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Wei Yang, Ph.D., NIH Distinguished Investigator

Photo of Wei Yang
Scientific Focus Areas: Cancer Biology, Chemical Biology, Chromosome Biology, Microbiology and Infectious Diseases, Molecular Biology and Biochemistry, Structural Biology

Professional Experience

  • American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 2015
  • National Academy of Sciences, 2013
  • Ph.D., Columbia University, 1991
  • M.A., Columbia University, 1985
  • B.A., State University of New York at Stony Brook, 1985
  • B.A., State University of New York at Stony Brook, 1983

Current Research

My group studies DNA recombination, repair, and replication. In particular, we are interested in V(D)J recombination, mismatch repair, nucleotide excision repair, and translesion DNA synthesis. We use X-ray crystallography, cryoEM, molecular biology, and various biochemical and biophysical approaches to find out the molecular mechanisms underpinning these biological processes. In recent years, we have discovered that DNA synthesis and RNA degradation reactions are propelled by cation trafficking and require transiently bound Mg²⁺ and K⁺ ions that are absent in the static structures of substrate- or product-enzyme complexes.

Select Publications

Capture of a third Mg²⁺ is essential for catalyzing DNA synthesis.
Gao Y, Yang W.
Science (2016 Jun 10) 352:1334-7. Abstract/Full Text
Watching DNA polymerase η make a phosphodiester bond.
Nakamura T, Zhao Y, Yamagata Y, Hua YJ, Yang W.
Nature (2012 Jul 11) 487:196-201. Abstract/Full Text
View More Publications

Research in Plain Language

Our research investigates the biological processes of DNA—the molecule that encodes the genetic blueprint for all living organisms. DNA replication ensures life’s continuity in proliferation. DNA repair processes maintain our genome intact and pristine. Currently, we study V(D)J DNA recombination, which is a programmed process that cut and paste pieces of DNA to produce new genes and functions in our immune system.

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