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Cellular & Molecular Structure Analysis

This group includes scientists who apply cutting-edge structural and cell biology techniques to study fundamental cellular processes in normal and diseased conditions, and in microbial pathogens. These studies provide molecular detail of interactions between cellular components involved in cell division, locomotion, muscle contraction, gene expression, host-pathogen interaction, and cancer. The goals are to not only understand how disease develops, but also to identify novel drug targets and mechanisms of drug resistance. Techniques include, x-ray crystallography, NMR, high-resolution cryo-electron microscopy, laser-based cellular dissection combined with light-microscopy, and computational biology, in addition to common biochemistry and molecular biology approaches.

Research Area Profile

  • Rajendra K. Agrawal

    Rajendra K. Agrawal, Ph.D.

    • Deputy Director of the Division of Translational Medicine

    We study mechanisms of protein biosynthesis in bacterial and eukaryotic cells, with a goal to understand bacterial drug resistance and identify new drug targets, using biochemical and high-resolution 3D cryo-EM techniques.

  • Nilesh Banavali

    Nilesh Banavali, Ph.D.

    • Computational Biophysics

    We use NextGen sequencing to determine frequencies and sequence dependence of polymerase errors, and computational methods for drug design, structure prediction, and elucidating chemical and conformational mechanisms.

  • Samuel S. Bowser

    Samuel S. Bowser, Ph.D.

    • Cellular and Molecular Basis of Diseases - Cell Structure and Function

    We study aspects of cell structure and function using modern microscopic, biochemical, molecular, and genomic approaches. Mining the genomes of “living fossil” foraminiferan protists is our current emphasis.

  •  Ye Ding

    Ye Ding, Ph.D.

    • RNA Bioinformatics

    We are engaged in algorithms and software tool development for the prediction of RNA secondary structure and their applications to understand mechanisms of regulatory non-coding RNAs, with a recent focus on microRNAs and small bacterial RNAs.

  • Griselda Hernández

    Griselda Hernández, Ph.D.

    • Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Structural Biology

    We use NMR spectroscopy and molecular design to characterize the coupled transitions of FK506-binding domain proteins so as to understand their roles in regulatory signaling and facilitate structure-based therapeutic drug design.

  •  Alexey Khodjakov

    Alexey Khodjakov, Ph.D.

    • Cellular and Molecular Basis of Diseases - Mitosis

    We seek to reveal the molecular mechanisms that enact error-free segregation of chromosomes during cell division. Advanced microscopy and laser ablations allow us to probe the behavior of individual chromosomes and spindle poles.

  • Michael Koonce

    Michael Koonce, Ph.D.

    • Director of the Division of Translational Medicine

    We investigate the molecular machinery that produces movement in eukaryotic cells, defining their function in normal and diseased conditions. We utilize gene disruptions, live cell microscopy, and biochemical assays.

  • David LeMaster

    David LeMaster, Ph.D.

    • Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Structural Biology

    We apply joint NMR-molecular simulation analysis to more accurately model the dynamics and conformational distribution of the protein native state to gain further insight into the role of protein motion in biological function.

  • Hongmin Li

    Hongmin Li, Ph.D.

    • Structural Immunology and Viral Replication

    We study the molecular mechanism and function of proteins related to microbial infection and host response. Projects include superantigens, signaling proteins involved in breast cancer and multiple sclerosis, and drug design against key viral enzymes.

  •  Zheng Liu

    Zheng Liu, Ph.D.

    • Cellular and Molecular Basis of Diseases - Ryanodine Receptor

    We focus on the structural defects and dysfunction of calcium release channels in cardiac myocytes that cause cardiac arrhythmias.

  • Headshot portrait of Mike Marko next to a microscope.

    Michael Marko

    • Cellular and Molecular Basis of Diseases - Manager of the 3D-EM Facility

    We develop instruments and technology for electron microscopy, with a focus on Cryo-TEM phase-plate imaging and cryo-focused-ion beam preparation of vitreously frozen samples for cryo-TEM.

  • Janice D. Pata

    Janice D. Pata, Ph.D.

    • Computational and Structural Biology

    We study the molecular mechanisms by which multiple DNA polymerases replicate bacterial genomes completely, with high accuracy and tolerance for DNA damage, yet also create mutations that give rise to antibiotic resistance.

  •  Stewart Sell

    Stewart Sell, M.D.

    • Cancer Research

    We study the pathogenesis and synergies of aflatoxin hepatocarcinogenesis, culture of putative liver stem cells, nanoparticle directed treatment of breast and liver cancer, and the immune response in influenza infected mice.

  • Haixin Sui

    Haixin Sui, Ph.D.

    • Cellular and Molecular Basis of Diseases - Structural Cell Biology

    We study the structural basis of macromolecular assemblies and organelles in epithelial cells for sensing or responding to extracellular environmental changes. Our approach involves a variety of customized methods in advanced electron microscopy.

  • Terrence Wagenknecht

    Terrence Wagenknecht, Ph.D.

    • Cellular and Molecular Basis of Diseases - Ryanodine Receptor

    We investigate the structural basis of excitation-contraction coupling in skeletal and cardiac muscle, mainly by applying cryo-electron microscopy methods to the complex assembly of proteins that is involved in this mechanism.