The Zalatan research group studies the molecular mechanisms that allow living cells to process, integrate, and coordinate signals. We are interested in understanding how complex and interconnected signaling pathways are organized to direct signals to specific outputs. We focus on individual reaction steps at key decision points in signaling networks, using a wide range of tools from biochemistry, enzymology, synthetic biology, and cell biology. This approach allows us to draw connections between molecular events and cellular behaviors, providing a framework to identify new therapeutic targets and to engineer synthetic pathways for cell-based therapeutics and devices.

Current projects are focused on the role of scaffold proteins that physically organize signaling networks. Scaffold proteins can facilitate signaling by directing signals to the correct target and preventing off-target reactions. Outstanding challenges for the field are to understand, at a molecular level, how scaffold proteins accelerate signaling reactions and how scaffold proteins themselves are regulated to direct signals. Addressing these questions allows us to engineer designer scaffolds to control biological pathways.

We are also interested in the organization of metabolic pathways. We have developed new tools to synthetically rewire gene expression programs, and we are applying these tools to understand how chemical precursors are routed through metabolic networks. This approach will enable us to engineer these pathways for small molecule biosynthesis.

We are located in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Washington, and we are affiliated with the Center for Synthetic Biology, the Molecular Engineering and Sciences Institute, and the Biological Physics, Structure, and Design program.