Our laboratory is studying the three-dimensional structure of macromolecular machines, organelles and cells using cryo-electron tomography. We are focusing on the structure and function relationships of macromolecular complexes in situ, i.e. in their native environment. Areas of interest include the structure of eukaryotic flagella and the molecular motor dynein, the cytoskeleton and bacteria, as well as the development of cryo-EM and image processing techniques.
As Innovation Fund investigators, Daniela Nicastro and Ekaterina Heldwein are collaborating to investigate the assembly and trafficking of herpesviruses in host cells. For many viruses to complete the replication process, they must cross several host membrane barriers before exiting the cell. Herpesviruses in particular pass through the nuclear envelope barrier in a distinct manner that is different than other viruses, thus highlighting the potential for therapeutic intervention of this process. The pair will combine their expertise in virology, structural cell biology, and state-of-the-art imaging approaches to visualize how herpesviruses uniquely make their way through the nuclear envelope. This study will provide key structural insights into an essential step in the viral life cycle and expand the current knowledge of cellular membrane biology for preventing herpesvirus infections.