Ning Zheng, Associate Professor
The blueprint of life encoded by the genome is interpreted, executed, and maintained by hundreds of thousands of proteins. Their precisely coordinated functions are fundamental to all biological systems and to every aspect of human health. We are in general interested in understanding how proteins interact with each other and with other biological molecules to mediate biological functions.
Our current research focuses on a superfamily of multi-component protein machines, known as cullin-RING ubiquitin ligases. By controlling protein turnover, these cellular machines regulate diverse biological processes, such as cell cycle progression, signal transduction, transcription, DNA repair, and metabolism. Dysregulation of these cellular protein complexes has been associated with multiple human disorders including cancer, neurological diseases, and viral infection.
An important technique used in our research is protein complex X-ray crystallography. It allows us to determine the atomic 3-D structures of the protein machines we are interested in. Seeing is believing. A close-up view of these nano-scale cellular components can tell us in details how they engage and work together to make life possible.
From our studies, we hope to derive fundamental principles of biology at molecular level. More importantly, we hope that the results of our research will have a direct impact in biomedicine by accelerating the discovery and development of novel therapeutic drugs.