Research work in the Yao lab investigate the structural, biochemical, and biophysical basis of protein function, with major focus on lipid transfer proteins. Lipid molecules are responsible for the fundamental bilayer structure of biological membranes as well as the regulation of a plethora of cellular processes. In the past 10 years or so, growing number of lipid transfer proteins have been revealed as critical mediators in lipid metabolism, trafficking, and cellular signaling as well as the coordination among these processes. Yao lab research aim to dissect the structural, biochemical, and biophysical mechanisms of these lipid transport protein machineries. Our research tool kit integrates structure biology methods such as nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy and x-ray crystallography as well as a variety of biochemical techniques. Our past investigations mainly focused on the ceramide transfer protein (CERT), which carries out nonvesicular transfer of ceramide from ER to the Trans-Golgi for sphingomyelin synthesis. CERT plays an important role in sphingolipids homeostasis and also serves as a model system for understanding lipid transfer protein functions in general.