We take the challenge of understanding the working mechanisms of many membrane proteins. The first reason is that most drug targets found today are actually membrane proteins, so our studies may have pharmacuetical potential in the future. The second reason is that considering membrane proteins account for ~30% of all proteins in all cells, it is obvious that we scientists can not avoid them. The third and most important reason is that it is HARD to work with these membrane proteins, but we have the expertise (protein biochemistry, biophysics, X-ray crystallogrphy, cryo electron microscopy, and many more)!
Nitrogen is essential to all life on earth. One of the major nitrogen source for cells is nitrate. How nitrate (and nitrite) gets accross the cell membrane has long been a mystery, untill we solve the first structure of a nitrate/nitrite transporter NarK from E.coli in 2013. But it was only the first step to understand the nitrate/nitrite transport cycle. We aim to a detailed understanding of the substrate selectivity and translocation process carried out by these nitrate/nitrite porters from various species.
Mitochondrial Protein Import Machinery
Mitochondria, the power house of the cell, needs more than 1000 proteins to function properly. 99% of these proteins are synthesized in the cytosol and then transported into different locations in the mitochondria, all through the protein import machinery. It's obvious that this machinery will be extremely complicated in terms of substrate selection, translocation and sorting. Thus, defects of the machinery are closed related to many disease. To name a few here: Alzheimer's, Huntington's, Parkinson's and many more. Although the major components of the machinery are identified, the mechanism of the machinery remains illusive, largely because of the lack of structural information. We aim to understand the machinery by multidisciplinary approaches in a "divide and conquer" way: first study the components, then sub-complexes, finally get our hands on the whole machinery.
Mitochondrial Carriers (SLC25)