Vesicle trafficking is a fundamental process in eukaryotes whereby proteins, membranes, and other materials are transported between membrane-bound compartments in cells. Vesicles can be formed in a number of ways. Most commonly, a protein coat forms on the parent membrane that gathers cargo molecules and deforms the membrane into a spherical vesicle. The identities of the major coat protein complexes are known, but many questions about their structures and mechanisms remain. We use cryogenic electron microscopy (cryo-EM) and other biophysical techniques to determine the structures of the vesicle coat protein complexes and characterize their mechanisms.
Single particle cryo-EM has become a technique of choice for determining the structures of biological molecules. Despite it's popularity, there are still many challenges that stand in the way of high-resolution structure determination for many molecules. We develop tools, techniques, and software for facilitating specimen preparation, data collection, and processing for cryo-EM. We have several collaborations that drive these developments including determining the structures of ribosomes, adeno-associated virus, and protein coated membrane tubules.