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Our research is highly collaborative and involves researchers in other Departments and outside the University. Research in the Department of Structural Biology is focused on several different research areas or topics:

Amyloid Fibril Structure

Amyloid fibril structures are studied by using Cryo-EM and NMR spectroscopy in a synergistic approach. We aim to understand the molecular basis of fibril formation towards a better understanding their role in disease and health.

  • James Conway, Cryo-electron microscopy on amyloids
  • Ümit Akbey, Functional and pathological amyloid fibrils in health and disease by solid-state NMR
Biophysical Methods

While all faculty apply biophysical and structural methods to study various research problems, all of our faculty are also involved in methods development to solve challenging biological questions:

Signaling & Gene Regulation

Gene regulation and signaling are fundamental to controlling all biological processes. Homeostasis, cell growth, and differentiation all require regulation and coordination of gene expression programs. Research on signal transduction pathways, key transcription factor complexes, and ligand-receptor signaling are performed:

  • Angela M. Gronenborn, Structural basis of signaling and gene regulation
  • Andrew Hinck, Mechanisms of growth factor-receptor signaling
  • Guillermo Calero, Structural and biochemical studies of the transcriptional machinery (RNA PolII and transcription factors)
  • Stella Sun, Mechanisms of parasite-host invasion
In-situ Cellular Structural Biology

Structural biology in near native environments or whole organisms by cryo-ET and NMR. We aim to gain a deeper understanding of cellular processes and mechanisms related to disease. Biomolecular structures are studied in their natural cellular environments.

Macromolecular Recognition

Research in this area is focused on elucidating the mechanisms of interaction between molecules, enzyme-substrate, protein-DNA, and protein-ligand. These studies focus on detailed characterization of the specificity between molecules and how this is achieved, from the point of recognition to attaining high affinity:

  • Andrew Hinck, Structure-function studies of the signaling ligands and receptors of the highly diversified TGF-beta signaling family 
  • Angela M. Gronenborn, Structure, dynamics and energetics of protein-carbohydrate interactions
  • Jonathan Coleman, Protein-ligand complexes and enzymatic reactions in the membrane.
  • Rieko Ishima, Protein-protein interactions
  • Stella Sun, Parasite-host interactions.
Principles of Protein Structure & Dynamics

Proteins are machines that perform their function by undergoing movement – rendering a static view incomplete. Using both experimental and computational approaches, a number of faculty have turned their attention to the study of fluctuations and dynamics in biomolecules. Techniques include NMR, coarse-grained computational modeling and other advanced molecular simulation approaches:

Structure & Dynamics of Membrane Proteins

Research in this area involves structural, biochemical, and pharmacological characterization of membrane proteins. The major objectives of these studies is to determine the mechanism by which these critical proteins function in the context of the lipid membrane:

  • Andrew Hinck, Investigating mechanisms of TGF-beta family receptor complex assembly on membranes
  • Jonathan Coleman, Structure and function of membrane transport proteins
Virus Protein Structure

Virus structure, assembly, function and evolution are investigated by several groups: