Francisco Asturias, PhD


Francisco Asturias

Contact Information

Fax: (303) 724-1624

Many essential cellular processes are carried out by "macromolecular machines", large assemblies that include tens of different proteins, each contributing in a specific manner to the structure and function of the machine. Characterization of these intricate macromolecular complexes using a combination of techniques constitutes the next frontier in structural biology.

Despite including many different proteins, macromolecular complexes often display minimal enzymatic activity. This suggests that conformational changes and interactions are fundamental to their molecular mechanism. My group uses cryo-electron microscopy to characterize the structure, conformational states and interactions of macromolecular complexes involved in essential cellular processes. We correlate that structural information with biochemical and functional data to establish the mechanism of these remarkable cellular machines.

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PicturesFirst NameLast NameJob TitleEmail
Naseer IqbalNaseerIqbalPostdoctoral 
Jiaqin (Jenny) LiJenny (Jiaqin)LiPostdoctoral
Russell McFarlandRussellMcFarlandCore Manager -
Haiyan ZhaoHaiyanZhaoSenior Research 


Tsai, K.L., Tomomori-Sato, C., Sato, S., Conaway, R.C., Conaway, J.W., and Asturias, F.J. 2014. Subunit architecture and functional modular rearrangements of the transcriptional Mediator complex

Cell 157:1430-1444.


Minnihan, E.C., Ando, N., Brignole, E.J., Olshansky, L., Chittuluru, J., Asturias, F.J., Drennan, C.L., Nocera, D.G., Stubbe, J. 2013. Generation of a stable, aminotyrosyl radical-induced α2β2 complex of E. coli class Ia ribonucleotide reductase.

Proc Nat Acad Sci USA 110:3835-3840.

Tsai, K.L., Sato, S., Tomomori-Sato, C., Conaway, R.C., Conaway, J.W., and Asturias, F.J. 2013. A conserved Mediator–CDK8 kinase module association regulates Mediator–RNA polymerase II interaction

Nat Struct Mol Biol 20:611-619.

Lai YT, Tsai KL, Sawaya MR, Asturias FJ, Yeates TO. Structure and flexibility of nanoscale protein cages designed by symmetric self-assembly 2013

J Am Chem Soc 135:7738-43.


Cai, G., Chaban, Y., Imasaki, T., Kovacs, J.A., Calero, G., Penczek, P.A., Takagi, Y., and Asturias, F.J. 2012. Interaction of the Mediator Head module with RNA polymerase II

Structure 20:899-910.

[Additional information]

Gibbons, B.J., Brignole, E.J., Azubel, M., Murakami, K., Voss, N.R., Bushnell, D. Asturias, F.J., and Kornberg, R.D. 2012. Subunit Architecture of General Transcription Factor TFIIH

Proc Nat Acad Sci U S A 109:1949-1954.

[Additional information]

Yang, Z., Fang, J., Chittuluru, J., Xu, F. Asturias, F.J., and Penczek, P.A. 2012. Iterative stable alignment and clustering of 2D transmission electron microscope images

Structure 20:237-247.

[Additional information]

Zimanyi, C.M., Ando, N., Brignole, E.J., Asturias, F.J., Stubbe, J, Drennan, C.L..2012. Tangled up in knots – Structures of inactivated forms of Escherichia coli class Ia Ribonucleotide Reductase

Structure 20:1374-1383.

[Additional information]

Aye Y., Brignole, E.J., Long, M.J., Chittuluru, J., Drennan, C.L., Asturias, F.J., Stubbe, J. 2012. Clofarabine targets the large subunit (α) of human ribonucleotide reductase in live cells by assembly into persistent hexamers

Chem Biol 19:799-805.

[Additional information]


Chittuluru, J.R., Chaban, Y., Monnet-Saksouk, J., Carrozza, M.J., Sapountzi, V., Selleck, W., Huang, J., Utley, R.T., Cramet, M., Allard, S., Cai, G., Workman, J.L., Fried, M.G., Tan, S., Côté, J., and. Asturias, F.J. 2011. Structure and nucleosome interaction of the yeast NuA4 and Piccolo-NuA4 histone acetyltransferase complexes

Nat Struct Mol Biol 18:1196-203.

