WELCOME to our newest member of the faculty, Dr. Yi-Wei Chang! The Chang Lab is devoted to understanding biology from a structural perspective. Based on the notion that the best way to understand the function of a molecule is to understand its structure in its native environment, the Chang lab utilizes Electron Cryotomography (ECT), an emerging powerful cryo-electron microscopy imaging technique, to study the structure and mechanism of macromolecular nanomachines directly inside cells. ECT reveals not only native conformations and assemblies of the nanomachines as they are conducting functions, but also their distribution, orientations and interactions to other cellular components – thus enabling studies of Structural Cell Biology and Molecular Sociology. We are excited to have Dr. Chang and ECT as part of our growing cryo-EM community.
Ben Garcia is the John McCrea Dickson M.D. Presidential Professor of Biochemistry and Biophysics, as well as vice-chair of the Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics Graduate Group and Director of the Quantitative Proteomics Resource Center. The Garcia Lab utilizes high-resolution mass spectrometry to explore cellular signaling, epigenetic mechanisms and chromatin regulation; with particular interest in understanding how protein and nucleic acid modifications regulate nuclear processes. Recent discoveries include understanding the structural dynamics of histone tails, uncovering connections between histone acetylation in metabolism, and identifying lncRNAs in ant brains. The Garcia lab also is a leader in the development of mass spectrometry methods, enabling new applications of mass spectrometry throughout the scientific community.
The Marmorstein laboratory studies the molecular mechanisms of protein post- and co-translational modification with a particular focus on protein acetylation and phosphorylation and chromatin regulation. The laboratory uses a broad range of molecular, biochemical and biophysical research tools centered on macromolecular structure determination. The laboratory is particularly interested in gene regulatory proteins and their upstream signaling kinases that are aberrantly regulated in cancer and other age-related disorders, and the use of high-throughput small molecule screening and structure-based design strategies towards the development of protein-specific small-molecule probes to be used to further interrogate protein function and for development into therapeutic agents.
Sergei Vinogradov's research is focused on the development of optical probes for biological microscopy and imaging. The laboratory has long-standing interest in metalloporphyrins, which can be used as sensors for oxygen, pH, metal ions and other environmental parameters of biological systems. Two-photon phosphorescence lifetime microscopy (2PLM) of oxygen, developed by the lab, is now broadly used in neuroscience and stem cell biology. Recently, the group theoretically predicted a new class of porphyrins with exceptionally high two-photon absorption cross-sections, and using them developed probes for 2PLM with 100 times higher performance. The current focus is on exploration of higher order optical non-linearity, such as in three-photon absorption, to gain deeper insight at the energy metabolism in the brain.
Ben Black, newly promoted Professor, and his team are answering some of the most pressing questions in chromosome biology, such as: How does genetic inheritance actually work? How was epigenetic information transmitted to our parents? And can building new artificial chromosomes help us understand how natural chromosomes work?The Black lab has made seminal discoveries regarding the physical basis for how CENP-A-containing nucleosomes epigenetically mark and maintain centromere location on the chromosome. Recently they have also discovered how amplified centromeric DNA repeats act as selfish elements in female meiosis to explain rapid centromere evolution.
Congratulations to Jim Shorter, one of the newly promoted Professors in the Department. The Shorter lab is a leader in the study of protein aggregation and disaggregation. His laboratory uses techniques ranging from biophysics to yeast genetics to identify novel ways to dissociate toxic protein phases that are common in many neurodegenerative diseases. In a recent exciting study published in Cell, Dr. Shorter and colleagues discovered that nuclear-import receptors can dissociate toxic phase separated states of several RNA-binding proteins connected to neurodegenerative diseases. These findings open the way to urgently needed therapeutics for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and frontotemporal dementia.
Kathy (Fange) Liu
Welcome to the newest faculty in the Department, Dr. Kathy Fange Liu! Dr. Liu joins us from U Chicago, where she was a post-doctoral fellow with Chuan He and Tao Pan. She brings expertise in enzymology and RNA modifications to the Department. The rapidly growing Liu Lab studies the roles of RNA epigenetics in the regulation of human energy homeostasis using a broad spectrum of research tools including of RNA biochemistry, structural biology, and Next-Gen sequencing. Topics of study in the Liu Lab currently include: regulation of mRNA and tRNA modifications; identification and function of new types of modifications in messenger RNA; and the relationship between tRNA modification, tRNA fragmentation and disease.
Gideon Dreyfuss is a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator and the Isaac Norris Professor of Biochemistry and Biophysics. The Dreyfuss Lab focuses on RNA-binding proteins and small nuclear ribonuclear protein complexes (snRNPs), their roles in the life of messenger RNAs (mRNAs) and their links to disease. Recently his group uncovered a new gene regulation mechanism in metazoan cells termed Telescripting, in which the U1 snRNP suppresses cleavage and polyadenylation signals, thereby protecting nascent transcripts from premature transcription termination. Telescripting is crucial for full-length mRNA synthesis, especially for large genes, and also determines mRNA length. A recent study from the lab demonstrates the importance of Telescripting for regulating size-function-stratified genomes.
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