Pan Li


  • Pan Li

    BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES

    Dr. Li wishes to understand physicochemical laws governing RNA folding and RNA-ligand/protein interaction. The group is specialized in optical tweezers based single-molecule manipulation and applies the methodology to study RNA structure and folding thermodynamics and kinetics. The group conducts research in the following projects: (i) To unify thermodynamics measured by ensemble thermal melting and single- molecule mechanical unfolding. A new instrument, Thermal Tweezers, was developed to directly monitor RNA folding at physiological temperatures. This technique is now being explored to examine various secondary and tertiary structures. (ii) The interest of Dr. Li and several PIs at The RNA Institute is to compare single-molecule observations with bulk measurements. Using RNA kissing complex as a model, the team employs optical tweezers to monitor individual interactions between a pair of hairpins, mass spectrometry to examine different species and their abundance in an RNA mixture, and molecular dynamics simulation and statistical mechanical modeling to bridge the gap between single-molecule and ensemble measurements. (iii) The group takes advantage of the single-molecule approach to explore RNA structural polymorphism. We wish to understand alternative folding of the HIV 5’-UTR RNA and its interaction with viral and cellular factors. Also, Dr. Li has developed a new single-molecule method to study manifold folding of repetitive microsatellite DNA/RNA.