Yuan He Assistant Professor of Molecular Biosciences

Research Interests

Structure and Function of Macromolecular Machines on Genes

The He lab is interested in understanding the molecular mechanisms by which large, multi-subunit complexes engage in DNA-centric processes using cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) and other biophysical and biochemical approaches. We focus on two main topics: (1) how eukaryotic gene transcription is regulated at different stages, and (2) how various types of DNA damage are repaired and why deficiencies in these repair pathways lead to pathology of cancer predisposition or accelerated aging.

Cryo-EM is a powerful tool well suited for revealing macromolecular assemblies’ structures at moderately high to near atomic resolution. It requires a considerably smaller amount of sample, is not limited by the size of the system of interest, and is well equipped for sorting conformational/biochemical heterogeneity in a single sample under close to physiological conditions. These advantages, together with ongoing technical breakthroughs (direct electron detector and phase plate), make cryo-EM a unique tool to further our structural understanding of complicated cellular processes.

Selected Publications

Structural mechanism of ATP-independent transcription initiation by RNA polymerase I. Han Y, Yan C, Nguyen THD, Jackobel AJ, Ivanov I, Knutson BA, and He Y. eLife. 2017 June 17;6:e27414.

Structural Insights into the Eukaryotic Transcription Initiation Machinery. Nogales E, Louder RK, and He Y. Annual Review of Biophysics. 2017 May;46:59-83.

Near-atomic resolution visualization of human transcription promoter opening. He Y, Yan C, Fang J, Inouye C, Tjian R, Ivanov I, and Nogales E. Nature. 2016 May 19;533(7603):359-365.

Structure of promoter-bound TFIID and model of human pre-initiation complex assembly. Louder RK, He Y, López-Blanco JR, Fang J, Chacón P, and Nogales E. Nature. 2016 March 31;531(7596):604-609.

Structural visualization of key steps in human transcription initiationHe Y, Fang J, Taatjes DJ, and Nogales E. Nature. 2013 March 28;495(7442):481-486.

View all publications by Yuan He listed in the National Library of Medicine (PubMed).