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Academic Staff

Dr LEE, Chi Wai 李志偉

Dr LEE, Chi Wai 李志偉

  • BSc, PhD (HKUST)
  • Assistant Professor
L4-63, Laboratory Block, 21 Sassoon Road, Hong Kong
+852 3917 9202
+852 2855 9730
  • Intracellular trafficking of proteins and organelles
  • Cytoskeletal dynamics in neuronal motility
  • Pathogenesis of muscular dystrophy

Dr. Lee Chi Wai joined the School of Biomedical Sciences at HKU as an Assistant Professor in September 2015.  He obtained his B.Sc. and Ph.D. from The Hong Kong University of Science & Technology in 2001 and 2005, respectively. With the support of The Croucher Fellowship, Dr. Lee received his postdoctoral training at Rutgers, then at Emory University in the United States.  Prior to joining HKU, Dr. Lee was an Assistant Professor and Principal Investigator of the Laboratory of Neuronal Development & Diseases in the Department of Physiology at National University of Singapore since 2013.  The research interest of his laboratory focuses on the signal transduction and cytoskeletal mechanisms underlying synapse development, disease, and regeneration.  His original research findings have been published in leading international journals including Nature Neuroscience, Current Biology, Journal of Neuroscience, PNAS, EMBO Journal, Molecular Biology of the Cell, and Developmental Biology.

Synapses are specialized cell membrane domains that facilitate neuronal communication in the intricate nervous system. These synaptic specializations develop in response to molecular interactions between pre- and postsynaptic cells. A major goal of current research in developmental neuroscience is to elucidate the mechanisms underlying how synapses are assembled. The nerve-muscle synapse, neuromuscular junction (NMJ), which controls all muscle movements, has been considered as the best model for the study of synaptogenesis due to its large size, simplicity and accessibility. When neurons and muscle cells are cultured together, functional NMJs are formed spontaneously. The structure and physiology of mature vertebrate NMJs are well understood.  Currently, our laboratory specifically focuses on the signal transduction and cytoskeletal mechanisms underlying synapse development, disease, and regeneration. Three major areas are being pursued in our lab:

1. Postsynaptic receptor trafficking in the pathogenesis of muscular dystrophy;

ADF/cofilin-mediated actin dynamics direct vesicular trafficking of AChRs

2. Cytoskeletal dynamics in neuronal growth cones during axonal outgrowth and pathfinding;

G-actin drives membrane protrusions in growth cone motility

3. Axonal trafficking of mitochondria in synaptic formation, function, and elimination.

Mitochondria localize at sites of ATP depletion during presynaptic development

Using the simple and elegant Xenopus primary culture system, a variety of techniques, including live-cell time-lapse fluorescence microscopy, super-resolution microscopy, molecular biology, immunocytochemistry, and Western blotting will be applied to these experimental systems to gain understanding to the cellular and molecular mechanism of synaptic development. Our goal is to not only gain a mechanistic understanding of the molecular and cellular aspects of neuronal structure and function, but also provide insights into the cellular basis for neurological disorders.

  • Postsynaptic receptor trafficking in the pathogenesis of muscular dystrophy
  • Axonal trafficking of mitochondria in synapse formation, function, and elimination
  • Cytoskeletal dynamics in neuronal growth cones during axonal outgrowth and pathfinding
  1. Chan ZC, Oentaryo MJ and Lee CW (2017). Xenopus nerve-muscle cultures: a novel cell-based assay for serological diagnosis and pathological research of myasthenia gravis.  Current Pathobiology Reports (Invited Review), in press.
  2. Yeo HL, Lim JY, Fukami Y, Yuki N and Lee CW (2015). Using Xenopus tissue cultures for the study of myasthenia gravis pathogenesis. Developmental Biology 408(2): 244-51.
  3. Lee CW*, Zhang HL, Geng L and Peng HB* (2014). Crosslinking-induced endocytosis of acetylcholine receptors by quantum dots. PLoS One 9(2):e90187. (*corresponding authors).
  4. Lee CW, Vitriol EA, Shim S, Wise AL, Velayutham RP and Zheng JQ (2013). Dynamic localization of G-actin during membrane protrusion in neuronal motility. Current Biology 23(12):1046-56.
  5. Gu J*, Lee CW*, Fan Y*, Komols D, Tang X, Sun C, Yu K, Hartzell HC, Chen G, Bamburg JR and Zheng JQ (2010). ADF/cofilin-mediated actin dynamics regulate AMPA receptor trafficking during synaptic plasticity. Nature Neuroscience 13(10):1208-15. (*co-first authors).
  6. Lee CW, Han J, Bamburg JR, Han L, Lynn R and Zheng JQ (2009). Regulation of acetylcholine receptor clustering by ADF/cofilin-directed vesicular trafficking. Nature Neuroscience 12(7):848-56.
  7. Lee CW and Peng HB (2008). The function of mitochondria in presynaptic development at the neuromuscular junction. Molecular Biology of the Cell 19(1):150-8.
  8. Lee CW and Peng HB (2006). Mitochondrial clustering during presynaptic differentiation at the vertebrate neuromuscular junction. Journal of Neurobiology 66(6):522-36.
  • RGC – Early Career Scheme 2016-2019 (Principal Investigator)
  • RGC – General Research Fund 2012-2014 (Co-Investigator)
  • Muscular Dystrophy Association – Development Grant 2011-2014 (Principal Investigator)
  • Travel Grant, genesis: The Journal of Genetics and Development 2014
  • MBL-JUSTL Summer Research Fellowship 2012
  • Postdoctoral Merit Award, Emory University 2011
  • Croucher Foundation Fellowship 2006–2008
  • The George K Lee Foundation Postgraduate Scholarship 2005
  • The Providence Foundation Undergraduate Scholarship 2000
  • Review Editor, Frontiers in Synaptic Neuroscience 2014-Now
  • CHAN Chui Kuen, Zora (MPhil Student; 2016- )
  • OENTARYO Marilyn Janice (PhD Student; 2016- )
  • TSE, Chung Kwan Anna (Technical Officer)
  • WONG Yin Shun, Yoko (Research Assistant; 2016- )
  • YU Jun (PhD Student; 2016- )