[Additional information]

Imasaki, T, Calero, G, Cai, G, Tsai,K-L, Yamada, K, Cardelli, F, Erdjument-Bromage, H, Tempst, P, Berger, I, Lorch Kornberg, G, Asturias, FJ, Kornberg, RD, and Takagi, Y. 2011. Architecture of the Mediator head module. Nature,

Nature 475:240-243.

[Additional information]

Wang, W., Perovic, I., Chittuluru, J., Kaganovich, A., Nguyen, L.T., Liao, J., Auclair, J.R., Johnson, D., Landeru A., Simorellis, A.M., Ju, S., Cookson, M.R., Asturias, F.J., Agar, J.N., Webb, B.N., Kang, C., Ringe, D., Petsko, G.A., Pochapsky, T.C., and Hoang, Q.Q. 2011. A soluble α-synuclein construct forms a dynamic tetramer

Proc Nat Acad Sci U S A 108:17797-802.

[Additional information]

Ando, N., Brignole, E.J., Stock, C.M., Funk, M.A., Yokoyama, K., Asturias, F.J., Stubbe, J., Drennan, C. 2011. Structural interconversions modulate activity of E. coli ribonucleotide reductase

Proc Nat Acad Sci U S A 108:21046-51.

[Additional information]


Cai, G., Imasaki, T., Yamada, K., Cardelli, F., Takagi, Y. and F.J. Asturias 2010. Mediator Head module Structure and Functional Interactions

[Additional information]

Nat Struct Mol Biol 17:273-279.

Lee, J.H., Cai, G, Panigrahi, A., Dunham-Ems, S., Nguyen, T.N., Radolf, J.A., Asturias, F.J. and Günzl, A. 2010. TFIIH-associated mediator head is a basal factor of small nuclear spliced leader RNA gene transcription in early-diverged trypanosomes

Mol Cell Biol 30: 5502-5513.

Opalka, N., Brown, J. Lane, W.J., Twist, K-A .F., Landick, R., Asturias, F.J. and Darst., S.A. 2010. Complete structural model of Escherichia coli RNA polymerase from a hybrid approach

PloS Biol 8: 1-16.


Cai, G., Imasaki, T., Takagi, Y. and F.J. Asturias 2009. Mediator structural conservation and implications for the regulation mechanism

Structure 17:559-567.

Brignole, E.J., Smith, S., and F.J. Asturias 2009. Conformational Flexibility of Metazoan Fatty Acid Synthase Enables Catalysis

Nat Struct Mol Biol 16:190-197

Asturias F.J. 2009. TFIID: A closer look highlights its complexity

Structure 17:1323-1324.


Chaban, Y.L., Ezeokonkwo, C., Chung, W.H., Zhang, F., Kornberg, R.D., Maier-Davis, B., Lorch, Y., and F.J. Asturias 2008. Structure of a RSC-Nucleosome Complex and Insights into Chromatin Remodeling

Nat Struct Mol Biol 15:1272-1277.

Fuxreiter, M., Tompa, P., Simon, I., Uversky, V.N., Hansen, J.C., and F.J. Asturias 2008. Malleable machines take shape in eukaryotic transcriptional regulation

Nat Chem Biol 4:728-737.

Shaikh, T.R., Gao, H., Baxter, W.T., Asturias, F.J., Boisset, N., Leith, A., and J. Frank 2008. SPIDER Image Processing for Single-Particle Reconstruction of Biological Macromolecules from Electron Micrographs

Nat Protocols 3:1941-1974.

Yang, C., Penczek, P., Leith, A., Asturias, F., J., Ng, E. G., Glaeser, R. M., and J. Frank 2008. The Parallelization of SPIDER on Distributed-Memory Computers Using MPI.

J Struct Biol 157:240-249.


Takagi Y., Guillermo C., Komori H., Brown J.A., Ehrensberger A.H., Hudmon A., Asturias F.J., and R.D. Kornberg 2006. Head Module Control of Mediator Interactions

Mol Cell 23:355-364.

