The goal of my current research is to use high resolution imaging techniques to interrogate outstanding questions in cardiovascular cell biology, with a focus on the signaling pathways that trigger heart muscle contraction. In the Wah Chiu lab, I am using cryo-electron tomography-based imaging approaches to connect the molecular and cellular scales of biology and accelerate our understanding of human health and disease.
Honors & Awards
K99/R00 MOSAIC Scholar, NIH/NHLBI (12/2021-current)
Cardiovascular Imaging T-32 Fellowship, Stanford CVI-NIH/NIBIB (09/2019-11/2021)
NSF GRFP Fellow, NSF/Graduate Research Fellowship Program (03/2013-12/2017)
Doctor of Philosophy, University of California San Francisco (2017)
Cryo-electron tomography reveals the structural diversity of cardiac proteins in their cellular context.
bioRxiv : the preprint server for biology
Cardiovascular diseases are a leading cause of death worldwide, but our understanding of the underlying mechanisms is limited, in part because of the complexity of the cellular machinery that controls the heart muscle contraction cycle. Cryogenic electron tomography (cryo-ET) provides a way to visualize diverse cellular machinery while preserving contextual information like subcellular localization and transient complex formation, but this approach has not been widely applied to the study of heart muscle cells (cardiomyocytes). Here, we deploy a platform for studying cardiovascular disease by combining cryo-ET with human induced pluripotent stem cell-derived cardiomyocytes (hiPSC-CMs). After developing a cryo-ET workflow for visualizing macromolecules in hiPSC-CMs, we reconstructed sub-nanometer resolution structures of the human thin filament, a central component of the contractile machinery. We also visualized a previously unobserved organization of a regulatory complex that connects muscle contraction to calcium signaling (the troponin complex), highlighting the value of our approach for interrogating the structures of cardiac proteins in their cellular context.
View details for DOI 10.1101/2023.10.26.564098
View details for PubMedID 37961228
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC10634850
Altered Cardiac Energetics and Mitochondrial Dysfunction in Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy.
Background: Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) is a complex disease partly explained by the effects of individual gene variants on sarcomeric protein biomechanics. At the cellular level, HCM mutations most commonly enhance force production, leading to higher energy demands. Despite significant advances in elucidating sarcomeric structure-function relationships, there is still much to be learned about the mechanisms that link altered cardiac energetics to HCM phenotypes. In this work, we test the hypothesis that changes in cardiac energetics represent a common pathophysiologic pathway in HCM. Methods: We performed a comprehensive multi-omics profile of the molecular (transcripts, metabolites, and complex lipids), ultrastructural, and functional components of HCM energetics using myocardial samples from 27 HCM patients and 13 normal controls (donor hearts). Results: Integrated omics analysis revealed alterations in a wide array of biochemical pathways with major dysregulation in fatty acid metabolism, reduction of acylcarnitines, and accumulation of free fatty acids. HCM hearts showed evidence of global energetic decompensation manifested by a decrease in high energy phosphate metabolites [ATP, ADP, and phosphocreatine (PCr)] and a reduction in mitochondrial genes involved in creatine kinase and ATP synthesis. Accompanying these metabolic derangements, electron microscopy showed an increased fraction of severely damaged mitochondria with reduced cristae density, coinciding with reduced citrate synthase (CS) activity and mitochondrial oxidative respiration. These mitochondrial abnormalities were associated with elevated reactive oxygen species (ROS) and reduced antioxidant defenses. However, despite significant mitochondrial injury, HCM hearts failed to upregulate mitophagic clearance. Conclusions: Overall, our findings suggest that perturbed metabolic signaling and mitochondrial dysfunction are common pathogenic mechanisms in patients with HCM. These results highlight potential new drug targets for attenuation of the clinical disease through improving metabolic function and reducing mitochondrial injury.
View details for DOI 10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.121.053575
View details for PubMedID 34672721
Comparing serial X-ray crystallography and microcrystal electron diffraction (MicroED) as methods for routine structure determination from small macromolecular crystals.
