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. Nakamura T, Zhao Y, Yamagata Y, Hua YJ, Yang W. Watching DNA polymerase η make a phosphodiester bond. Nature. 2012;487(7406):196-201.

  3. Gupta S, Gellert M, Yang W. Mechanism of mismatch recognition revealed by human MutSβ bound to unpaired DNA loops. Nat Struct Mol Biol. 2011;19(1):72-8.

  4. Zhao Y, Biertümpfel C, Gregory MT, Hua YJ, Hanaoka F, Yang W. Structural basis of human DNA polymerase η-mediated chemoresistance to cisplatin. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2012;109(19):7269-74.

  5. Lee YS, Gao Y, Yang W. How a homolog of high-fidelity replicases conducts mutagenic DNA synthesis. Nat Struct Mol Biol. 2015;22(4):298-303.

This page was last updated on June 25th, 2019