Research interest

Research activities in the Sui Laboratory are centered around the applications of multiscale structural imaging methods to understanding functional mechanisms of macromolecular assemblies in their cellular context. The lab capitalizes various methods of electron microscopy (EM), in combination with light microscopy, and molecular/biochemical approaches, to study the three-dimensional (3D) structures and regulations of macromolecular complexes and organelles in the cell. Therefore, the research projects in the lab cover a wide range of important biomedical questions, ranging from microtubule-based cytoskeleton complexes and organelles to dual-function transcription factor of Mycobacterium tuberculosis, and virus-cell interaction.

A major research focus in the lab is on cilia of epithelial cells for sensing and responding to extracellular environmental changes. Primary cilia of epithelial cells are whip-like organelles extending into extra-cellular space for sensing extra-cellular signals. They are microtubule-based complexes enveloped by a ciliary membrane that includes an extensive complement of membrane proteins. Some specific ciliary membrane proteins are key players in signaling pathways that are critical for embryonic development and organogenesis. The lab investigates the motor-driven transportation mechanisms along microtubules in primary cilia and their functional roles in the structural maintenance and sensory functions of cilia.

The lab has also been investigating the structure and functional roles of a dual function transcription factor, AbmR, from Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb) through a collaboration with Wadsworth Center bacteriologists. AbmR not only regulates expression of a stress-responsive small RNA (Mcr11) in Mtb, but also can also form large 39S complexes that associate with RNA. We have solved the pseudo-atomic structure of the 39 complex by single particle cryo-EM, which provided a fascinating insight into the functions of AbmR. Further structure-function investigation is anticipated to clarify the functional mechanisms of AbmR in Mtb’s physiology.

The lab is interested in the structural regulation of epithelial cells in responding to extracellular environmental changes and/or pathogen invasion. In collaboration with other laboratories of infectious diseases, we are investigating the structure-function relationship of large protein complexes of RNA viruses and virus-cell interactions.

Lab openings

The Sui Lab currently is open to motivated Ph.D./Master students in addition to postdoctoral research fellows. PhD students graduated from this lab are anticipated to gain a solid methodology foundation of cryo-electron microscopy for both electron tomography and single particle cryo-EM, in addition to practical experience in molecular cloning, biochemistry and cell biology, that should prepare them ready to tackle a broad range of biomedical problems using methods of multiscale structural imaging and strategy of corelative light and electron microscopy.

In addition, the Sui Lab has a long history of hosting undergraduate researchers through the Wadsworth volunteer program or other summer research programs (REU, Public Health Works or NIH undergraduate support program). The lab will continue to provide the students with opportunities of hands-on experience in macromolecular specimen preparation, light and electron microscopy, computational image analysis and graphical presentation.

Interested applicants please contact with a copy of c.v. for more information