the broader scientific level, the proposed research will advance knowledge of the regulation of cell division. The project integrates research and education by engaging underrepresented minority students in research at the nation’s most ethnically and culturally diverse university, which will increase successful outcomes for underrepresented minority students in biology. In response to the low retention and graduation rates of under-represented minority students in biology majors, the project will found the Biology Peer Mentoring Program (BPMP), a program that will provide mentoring for students struggling with Biology. The PI will create a two-unit course for both mentors and mentees, incorporating workshops on study skills, undergraduate research, and career development. He will extend the service of BPMP to the Upward Bound Program (UBP) at UH Hilo, which assists low-income and first-generation high school students to reach their college and career goals.

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