“So many diseases are rooted in malfunctions that occur at the level of cellular gene expression. By understanding cellular communications and interfering and manipulating cellular processes through our new knowledge of the fundamental molecular basis of human health and disease, we could and shall make a significant impact on the prevalence of disease.”
Ming-Ming Zhou, PhD
Dr. Harold and Golden Lamport Professor and Chair of the Department of Structural and Chemical Biology, Co-Director of the Experimental Therapeutics Institute, and Professor of Oncological Sciences and of Pharmacology and Systems Therapeutics
As Chair of the Department of Structural and Chemical Biology, Ming-Ming Zhou, PhD, directs research that examines molecular mechanisms underlying cellular processes in two areas in biology of healthy and disease cells: mitogenic signal transduction and epigenetic control of gene transcription.
Under Dr. Zhou's leadership, the research team studies modular protein domains that mediate protein-protein interactions in transmission of signals from the cell surface to the nucleus, and enzymes that regulate function of proteins by phosphorylation, acetylation, and methylation on specific amino acids. The team uses nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy and X-ray crystallography in combination with other biophysical, biochemical, and molecular biological techniques to determine three-dimensional structures of these proteins, to investigate their chemical properties for molecular recognition and modification, to elucidate their cellular functions, and to develop chemical molecules capable of modifying these functions.
Dr. Zhou and his colleagues are developing a new gene-silencing technology possibly used to target genes that lead to the development of diseases, such as cancer. Their research shows that Paramecium bursaria chlorella virus 1 uses a viral enzyme to modify a cell's DNA chromatin and then switches the cell's transcription machinery so that the virus can replicate itself. Dr. Zhou and his team want to engineer this viral enzyme specifically to control the chromatin structural changes in the human cells so that transcription of disease-causing genes does not take place, which ultimately could help prevent and treat diseases.
An international leader in structural and chemical biology, as well as in molecular and cell biology, Dr. Zhou takes innovative approaches to understanding biological processes that have led to a greater understanding of what triggers disease. His research unravels fundamental molecular and cellular mechanisms underlying signal transduction and regulation of gene transcription and translation, which aid in the discovery of more-targeted treatments.
An active teacher in both the classroom and the laboratory, Dr. Zhou is also Director of the Translational Chemical Biology Center, Professor and Chair of the Department of Structural and Chemical Biology, and Professor of Oncological Sciences, and Pharmacology and Systems Therapeutics. Among his many accomplishments at Mount Sinai, Dr. Zhou spearheaded an institutional initiative to establish a small-molecule screening facility, and he served as the liaison between Mount Sinai and the New York Structural Biology Center.
Dr. Zhou is an internationally recognized researcher whose work has received numerous honors, including the American Cancer Society Young Investigator Award. In 2003, he received the GlaxoSmithKline Drug Discovery and Development Award for his research in developing a novel anti-HIV/AIDS therapy that promises to overcome major viral drug resistance, as well as addresses the problem of latent HIV replication.
Dr. Zhou's research has been published in prestigious scientific journals, including Nature, Nature Cell Biology, Nature Structural & Molecular Biology, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Molecular Cell, The EMBO Journal, Journal of American Chemical Society, and Journal of Medicinal Chemistry. He frequently receives invitations to speak at conferences around the world to discuss structural and chemical biology in gene regulation and drug discovery for human diseases, including HIV/AIDS, cancer, inflammation, and neurodegenerative disease. He serves on editorial boards of scientific journals and review panels for such institutions as the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation, as well as several private research foundations including the Wellcome Trust. Dr. Zhou is also a board director for the New York Structural Biology Center.
After receiving his undergraduate degree in chemical engineering from East China University of Science and Technology, Dr. Zhou came to the United States and earned a master's degree of science in chemistry from Michigan Technological University and a PhD in chemistry from Purdue University. He spent three years conducting postdoctoral research at Abbott Laboratories in Chicago. He joined Mount Sinai in 1997 to establish the Structural Biology Program.