Research activities in the Sui laboratory focus on understanding the structural basis of macromolecular assemblies in their functional context. The lab utilizes various methods in electron microscopy (EM), in combination with molecular and biochemical approaches, to study the three-dimensional (3D) structures and regulations of macromolecular complexes and organelles in the cell. Driven by the needs of the research projects, the lab also implements or develops new methods for specimen preparation and computational image processing in 3DEM.
A major research focus in the lab is on the 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. Specific ciliary membrane proteins e.g. Wnt and Hedgehog, are key players in signaling pathways that are critical for embryonic development and organogenesis. The lab investigates the structure and assembly of primary cilia in kidney cells to develop a detailed mechanistic understanding about their sensory functions.
The lab is also interested in the structural regulation of epithelial cells in responding to extracellular environmental changes and pathogen invasion. In collaboration with other laboratories of infectious diseases, we are investigating the structure-function relationship for some macromolecular complexes in pathogens, such as mycobacterium tuberculosis bacteria and influenza viruses.