Research overview

Our lab studies the molecular structure of human and viral proteins to understand how they interact, control cellular function, and cause disease.

In the laboratory of John Gross, PhD, at UC San Francisco, we combine a wide variety of molecular biology and quantitative biochemistry techniques with biophysics and structural biology experiments, such as NMR spectroscopy and X-ray crystallography, in order to understand how the composition, structure, and dynamics of multi-protein complexes affect their cellular function.

Research projects in our lab are primarily focused on RNA decay and host-virus protein interactions of HIV.

RNA decay: Messenger RNA (mRNA) molecules instruct the cell to produce specific proteins, and maintaining a proper balance between mRNA production and decay is crucial for proper cellular function. Misregulation of mRNA levels is closely linked to many diseases such as cancer. We study the structure, dynamics, and interactions of proteins involved in mRNA decay in order to understand how the cell regulates mRNA abundance at the molecular level.

Host-virus protein interactions of HIV: Tremendous progress has been made over the past decades in HIV prevention, treatment, and care; however, millions of people worldwide remain infected with HIV and tens of thousands of new infections are reported each year. As part of the HARC Center at UCSF, our lab is studying how viral HIV proteins interact with human host proteins to cause infection and disease. In collaboration with virology and chemical biology labs at UCSF, we are developing a molecular-level understanding of HIV-host protein interactions that will pave the way for future HIV therapeutics.

Why now

Over the past decade, it has become increasingly clear that the cell uses a dense and complex network of protein-protein interactions and protein conformational changes to regulate its biochemical functions. Recent advances in structural biology techniques—such as NMR spectroscopy, X-ray crystallography, small-angle X-ray scattering, and cryo-electron microscopy—now make it possible to elucidate the molecular structure and motions of large complexes of biomolecules in very high resolution. We are now able to combine the structural information from these cutting-edge experimental techniques with biochemistry and genetics experiments in order to understand how changes in protein structure are used to regulate cellular function.

Why here

UCSF is home to world-class research facilities and medical centers, where a high degree of collaboration among researchers and physicians gives rise to translational medicine—moving ideas developed in basic research laboratories to clinical services. The Gross Lab collaborates with many other researchers at UCSF with expertise in genetics, virology, microscopy, and chemistry, while also taking advantage of the many state-of-the-art research facilities available, including:

Lab team

Gross Lab Team

The Gross Lab is composed of postdoctoral researchers, graduate students, and staff scientists. Lab members’ backgrounds include physical chemistry, synthetic chemistry, chemical biology, structural biology, biochemistry, and genetics.