2020; 7 (Pt 2): 306–23
Innovative new crystallographic methods are facilitating structural studies from ever smaller crystals of biological macromolecules. In particular, serial X-ray crystallography and microcrystal electron diffraction (MicroED) have emerged as useful methods for obtaining structural information from crystals on the nanometre to micrometre scale. Despite the utility of these methods, their implementation can often be difficult, as they present many challenges that are not encountered in traditional macromolecular crystallography experiments. Here, XFEL serial crystallography experiments and MicroED experiments using batch-grown microcrystals of the enzyme cyclophilin A are described. The results provide a roadmap for researchers hoping to design macromolecular microcrystallography experiments, and they highlight the strengths and weaknesses of the two methods. Specifically, we focus on how the different physical conditions imposed by the sample-preparation and delivery methods required for each type of experiment affect the crystal structure of the enzyme.
View details for DOI 10.1107/S205225252000072X
View details for PubMedID 32148858
XFEL structures of the influenza M2 proton channel: Room temperature water networks and insights into proton conduction
PROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
2017; 114 (51): 13357–62
The M2 proton channel of influenza A is a drug target that is essential for the reproduction of the flu virus. It is also a model system for the study of selective, unidirectional proton transport across a membrane. Ordered water molecules arranged in "wires" inside the channel pore have been proposed to play a role in both the conduction of protons to the four gating His37 residues and the stabilization of multiple positive charges within the channel. To visualize the solvent in the pore of the channel at room temperature while minimizing the effects of radiation damage, data were collected to a resolution of 1.4 Å using an X-ray free-electron laser (XFEL) at three different pH conditions: pH 5.5, pH 6.5, and pH 8.0. Data were collected on the Inwardopen state, which is an intermediate that accumulates at high protonation of the His37 tetrad. At pH 5.5, a continuous hydrogen-bonded network of water molecules spans the vertical length of the channel, consistent with a Grotthuss mechanism model for proton transport to the His37 tetrad. This ordered solvent at pH 5.5 could act to stabilize the positive charges that build up on the gating His37 tetrad during the proton conduction cycle. The number of ordered pore waters decreases at pH 6.5 and 8.0, where the Inwardopen state is less stable. These studies provide a graphical view of the response of water to a change in charge within a restricted channel environment.
View details for PubMedID 28835537
CryptoSite: Expanding the Druggable Proteome by Characterization and Prediction of Cryptic Binding Sites
JOURNAL OF MOLECULAR BIOLOGY
2016; 428 (4): 709-719
Many proteins have small-molecule binding pockets that are not easily detectable in the ligand-free structures. These cryptic sites require a conformational change to become apparent; a cryptic site can therefore be defined as a site that forms a pocket in a holo structure, but not in the apo structure. Because many proteins appear to lack druggable pockets, understanding and accurately identifying cryptic sites could expand the set of drug targets. Previously, cryptic sites were identified experimentally by fragment-based ligand discovery and computationally by long molecular dynamics simulations and fragment docking. Here, we begin by constructing a set of structurally defined apo-holo pairs with cryptic sites. Next, we comprehensively characterize the cryptic sites in terms of their sequence, structure, and dynamics attributes. We find that cryptic sites tend to be as conserved in evolution as traditional binding pockets but are less hydrophobic and more flexible. Relying on this characterization, we use machine learning to predict cryptic sites with relatively high accuracy (for our benchmark, the true positive and false positive rates are 73% and 29%, respectively). We then predict cryptic sites in the entire structurally characterized human proteome (11,201 structures, covering 23% of all residues in the proteome). CryptoSite increases the size of the potentially "druggable" human proteome from ~40% to ~78% of disease-associated proteins. Finally, to demonstrate the utility of our approach in practice, we experimentally validate a cryptic site in protein tyrosine phosphatase 1B using a covalent ligand and NMR spectroscopy. The CryptoSite Web server is available at http://salilab.org/cryptosite.
View details for DOI 10.1016/j.jmb.2016.01.029
View details for Web of Science ID 000372561800007
View details for PubMedID 26854760
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC4794384
High-density grids for efficient data collection from multiple crystals.