Asturias, F.J., Cheung, I., Sabouri, N., Chilkova, O., Wepplo, D., and E. Johansson 2006. Structure of Saccharomyces cerevisiae DNA polymerase epsilon by cryo-electron microscopy

Nat Struct Mol Biol 13:35-43.

Asturias, F. J. 2006. Mammalian Fatty Acid Synthase: X-ray Structure of a Molecular Assembly Line

ACS Chem Biol 1:135-138.


Takagi, Y., Chadick, J.Z., Davis, J.A., and F.J. Asturias 2005. Preponderance of free Mediator in the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae

J Biol Chem. 280:31200-31207.

Chadick, J. Z. and F.J. Asturias 2005. Structure of eukaryotic Mediator complexes

Trends in Biochem Sci. 30:264-271.

Asturias, F. J., Chadick, J. Z., Cheung, I. K., Stark, H., Witkowski, A., Joshi, A. K. and S. Smith 2005. Structure and molecular organization of mammalian fatty acid synthase

Nat Struct Mol Biol. 12:225-232.


F.J. Asturias 2004. RNA polymerase II structure, and organization of the preinitiation complex

Curr Opin Struct Biol. 14:121-129.

Bourbon, H.M., et al. 2004. A unified nomenclature for protein subunits of mediator complexes linking transcriptional regulators to RNA polymerase II

Mol Cell. 14:553-557.

Witkowski, A., Ghosal, A., Joshi, A. K., Witkowska, H. E., Asturias, F. J. and S. Smith 2004. Head-to-head coiled arrangement of the subunits of the animal fatty acid synthase

Chem Biol. 11:1667-1676.

F.J. Asturias 2004. Another piece in the transcription initation puzzle

Nat Struct Mol Biol. 11:1031-1033.


Asturias, F.J., and J.L. Craighead 2003. RNA polymerase II at initiation

PNAS. 100:6893-6895.

Chung, W.H., Craighead, J.L., Chang, W.H., Ezeokonkwo, C., Bareket-Samish, A., Kornberg, R.D., and F.J. Asturias 2003. RNA Polymerase II/TFIIF Structure and Conserved Organization of the Initiation Complex

Mol Cell. 12:1003-1013.


Asturias, F. J., Ezeokonkwo, C., Kornberg, R. D. and Y. Lorch 2002. Electron microscopic analysis of the RSC chromatin remodeling complex

Meth Enzymol. 376:48-62.

Asturias, F. J., Chung, W. H., Kornberg, R. D. and Y. Lorch 2002. Structural analysis of the RSC chromatin-remodeling complex

PNAS. 99:13477-13480.

Joshua A. Davis, Yuichiro Takagi, Roger D. Kornberg, and F. J. Asturias 2002. Structure of the yeast RNA polymerase II holoenzyme: Mediator conformation and polymerase interaction

Mol Cell. 10:409-415.

Craighead, J., Chang, W. and F.J. Asturias 2002. Structure of Yeast RNA Polymerase II in Solution. Implications for Enzyme Regulation and Interaction with Promoter DNA

Structure (Camb). 10:1117-1125.


Dotson, M. R., Yuan, C. X., Roeder, R. G., Myers, L. C., Gustafsson, C. M., Jiang, Y. W., Li, Y., Kornberg, R. D. and F.J. Asturias 2000. Structural organization of yeast and mammalian mediator complexes

PNAS. 97:14307-14310.


Asturias, F.J., Y.W. Jiang, L.C. Myers, C.M. Gustafsson and R.D. Kornberg 1999. Conserved structures of mediator and RNA polymerase II holoenzyme

Science. 283:985-987.

Asturias, F.J. and R.D. Kornberg. 1999. Protein crystallization on lipid layers and structure determination of the RNA polymerase II transcription initiation complex

J. Biol. Chem.. 274:6813-6816.


Asturias F.J., W. Chang, Y. Li and R.D. Kornberg. 1997. Electron cyrstallography of yeast RNA polymerase II preserved in vitreous ice

Ultramicroscopy. 70:133-143.

Asturias, F.J., G.D. Meredith, C.L. Poglitsch and R.D. Kornberg. 1997. Two conformations of RNA polymerase I I revealed by electron crystallography

J. Mol. Biol. 272:536-540.

Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics

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