Dr. Shuguang Zhang

Principal Research Scientist
Head, Laboratory of Molecular Architecture

Areas of Interest and Expertise

Structure of G Protein-Coupled Receptors (GPCRs)
Protein Design, Especially Membrane Proteins Design
Design Various Self-Assembling Peptides
DNA Structures and DNA-Protein Interactions
Molecular Design of Peptides and Proteins
Self-Assembling Peptide Nanofiber Scaffold Hydrogel Biomaterials
Protein Conformational Diseases
Design Biological Materials and Their Biomedical Applications Through Molecular Self-Assembly
Low-Cost Solar Nanodevice

Research Summary

Shuguang Zhang laboratory since 2004 focuses on study of structure and function of membrane proteins and uses the membrane protein to design nanobiodevices. He also engineer membrane proteins to make them detergent-free using his invention of the QTY Code. His lab uses photosystem I to design biosolar energy device to directly harvest photons to produce electricity inexpensively. Recently, his lab also works on hydrogen production through splitting water using bioengineered algae hydrogenase protein in collaboration with National Renewable Energy Laboratory, USA. Since membrane proteins are nature-made elegant and sophisticated molecular machines, Zhang lab is interested in design and fabrication of membrane protein-based molecular devices, combing with other materials for ultra-sensitive sensing devices.

Shuguang Zhang in 2011 started to design membrane proteins. There are ~30% genes code for membrane proteins in genomes that are crucial for both internal and external cellular communications. The membrane proteins are like the mobile phones that connect us to the external world. He invented a simple and elegant molecular QTY code (glutamine, threonine and tyrosine) to systematically replace the hydrophobic amino acids leucine (L), valine (V), isoleucine (I) and phenylalanine (F) in the 7 transmembrane alpha-helices of G-protein coupled receptors (GPCRs). GPCRs function similar like our mobile phones to communicate and interact with external world. Our results suggest that despite ~50% transmembrane alpha-helices changes, water-soluble QTY variants still maintain stable structures and biological function, namely, ligand-binding activities. Our simple QTY code is a likely useful tool and has big impact for designs of water-soluble variants of previously water-insoluble and perhaps aggregated proteins such as liver cirrhosis and eye diseases as well as amyloids commonly found in many neurological diseases,.

Shuguang Zhang in 1990 made a serendipitous discovery of a self-assembling peptide in yeast protein Zuotin in 1990. This is discovery of the first self-assembling peptides that eventually led to the development of a new field of peptide nanobiotecnology. Furthermore, his discovery inspired numerous people around the world to design a variety of self-assembling peptides for wide spread uses including peptide hydrogels in materials science, 3D tissue cell culture and tissue engineering, nanomedicine, sustained molecular releases, clinical and surgical applications. He co-founded a startup company 3DMatrix that brings the self-assembling peptide materials to human clinical and surgical uses.

Recent Work