Assistant Professor, Department of Biochemistry/Redox Biology Center
Limei Zhang joined UNL in 2015, after completing her Ph.D. training in the University of Saskatchewan and postdoc training at the California Institute of Technology. Her research focuses on the structure-function relationships of transition metal-bound proteins (metalloproteins) in the host - pathogen interactions. Transition metals are used as a powerful tool of attack and defense for both hosts and pathogens owing to their versatile reactivity. To survive and thrive in the host, bacterial pathogens have evolved complex systems for acquiring, regulating and utilizing metals for their physiological functions and for defense against redox assaults launched by the host immune system. Such systems are promising targets for new antimicrobial therapies because of their imperative roles in the survival and virulence of the pathogens. To fully leverage the mechanisms of transition metal and metalloproteins usage in host-pathogen interactions into active drug design, a fuller understanding of the molecular details of these interactions and the action mechanisms of potential drugs targeting either essential metalloproteins or metal homeostasis is required. For this reason, the research in the Zhang group is devoted to fill the knowledge gap in this regard with current focus on the structure-function relationships of Fe-based redox sensors in Mycobacterium tuberculosis. The Zhang group aims to fill this knowledge gap by using biophysical and genetic approaches to define action mechanisms of these sensors, which will pave the way for designing drugs and/or strategies to interrupt functional Fe-based redox sensors in the pathogens.