Professor Hongyuan (Robert) Yang

My Expertise

Cholesterol, obesity, lipid droplets, insulin resistance, heart disease and cancer.


Fields of Research (FoR)

Cell Metabolism, Medical Biochemistry: Lipids

SEO tags



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

Professional Experience

  • 2022-: NHMRC Investigator L3
  • 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...view more


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

Professional Experience

  • 2022-: NHMRC Investigator L3
  • 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
  • Read this article on Rob's career by The Journal of Cell Biology

Research Program and Contribution

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

1.  Intracellular lipid (e.g., cholesterol and phosphatidylserine) sorting/transport, and its role in cancer, 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 lipid transport, and lipid droplets are a primary storage site for both free and esterified cholesterol.

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

My early work led to the identification of two key enzymes that catalyze 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 lipid transport (Wang et al., EMBO J, 2005; Du et al, J Cell Biol., 2011; Ghai et al, Nature Communications, 2017; Dong et al., Nat Comms, 2019; Wang et al., Molecular Cell, 2019; Du et al., JCB, 2020; Qian et al., Cell, 2020). Currently we aim to identify and characterize novel proteins that regulate the trafficking of cholesterol or phosphatidylserine between cellular organelles.

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; Fei et al, PLoS Genetics, 2011). One such protein, seipin, also plays an important role in human adipocyte development and maintenance (Cui et al., Human Mol Gen., 2011; Liu et al, Diabetes, 2014; Pagac et al, Cell Reports, 2016; Yan et al, Developmental Cell, 2018). Currently, we aim to understand how lipid droplets are formed from the ER and the exact role of seipin in this process.

Honours and Awards

  • NHMRC Investigator L3 (2022-2027)
  • UNSW Dean of Science Research Excellence Award (2019)
  • NHMRC Senior Research Fellowship B (2014-2019)
  • Inaugural ARC Future Fellowship (2010-2014)
  • 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/Academic Editor, Journal of Cell Biology 
  • Member of Editorial Board, BBA-Molecular Cell Biology of Lipids

Selected Publications


Liu Y. and Yang H. (2024) WIPI4 loss linked to ferroptosis. Nature Cell Biol., 26: 506-507

Li YE, Norris DM, Xiao FN, Pandzic E, Whan RM, Fok S, Zhou M, Du G, Liu Y, Du X, Yang H. (2024) Phosphatidylserine regulates plasma membrane repair through tetraspanin-enriched macrodomains. J Cell Biol; 223: e202307041.

Zadoorian A, Du X and Yang H. (2023) Lipid droplet biogenesis and functions in health and disease. Nature Reviews Endocrinology.

Lukmantara I, Chen F, Mak HY, Zadoorian A, Du X, Xiao FN, Norris DM, Pandzic E, Whan R, Zhong Q and Yang H. (2022) PI(3)P and DFCP1 regulate the biogenesis of lipid droplets. Mol Biol Cell. 33(14):ar131.

Mak HY, Ouyang Q, Tumanov S, Xu J, Rong P, Dong F, Lam SM, Wang X, Lukmantara I, Du X, Gao M, Brown AJ, Gong X, Shui G, Stocker R, Huang X, Chen S and Yang H. (2021) AGPAT2 interaction with CDP-diacylglycerol synthases promotes the flux of fatty acids through the CDP-diacylglycerol pathway. Nature Communications. 12(1):6877. doi: 10.1038/s41467-021-27279-4.

Li YE, Wang Y, Du X, Zhang T, Mak HY, Hancock SE, McEwen H, Pandzic E, Whan RM, Aw YC, Lukmantara IE, Yuan Y, Dong X, Don A, Turner N, Qi S and Yang H. (2021)  TMEM41B and VMP1 are scramblases and regulate the distribution of cholesterol and phosphatidylserine. Journal of Cell Biology; 220 (6), e202103105. Highlighted by Faculty Opinions 

Yan R., Cao P., Song W., Qian H., Du X., Coates H.W., Zhao X., Li Y., Gao S., Gong X., Liu X., Sui J., Lei J., Yang H., Brown A.J., Zhou Q., Yan C. and Yan N. (2021) A structure of human Scap bound to Insig-2 suggests how their interaction is regulated by sterols. SCIENCE, 371(6533):eabb2224. doi:10.1126/science.abb2224. 