Acta crystallographica. Section D, Structural biology
2016; 72: 2-11
Higher throughput methods to mount and collect data from multiple small and radiation-sensitive crystals are important to support challenging structural investigations using microfocus synchrotron beamlines. Furthermore, efficient sample-delivery methods are essential to carry out productive femtosecond crystallography experiments at X-ray free-electron laser (XFEL) sources such as the Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS). To address these needs, a high-density sample grid useful as a scaffold for both crystal growth and diffraction data collection has been developed and utilized for efficient goniometer-based sample delivery at synchrotron and XFEL sources. A single grid contains 75 mounting ports and fits inside an SSRL cassette or uni-puck storage container. The use of grids with an SSRL cassette expands the cassette capacity up to 7200 samples. Grids may also be covered with a polymer film or sleeve for efficient room-temperature data collection from multiple samples. New automated routines have been incorporated into the Blu-Ice/DCSS experimental control system to support grids, including semi-automated grid alignment, fully automated positioning of grid ports, rastering and automated data collection. Specialized tools have been developed to support crystallization experiments on grids, including a universal adaptor, which allows grids to be filled by commercial liquid-handling robots, as well as incubation chambers, which support vapor-diffusion and lipidic cubic phase crystallization experiments. Experiments in which crystals were loaded into grids or grown on grids using liquid-handling robots and incubation chambers are described. Crystals were screened at LCLS-XPP and SSRL BL12-2 at room temperature and cryogenic temperatures.
View details for DOI 10.1107/S2059798315020847
View details for PubMedID 26894529
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC4756618
High-resolution structures of the M2 channel from influenza A virus reveal dynamic pathways for proton stabilization and transduction
PROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
2015; 112 (46): 14260-14265
The matrix 2 (M2) protein from influenza A virus is a proton channel that uses His37 as a selectivity filter. Here we report high-resolution (1.10 Å) cryogenic crystallographic structures of the transmembrane domain of M2 at low and high pH. These structures reveal that waters within the pore form hydrogen-bonded networks or "water wires" spanning 17 Å from the channel entrance to His37. Pore-lining carbonyl groups are well situated to stabilize hydronium via second-shell interactions involving bridging water molecules. In addition, room temperature crystallographic structures indicate that water becomes increasingly fluid with increasing temperature and decreasing pH, despite the higher electrostatic field. Complementary molecular dynamics simulations reveal a collective switch of hydrogen bond orientations that can contribute to the directionality of proton flux as His37 is dynamically protonated and deprotonated in the conduction cycle.
View details for DOI 10.1073/pnas.1518493112
View details for Web of Science ID 000365170400055
View details for PubMedID 26578770
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC4655559
Mapping the conformational landscape of a dynamic enzyme by multitemperature and XFEL crystallography.
Determining the interconverting conformations of dynamic proteins in atomic detail is a major challenge for structural biology. Conformational heterogeneity in the active site of the dynamic enzyme cyclophilin A (CypA) has been previously linked to its catalytic function, but the extent to which the different conformations of these residues are correlated is unclear. Here we compare the conformational ensembles of CypA by multitemperature synchrotron crystallography and fixed-target X-ray free-electron laser (XFEL) crystallography. The diffraction-before-destruction nature of XFEL experiments provides a radiation-damage-free view of the functionally important alternative conformations of CypA, confirming earlier synchrotron-based results. We monitored the temperature dependences of these alternative conformations with eight synchrotron datasets spanning 100-310 K. Multiconformer models show that many alternative conformations in CypA are populated only at 240 K and above, yet others remain populated or become populated at 180 K and below. These results point to a complex evolution of conformational heterogeneity between 180--240 K that involves both thermal deactivation and solvent-driven arrest of protein motions in the crystal. The lack of a single shared conformational response to temperature within the dynamic active-site network provides evidence for a conformation shuffling model, in which exchange between rotamer states of a large aromatic ring in the middle of the network shifts the conformational ensemble for the other residues in the network. Together, our multitemperature analyses and XFEL data motivate a new generation of temperature- and time-resolved experiments to structurally characterize the dynamic underpinnings of protein function.
View details for DOI 10.7554/eLife.07574
View details for PubMedID 26422513
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC4721965
E pluribus unum, no more: from one crystal, many conformations
CURRENT OPINION IN STRUCTURAL BIOLOGY
2014; 28: 56-62
Several distinct computational approaches have recently been implemented to represent conformational heterogeneity from X-ray crystallography datasets that are averaged in time and space. As these modeling methods mature, newly discovered alternative conformations are being used to derive functional protein mechanisms. Room temperature X-ray data collection is emerging as a key variable for sampling functionally relevant conformations also observed in solution studies. Although concerns about radiation damage are warranted with higher temperature data collection, 'diffract and destroy' strategies on X-ray free electron lasers may permit radiation damage-free data collection. X-ray crystallography need not be confined to 'static unique snapshots'; these experimental and computational advances are revealing how the many conformations populated within a single crystal are used in biological mechanisms.
View details for DOI 10.1016/j.sbi.2014.07.005
View details for Web of Science ID 000345203000009
View details for PubMedID 25113271
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC4253534