Macromolecular protein complexes are highly dynamic in structure and function and are influenced by the cell's physiological state. Some of these proteins act as host cellular defense against pathogen infection by accumulating and concentrating into specialized compartments. However, the in situ structure of these antimicrobial protein complexes during physiological and pathophysiological processes, as well as their interactions with cellular compartments and inhabited pathogens, remain unknown.
The Zhu lab focuses on the interplay between host and invasive pathogens, such as viruses, bacteria, parasites, and fungi. We explore how host cells interact with pathogens and how pathogens adapt to be within the host cell.
Our research group utilizes a multi-disciplinary approach to address these fundamental questions, primarily focusing on employing cryo-electron tomography (cryo-ET) to visualize antimicrobial protein complexes in their native cellular context. By leveraging this technique and other imaging methods, we aim to study the structure and mechanism of antimicrobial macromolecular complexes in a functional reconstitution system. Our goal is to provide essential structural information to help develop strategies to combat infectious diseases.
Additionally, the lab is actively engaged in method development for cryo-ET applications in cell biology, with a specific emphasis on improving the throughput of in situ cryo-ET imaging technique.