Du X. and Yang H. (2021) Seipin regulates the formation of nuclear lipid droplets from a distance. Journal of Cell Biology; 220 (1): e202011166.

Qian H., Wu X., Du X., Yao X., Zhao X., Lee J., Yang H*, and Yan N*. (2020) Structural basis of low pH-dependent lysosomal cholesterol egress by NPC1 and NPC2. CELL, 182: 1-14.  * Co-corresponding authors.

Gao M., Liu L., Wang X., Mak H.Y., Liu G. and Yang H. (2020) GPAT3 deficiency alleviates insulin resistance and hepatic steatosis in a mouse model of severe congenital generalized lipodystrophy. Human Molecular Genetics. 1; 29: 432-443.

Du X., Zhou L., Aw Y.C., Mak H.Y., Xu Y., Rae J., Wang W., Zadoorian A., Hancock S.E., Osborne B., Chen X., Wu J.W., Turner N., Parton R.G., Li P. and Yang H. (2020) ORP5 Localizes to ER-Lipid Droplet Contacts and Regulates the Level of PI(4)P on Lipid Droplets. Journal of Cell Biology, 219, 1-16. Highlighted by JCB

Qian H., Zhao X., Yan R., Gao S., Sun X., Du X., Yang H., Wong CCL. and Yan N. (2020) Structural basis for catalysis and substrate specificity of human ACAT1. NATURE, 581: 333-338.

Luo J., Yang H. and Song B.L. (2020) Mechanisms and Regulation of Cholesterol Homeostasis. Nature Reviews Molecular Cell Biology. 21(4): 225-245. 

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. Cover Story. Highlighted by Nature Reviews

Gao M., Huang X., Song B.L. and Yang H. (2019) The biogenesis of lipid droplets: lipids take center stage. Progress in Lipid Research, 75: 100989. published online July 24th.

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, 10: 829. * co-corresponding authors. 

Xu Y., Du X., Turner N., Brown AJ and Yang H. (2019) Enhanced acyl-CoA: cholesterol acyltransferase activity increases cholesterol levels on lipid droplet surface and impairs adipocyte function. Journal of Biological Chemistry, 294: 19306-19321.

Xu Y., Mak H.Y., Lukmantara I., Li Y.E., Hoehn K.L., Huang X., Du X. and Yang H. (2019) CDP-DAG Synthase 1 and 2 regulate lipid droplet growth through distinct mechanisms. Journal of Biological Chemistry, 294, 1-16; doi:10.1074/jbc.RA119.009992

Gao M. and Yang H. (2018) VPS13: A lipid transfer protein making contacts at multiple cellular locations.  Journal of Cell Biology, 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. Highlighted by 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, 293: 3806-3818.

Du X, Turner N & Yang H. (2018) The role of oxysterol binding proteins in cancer. Seminars in Cell and Developmental Biology, 81: 149-153.

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. Highlighted by F1000Prime

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, 35; 37-42.

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

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. (* 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. Highlighted by 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 cerevisiaeBiochemical Journal 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. Journal of Cell Science, 121:  2671-2684. 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. Journal of Cell Biology, 180: 473-482. Highlighted by BioCentury Science Business Xchange

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 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. Journal of Biological Chemistry, 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.


My Research Supervision

Supervision keywords

Areas of supervision

Cell biology, lipid metabolism, cancer, diabetes, obesity and heart disease.

Currently supervising

In 2021, there will be two Ph.D. students and three honors students

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Room: 3104, Building E26

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(+61 2) 9385 8133
(+61 2) 9385 1483