Reza Vafabakhsh Assistant Professor

Research Summary:

The brain is made of billions of neurons that are interconnected by synapses. Each synapse is made up of more than a thousand different proteins, that exist at a wide range of copy numbers, from just a few to thousands, and confined to a volume of micrometer in length scale. It has remained a major challenge to understand how synaptic biomolecules organize spatially and temporally into networks and give rise to emergence of new physiological properties and eventually adapt synaptic functions to specific inter-neuronal activities. A long-term goal of my lab is to develop methods for quantitative hierarchical characterization of synaptic players at different length scales, from a single protein to the synapse level, to describe this complexity and, maybe eventually, the molecular nature of information processing in the brain. Such knowledge is fundamental for understanding normal brain functions and neurological disorders. We will do so by using a highly interdisciplinary cell biology analyses along with cutting edge single molecule and high throughput approaches that draw from physics, cell biology and engineering.

Selected Publications:

Structural dynamics of potassium-channel gating revealed by single-molecule FRET. Wang S, Vafabakhsh R, Borschel WF, Ha T, and Nichols CG. Nature Structural & Molecular Biology. 2016 January;23(1):31-36.

Conformational dynamics of a class C G-protein-coupled receptorVafabakhsh R, Levitz J, and Isacoff EY. Nature. 2015 August 27;524(7566):497-501.

Single-molecule packaging initiation in real time by a viral DNA packaging machine from bacteriophage T4Vafabakhsh R, Kondabagil K, Earnest T, Lee KS, Zhang Z, Dai L, Dahmen KA, Rao VB, and Ha T. PNAS.2014 October 21;111(42):15096-15101. 

Extreme Bendability of DNA Less than 100 Base Pairs Long Revealed by Single-Molecule CyclizationVafabakhsh R and Ha T. Science. 2012 August 31;337(6098):1097-1101.

One influenza virus particle packages eight unique viral RNAs as shown by FISH analysis. Chou Y-Y, Vafabakhsh R, Doganay S, Gao Q, Ha T, and Palese P. PNAS. 2012 June 5;109(23):9101-9106.