Research: Biochemistry & Molecular Biology

There are 20 core faculty members in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology working on a diverse range of research projects. These projects are interdisciplinary in nature and will provide students with training in many different areas including cellular and molecular biology, genetics, virology, enzymology, structural biology, and biophysics. The department has state-of-the-art facilities and equipment that are available to faculty and students for their individual research programs. In addition to the traditional areas in biochemistry and molecular biology, we have developed strong research and educational programs in structural biology. Members of the faculty have expertise in cryoelectron microscopy, X-ray crystallography, NMR and imaging, and actively collaborate with other research groups to address fundamental questions about biomolecular structure. Specific research interests of the faculty are listed below and grouped by area with links to faculty members’ home pages.


Faculty Research Interests Grouped by Category

  • Enzymatic Mechanisms and Structure-Function Relationships

L. Bloom:  DNA replication and repair complexes
K. Brown:  Cell cycle regulatory kinases
M. Caglayan:  DNA repair (single-strand and double-strand break repair) complexes
J. Flanegan:  Viral RNA polymerases
S. Frost:  Membrane bound carbonic anhydrases and cancer
M. Kladde:  Discovery and enzymology of DNA methyltransferases
T. Mareci:  Tissue structure and function in the central nervous system
R. McKenna:  Protein and virus crystallography and biophysical methods
M. Merritt: Quantitative measures of metabolic flux

D. Purich:  Enzyme kinetics and mechanism
M. Xie:  MicroRNA processing

  • Gene Regulation and the Control of Protein Function

A. Berglund:  Role of RNA in disease
K. Brown:  Epigenetic silencing of tumor suppressors in cancer
J. Bungert:  Beta-globin gene cluster regulation
B. Cain:  Regulation of endothelin expression
M. Kilberg:  Nutrient control of gene expression
M. Kladde:  Chromatin remodeling in gene activation; epigenetic silencing of tumor suppressors
P. Laipis:  Phenylalanine and other aromatic amino acid hydroxylases
J. Lu:  Transcriptional and chromatin regulation of tumor invasion, angiogenesis, and metabolism

M. Xie:  Post-transcriptional gene regulation by RNA interference
T. Yang:  Epigenetic effects of diet and environment; epigenomics

  • Nucleic Acid-Protein Interactions and Chromatin Structure

A. Berglund:  RNA-protein interactions in splicing regulation
M. Caglayan:  DNA polymerases and DNA ligases in DNA repair
L. Bloom:  Sliding clamps in DNA replication
K. Brown:  Activation of checkpoint/apoptotic pathways in response to DNA
J. Bungert:  Chromatin structure and protein binding
J. Flanegan:  RNA-protein interactions; RNA replication and stability
M. Kilberg:  Genomic and chromatin structure
M. Kladde:  Single-molecule and population probing of chromatin structure
J. Lu:  Histone modifications and chromatin organization
T. O’Brien:  RNA-protein interactions in ribosomes
T. Yang:  Epigenetic regulation of gene expression by genomic imprinting

  • Cytoskeletal and Membrane Proteins; Membrane Transport Processes

B. Cain:  F1F0 ATP synthase
S. Frost:  Glucose transport

D. Purich:  Actin-based cell motility
M. Xie:  Nuclear-cytoplasmic transport of small RNAs

  • Macromolecular Structure Determination

M. Agbandje-McKenna:  Small DNA viruses
J. Long:  Biomolecular structure and dynamics
T. Mareci:  Tissue structure and biochemistry in the nervous system by NMR
R. McKenna:  Actin-protein complexes
T. O’Brien:  Ribosome structure
D. Purich:  Cytoskeletal protein assembly