Seminar details

12noon - 1pm, Friday 4 November 2016, QBP Auditorium (Building 80), UQ St Lucia campus

Please note: Seating is limited. Please arrive early to avoid disappointment.


Professor Nieng Yan

Professor, School of Medicine, Tsinghua University, Beijing, China


A molecular movie of the Excitation-Contraction Coupling

The voltage-gated sodium and calcium (Nav and Cav) channels and the intracelluar high-conductance calcium channel RyRs collectively control the rapid release of Ca2+ from sarcoplasmic reticulum to cytoplasm, an event that subsequently triggers the excitation-contraction (E-C) coupling of skeletal and cardiac muscles. In recent years, we have determined the crystal structure of a bacterial Nav channel NavRh as well as the near atomic-resolution cryo-EM structures of the mammalian Cav1.1 and RyR1. We were able to capture the structures of RyR1, which represent the largest ion channels known, in multiple closed conformations and one open state. These structural characterizations provide important clue to understanding the long-range allosteric gating of RyRs. Furthermore, classification of the EM particles of the Cav1.1 complex yielded multiple reconstructions that reveal pronounced conformational changes. These studies shed light on the molecular understanding of E-C coupling. In addition, the atomic model of the Cav1.1 complex provides a three-dimensional template for molecular interpretations of the function and disease mechanism of Cav and Nav channels.

Speaker bio

Dr Nieng Yan received her B.S. degree from the Department of Biological Sciences & Biotechnology, Tsinghua University, Beijing, China, in 2000. She then pursued her PhD in the Department of Molecular Biology at Princeton University under the supervision of Prof Yigong Shi between 2000 and 2004. She was the regional winner of the Young Scientist Award (North America) co-sponsored by Science/AAAS and GE Healthcare in 2005 for her thesis on the structural and mechanistic study of programmed cell death. She continued her postdoctoral training at Princeton University, focusing on the structural characterization of intramembrane proteases. In 2007, she joined the faculty of School of Medicine, Tsinghua University. Her lab has been mainly focusing on the structural and functional study of membrane transport proteins exemplified by the glucose transporters and Na+/Ca2+ channels. In 2012 and 2013, she was promoted to tenured professor and Bayer Endowed Chair Professor, respectively. Dr. Yan is an HHMI international early career scientist, Cheung Kong Scholar, and the recipient of the 2015 Protein Society Young Investigator Award and the 2015 Beverley & Raymond Sackler International Prize in Biophysics.

Seminar host

Professor Paul Alewood, IMB Seminar Series Coordinator,


Qld Bioscience Precinct (Building 80), 306 Carmody Road, UQ St Lucia