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Department of Biochemistry

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Structural Studies of Eukaryotic Cells and Organelles

The overall aim of our work is to understand the cellular remodeling of bio-macromolecules and structure-function relations of large protein machines during cellular processes, using three-dimensional (3D) microscopy approaches. Projects range from the development of molecular markers design to direct imaging of individual protein complexes and cytoskeleton organization to the retrieval of structures of large macromolecular complexes in situ, using 3D averaging of sub-tomograms from eukaryotic cells. 
Visualization of the 3D organization of a eukaryotic cell, with its dynamic organelles, cytoskeletal structures, and distinct protein complexes in their native context, requires a non-invasive imaging technique of high resolution, combined with a method for arresting cellular elements in their momentary functional states.  Electron tomography (ET) offers unique potential for 3-D visualization of large pleiomorphic structures. By this technique the 3-D structure of an object is retrieved from a set of 2-D electron micrographs taken at different directions.  More precisely, a tilt series is back-projected to generate a virtual structure within the original volume of the specimen.    Though we employ a variety of microscopy techniques and biophysical approaches in our research, our major expertise is the applications of cryo-ET to study mammalian cells and organelles.