Wei Yang, Ph.D.

NIH Distinguished Investigator

Laboratory of Molecular Biology


Building 5, Room B107
5 Memorial Dr
Bethesda, MD 20814

+1 301 402 4645


Research Topics

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.


  • 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

Selected Publications

  1. Gao Y, Yang W. Capture of a third Mg²⁺ is essential for catalyzing DNA synthesis. Science. 2016;352(6291):1334-7.

  2. Kim MS, Chuenchor W, Chen X, Cui Y, Zhang X, Zhou ZH, Gellert M, Yang W. Cracking the DNA Code for V(D)J Recombination. Mol Cell. 2018;70(2):358-370.e4.

  3. Gao Y, Cui Y, Fox T, Lin S, Wang H, de Val N, Zhou ZH, Yang W. Structures and operating principles of the replisome. Science. 2019;363(6429).

  4. Samara NL, Yang W. Cation trafficking propels RNA hydrolysis. Nat Struct Mol Biol. 2018;25(8):715-721.

  5. Wu J, Samara NL, Kuraoka I, Yang W. Evolution of Inosine-Specific Endonuclease V from Bacterial DNase to Eukaryotic RNase. Mol Cell. 2019.

This page was last updated on November 19th, 2019