Dr. Junjie Zhang’s Lab

Cryo-EM of Cellular Machineries

The living cell contains a collection of molecular machines to grow and function. These machines include the ribosomes, the chaperons, the proteasomes and other enzymes. Malfunction of these machines, if occurred in human, are related to many diseases. Understanding their three-dimensional (3D) structures is essential to understand how these machines work in the cell and eventually to treat those related diseases.

Here we use an experimental technique called cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) to image these cellular machines in their native environment at liquid nitrogen temperatures. We then use image processing and graphics techniques to visualize their 3D structures, answering the questions such as how they assemble and how they interact with each other.

In addition, we develop computational modeling tools to interpret and animate these obtained 3D structures to further describe their movements and dynamics.