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Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

Houston, Texas

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Verna and Marrs McLean Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
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Wah Chiu, Ph.D.

Wah Chiu, Ph.D.

Distinguished Service Professor
Alvin Romansky Professor
Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology
Department of Molecular Physiology and Biophysics
Department of Molecular Virology and Microbiology

Director, National Center for Macromolecular Imaging
Director, Center for Protein Folding Machinery
Co-director, W. M. Keck Center for Computational Biology

National Center for Macromolecular Imaging
Center for Protein Folding Machinery


  • Ph.D., Biophysics, 1975, University of California, Berkeley
  • Postdoctoral, Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory, Berkeley, California
  • Guggenheim Fellow, 1986
  • Alexander von Humboldt Fellow, 1996


  • Member, National Academy of Sciences, 2012

Electron Cryo-Microscopy of Biological Nanomachines

Our research interests are to determine 3-dimensional structures of biological nanomachines by electron cryomicroscopy and computer reconstruction and to relate the structures to their functional mechanisms. Our structural technique complements to those of X ray crystallography and NMR spectroscopy. Our laboratory is uniquely equipped with four intermediate voltage electron cryomicroscopes and supercomputer.

Our laboratory has pioneered various experimental and computational methods in biological cryo-EM. We have determined cryo-EM structures of biological bundle, ion channel, viruses and chaperonins at unprecedented resolutions. Our group has recently achieved the capability of tracing Ca backbone of protein components in several large molecular nanomachines using single particle cryo-EM without the aid of crystallography. Many of our structural investigations have produced not only novel structural informatics but also insightful functional mechanisms on protein folding and virus infection respectively.

Selected Publications

  • Chen DH, Baker ML, Hryc CF, DiMaio F, Jakana J, Wu W, Dougherty M, Haase-Pettingell C, Schmid MF, Jiang W, Baker D, King JA, Chiu W. Structural basis for scaffolding-mediated assembly and maturation of a dsDNA virus. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2011 Jan 25;108(4):1355-60. [PubMed]
  • Douglas NR, Reissmann S, Zhang J, Chen B, Jakana J, Kumar R, Chiu W, Frydman J. Dual action of ATP hydrolysis couples lid closure to substrate release into the group II chaperonin chamber. Cell. 2011 Jan 21;144(2):240-52. [PubMed]
  • Rochat RH, Liu X, Murata K, Nagayama K, Rixon FJ, Chiu W. Seeing the portal in herpes simplex virus type 1 B capsids. J Virol. 2011 Feb;85(4):1871-4. [PubMed]
  • Baker ML, Zhang J, Ludtke SJ, Chiu W. Cryo-EM of macromolecular assemblies at near-atomic resolution. Nat Protoc. 2010 Sep;5(10):1697-708. [PubMed]
  • Chang JT, Schmid MF, Haase-Pettingell C, Weigele PR, King JA, Chiu W. Visualizing the structural changes of bacteriophage Epsilon15 and its Salmonella host during infection. J Mol Biol. 2010 Oct 1;402(4):731-40. [PubMed]
  • Liu X, Zhang Q, Murata K, Baker ML, Sullivan MB, Fu C, Dougherty MT, Schmid MF, Osburne MS, Chisholm SW, Chiu W. Structural changes in a marine podovirus associated with release of its genome into Prochlorococcus. Nat Struct Mol Biol. 2010 Jul;17(7):830-6. [PubMed]
  • Murata K, Liu X, Danev R, Jakana J, Schmid MF, King J, Nagayama K, Chiu W. Zernike phase contrast cryo-electron microscopy and tomography for structure determination at nanometer and subnanometer resolutions. Structure. 2010 Aug 11;18(8):903-12. [PubMed]
  • Zhang J, Baker ML, Schröder GF, Douglas NR, Reissmann S, Jakana J, Dougherty M, Fu CJ, Levitt M, Ludtke SJ, Frydman J, Chiu W. Mechanism of folding chamber closure in a group II chaperonin. Nature. 2010 Jan 21;463(7279):379-83. [PubMed]
  • Jiang W, Baker ML, Jakana J, Weigele PR, King J, Chiu W. Backbone structure of the infectious epsilon15 virus capsid revealed by electron cryomicroscopy. Nature. 2008 Feb 28;451(7182):1130-4. [PubMed]
  • Jiang W, Chang J, Jakana J, Weigele P, King J, Chiu W. Structure of epsilon15 bacteriophage reveals genome organization and DNA packaging/injection apparatus. Nature. 2006 Feb 2;439(7076):612-6. [PubMed]

View more publications by Dr. Chiu.

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