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Qiandao Lake

Posted on: 2021-12-20 14:38

    The College of Life Sciences of Zhejiang University and Shanghai Institute of Advanced Study of Zhejiang University (SIAS) jointly held the Qiandao Lake Seminar on Design and Application of Ultrasensitive Molecular Machines on September 25-26, 2021 at Qiandao Lake Garden Hotel in Chun'an. Dr. Liquan Huang, Professor from the College of Life Sciences of Zhejiang University and Jointly-Appointed Professor from SIAS hosted the meeting, and Dr. Ruhong Zhou, Dean of SIAS, gave an opening speech on Computing+ and Biomedicine. A total of 40 faculty members and students attended the workshop, of which seven were invited to give presentations.

    Dr. Zhou first gave a brief introduction to the background and development of AI and its broad application in the biomedical field. In particular, he mentioned AlphaFold, an AI system developed by DeepMind that can predict protein structure and has recently caused a stir in the scientific community. Next, he highlighted the application of IBM Watson for Genomics in cancer diagnosis using the case of a Japanese patient. Finally, Dr. Zhou explained two examples: one on the screening and design of sweeteners and the other on the design of a drug for citrus greening disease in orange trees, which demonstrate the broad application of high-performance computing and artificial intelligence in drug design.
    Then, Dr. Saisai Zhang from Dr. Huang's team gave a presentation on Expression and Structure of Human Olfactory Taste Receptors in Mammalian Cells. Traditionally, taste can be divided into five basic tastes - sweet, salty, sour, bitter and fresh. Humans use different taste receptors to distinguish different tastes. Bitter taste receptors, for example, are not only distributed in the cells of the taste buds, but are also expressed and play an important role in various organs throughout the body. There are many bitter taste receptors in the human body, but they bind to ligands in very different ways. Is this related to their own structure? Her research focuses on the structure of taste receptor proteins for olfaction and hopes to answer these questions.

    Dr. Xie Teng from Dr. Zhou's team gave a talk on the research on Modeling of Human Bitter Taste Receptor Protein and Small Molecule Docking, which plays a key role in cellular expression and activation of innate immunity outside the oral cavity, but its structure is not yet well understood. His work on the structure of the human bitter taste receptor using modeling and molecular dynamics simulations may provide the molecular basis for the future discovery of new mechanisms of immune activation.
    Yihong Li, a PhD candinate in Dr. Huang's team, gave a presentation titled Cluster Cell Genesis and Role in Lung Injury and Repair. Contrary to what one might think, the expression of taste receptors actually extends far beyond the tongue and mouth. They include chemoreceptor-expressing chemosensory cells (i.e., cluster cells) that are widely distributed in the respiratory tract. They are thought to be sensors of various types of chemical signals and play a role in immunity and disease. Their work is based on the finding that cluster cells are not present in the lungs of healthy humans and mice, but are produced in H1N1-induced lung injury, the exact function of which is still unknown.

    After that, Dr. Yong Wang, a new member from Dr. Zhou’s group, gave a presentation on Study on the Mechanism of Molecular Motor of Bacterial Flagellum--A Precise Nano-machine in the Microscopic World, in which he systematically investigated the rotation mechanism of bacterial flagellar membrane protein using multiscale computational methods, revealed the pathway of ion transport and the mechanism of torque generation, and provided a theoretical basis and new ideas for antibacterial drug development and nano-biorobot design.
    Xinyi Zhang, a PhD candidate in Dr. Huang's team, shared his thoughts on Analysis of Global RNA Viruses in Deep-sea Sediments. In it, he presented the results of relative research to date, including the distribution of global marine RNA viruses, the proportion of known and unknown RNA viruses found. He also concluded that the deep sea is a potential habitat for RNA viruses that deserves in-depth exploration and research.
    The seminar ended with a great final presentation by Dr. Huang on Signaling Pathways in Cluster Cells. His team was the first in the world to isolate genes related to sweetness, freshness, and bitterness through single-cell gene transcriptome analysis, discovered the expression of immune-related genes in taste bud cells, and revealed the overlap between the immune system and the taste system. The team found an increase in cluster cells in the gut when mice were infected with a nematode parasite called Trichinella. Their work draws on a variety of experimental evidence to show that cluster cells express bitter taste receptors and other transduction proteins associated with taste signals, demonstrating that taste receptors are important not only for taste perception but also for other organs in the body. The research provides an important scientific basis for a comprehensive understanding of taste receptor function.

    During this successful seminar, participants engaged in lively discussion, brought forward many ideas on molecular machine design, and gained new insights into the various research directions and research advances of other researchers.

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