Peijun Zhang


Peijun is the Director of the electron Bio-Imaging Centre (eBIC).

Tel: +44 (0) 1235 77 8878

Key Research Area

Other Specialist Areas

  • cryoEM
  • cryoET
  • Biophysics
  • Cell Biology
  • Pathogen Biology
  • Diffraction
  • Microscopy


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  1. Research Expertise
  2. Collaborations
  3. Publications
  4. Bio
Research Expertise -

Current Research Interests

Image Current Research Interests

My research programme is aimed to obtain an integrated, atomistic understanding of the molecular mechanisms of large viral and cellular protein complexes and assemblies by developing novel technologies for high-resolution cryoEM, with advanced, complementary methods for biological analysis and computational modeling, as such large systems have challenged the limits of structural biology methods.
We are currently focused on the following three main research areas:

1. HIV-1 pathogenesis: capsid assembly, maturation, and interactions with host cell factors
2. Mechanisms of signal transduction and transmission in bacterial chemotaxis
3. Develop and apply novel technologies in high resolution cryoEM

My research at Diamond focuses
on CryoEM technology development. Driven by biological inquiries, I aim to develop tools and cutting-edge technologies, such as those inspired by bottlenecks that I have had to overcome, towards 1) near-atomic resolution in molecular cryoET by sub-tomogram averaging, and 2) 3D protein localization in the cellular cryoET, and to apply these technologies to rapidly advance towards a clearer understanding of the intricate interplay between pathogens and host cells. These efforts will have a broad impact well beyond my own research.

My other research activities involve human pathogens, such as HIV-1 and pathogenic bacterial cells. In particular, I am interested in HIV-1 capsid assmebly, maturation and its interactions with host cellular factors that inhibit or enhance viral infectivity, as well as the remarkable bacterial chemotaxis sensory signaling arrays that are crucial for colonization and infection. Understanding the structural details of these large systems, at atomic level, is critical for developing new antimicrobial and antiHIV/AIDS drugs.
Collaborations - +

Selection of Collaborations

Vanderbilt University, United States
Professor Christopher Aiken (Department of Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology)
HIV-1 virology
I am involved in the structures HIV-1 and host protein complexes


Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, United States
Professor Alan Engelman,
Medicine, Harvard Medical School
Cancer Immunology and Virology

University of California, Riverside, United States
Professor Roya Zandi (Department of Physics and Astronomy)
Computational modeling
I am involved in structural analysis of HIV-1 maturation process.

Publications - +

10 key publications

FYI : # corresponding Author

1. Ning J., Erdemci-Tandogan G., Yufenyuy E.L., Wagner J., Himes B.A., Zhao G., Aiken C., Zandi R. and Zhang P.# (2016) In vitro Protease Cleavage and Computer Simulations Reveal the HIV-1 Capsid Maturation Pathway. Nat Commun.
DOI: 10.1038/ncomms13689

2. Yang M., Chan H., Zhao G., Bahng J.H., Zhang P.#, Petr Král P. and Kotov N.A. (2016) Self-assembly of Nanoparticles into Biomimetic Capsid-like Nanoshells Nat Chemistry, Nature
DOI: 10.1038/nchem.264

3. Liu C., Perilla J. R., Ning J., Lu M., Hou G., Ramalho R., Bedwell G., Byeon I., Ahn J., Gronenborn A. M., Prevelige P., Rousso I., Aiken, C., Polenova T., Schulten K. and Zhang P.# (2016) Cyclophilin A Stabilizes the HIV-1 Capsid through a Novel Non-canonical Binding Site. Nat Commun 7: 10714.
DOI: 10.1038/ncomms10714

4. Lu M., Hou G., Zhang H., Suiter C.L., Ahn J., Byeon I.L., Perilla J.R., Langmead C., Hung I., Gorkov P.L., Gan Z., Brey W., Aiken C., Zhang P., Schulten K., Gronenborn A.M. and Polenova T. (2015) Dynamic Allostery Governs Cyclophylin A - HIV Capsid Interplay. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 112(47):14617-22.
DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1516920112

5. Cassidy C. K, Himes B. A., Alvarez F. J., Ma J., Zhao G., Perilla J. R., Schulten K. and Zhang P.# (2015) CryoEM and Computer Simulations Reveal a Novel Kinase Conformational Switch in Bacterial Chemotaxis Signaling. Elife. 2015 Nov 19;4. pii: e08419.
DOI: 10.7554/eLife.08419.

6. Fu X., Himes B., Ke D., Rice W.J., Ning J. and Zhang P.# (2014) Controlled Bacterial Lysis for Electron Tomography of Native Cell Membranes. Structure 22(12):1875-82.

7. Fribourgh J.L., Nguyen H.C., Matreyek K.A., Alvarez F.J., Summers B.J., Dewdney T.G., Aiken C., Zhang P., Engelman A. and Xiong Y. (2014). Structural Insight into HIV-1 Restriction by MxB. Cell Host & Microbe 16(5):627-38.

8. Park J., Nguyen T.D., Silveira G.Q., Bahng J.H., Srivastava S., Zhao G., Sun K., Zhang P., Sharon C. Glotzer S.C. and Kotov N.A. (2014). Terminal Supraparticle Assemblies from Similarly Charged Protein Molecules and Nanoparticles. Nat Commun 5:3593.
DOI: 10.1038/ncomms4593

9. Zhao G., Perilla J.R., Yufenyuy E.L., Meng X., Chen B., Ning J., Ahn J., Gronenborn A.M., Schulten K., Aiken C. and Zhang P.# (2013) Mature HIV-1 Capsid Structure by Cryo-electron Microscopy and All-atom Molecular Dynamics. Nature 497(7451):643-6. Featured on the Nature Cover. Cited 320 times, highlighted by over a hundred global news outlets including BBC News and U.S. News.

10. Yeom J., Yeom B., Chan H., Smith K.W., Dominguez-Medina S., Bahng J.H., Zhao G., Chang W., Chang S.J., Chuvilin A., Melnikau D., Rogach A.L., Zhang P., Link S., Král P. and Kotov N.A. (2015) Chiral Templating of Self-Assembling Nanostructures by Circularly Polarized Light. Nat Mater 14(1):66-72.
DOI: doi:10.1038/nmat4125

Bio - +

Dr. Peijun Zhang obtained her Ph.D. in molecular biophysics from University Virginia, M.S. in physics and B.S. in electrical engineering from Nanjing University. She carried out postdoctoral work at the National Cancer Institute. In 2006, she joined the faculty at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine as an assistant professor, and was promoted to associate professor in 2012. Her research focuses on the structural and functional studies of large molecular complexes and assemblies, viruses and cellular machineries using integrated structural, biochemical and computational approaches to understand biological complexity. Dr. Zhang received many awards, including the Carnegie Science Emerging Female Scientist Award, Senior Vice Chancellor’s Award, United States Department of Health and Human Services “On-the-Spot” Award.

Her role at Diamond, as the Director of eBIC, is establishing and leading eBIC to become a world-leading center for research, expertise and training in cryoEM and a user facility providing access to cutting-edge cryoEM technologies. eBIC focuses on using state-of-the-art electron microscopic techniques to determine the 3D structures of molecules, cells and tissues at high resolution, as well as developing new methods and technologies to advance 3D EM imaging.