Faculty & Research

Molecular Biology Faculty

Frederick M. Hughson

Professor of Molecular Biology

Fred Hughson

lab Hughson Research Lab
Phone (609) 258-4982
locationSchultz Laboratory, 215
Phone Lab (609) 258-5069
Faculty Assistant
Anna Schmedel
Phone (609) 258-5028


Research Focus

Intracellular Trafficking

One major focus of the research in my group is to understand the protein machinery that generates the interior architecture of cells by guiding the movement and fusion of intracellular transport vesicles. All eukaryotic cells contain a profusion of membrane-bounded compartments. Traffic among these compartments is brisk. Cargo is transported in membrane vesicles that bud from one compartment, travel through the cell, and deliver their contents by fusing with another compartment. Underlying this intricate choreography is a set of proteins and protein complexes responsible for the creation, movement, docking, and fusion of vesicles. Our lab seeks to understand the design principles that endow these protein nanomachines with the ability to manipulate membrane vesicles, thereby powering a bustling intracellular transportation network.

Several of our current projects involve structural and mechanistic studies of large multi-subunit protein complexes that orchestrate the docking and fusion of transport vesicles. These complexes guide cargo-laden vesicles to their destinations and coordinate the activities of other components of the trafficking machinery, including the 'SNARE' proteins that catalyze membrane fusion itself. We are investigating the structure and function of these complexes using an array of technologies including x-ray crystallography, electron microscopy, site-directed mutagenesis, in vitro reconstitution, and a suite of spectroscopic techniques.

The initial recognition between a vesicle and its membrane target, on the other hand, is mediated by large protein complexes called tethering factors. Tethering factors act upstream of SNARE complex assembly and play key roles in determining the specificity of trafficking. Because little is known about the structures of tethering factors or the mechanism(s) by which they act, we have recently initiated biochemical and biophysical studies of these key protein complexes.

Quorum Sensing

A second major focus within our group is bacteria, and the remarkable finding that these single-celled organisms communicate with one another by emitting and receiving small-molecule signals. We are interested in cataloging the signal molecules and in understanding their biosynthesis and detection. Moreover, since bacteria often respond to these signals in undesirable ways – like forming antibiotic-resistant biofilms or mounting an attack on a human host – we are interested in discovering and characterizing molecules that interfere with bacterial communication. We are investigating these issues using a range of biochemical and biophysical approaches. For example, we are attempting to determine the crystal structures of the enzymes responsible for synthesizing the signal molecules, and of the receptors responsible for detecting them. We have also begun to identify antagonists – molecules that inhibit signaling – and we are interested in using biochemical and structural methods to figure out how they work and how they might be improved by rational design. Finally, in collaboration with other Princeton labs in the molecular biology, chemistry, and physics departments, we are trying to understand how bacteria integrate the information they receive via multiple different signal molecules to craft an appropriate response.

Selected Publications

Suckling RJ, Poon PP, ... Hughson FM, Evans PR, Duden R, Owen DJ. (2015) Structural basis for the binding of tryptophan-based motifs by δ-COP. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 112(46):14242-7. Pubmed

Baker RW, Jeffrey PD, Zick M, Phillips BP, Wickner WT, Hughson FM. (2015) A direct role for the Sec1/Munc18-family protein Vps33 as a template for SNARE assembly. Science. 349(6252): 1111-4. Pubmed

Rogers JV, McMahon C, Baryshnikova A, Hughson FM, Rose MD. (2014) ER-associated retrograde SNAREs and the Dsl1 complex mediate an alternative, Sey1p-independent homotypic ER fusion pathway. Mol Biol Cell. 25: 3401-12. Pubmed

Ha JY, Pokrovskaya ID, Climer LK,...Hughson FM. (2014) Cog5-Cog7 crystal structure reveals interactions essential for the function of a multisubunit tethering complex. Proc Natl Acad Sci. 111: 15762-7. Pubmed

Bharucha N, Liu Y, Papanikou E,...Hughson FM, Glick BS. (2013) Sec16 influences transitional ER sites by regulating rather than organizing COPII. Mol Biol Cell. 24: 3406-19. Pubmed

Baker RW, Jeffrey PD, Hughson FM. (2013) Crystal structures of the Sec1/Munc18 (SM) protein Vps33, alone and bound to the homotypic fusion and vacuolar protein sorting (HOPS) subunit Vps16. PLoS One. 8: e67409. Pubmed

Hughson FM. (20130) Neuroscience. Chaperones that SNARE neurotransmitter release. Science. 339: 406-07. Pubmed

McMahon C, Studer SM, Clendinen C, Dann GP, Jeffrey PD, Hughson FM. (2012) The structure of Sec12 implicates potassium ion coordination in Sar1 activation. J Biol Chem. 287: 43599-606. Pubmed

Chen G, Swem LR, Swem DL,...Hughson FM. (2011) A strategy for antagonizing quorum sensing. Mol Cell. 42: 199-209. PubMed

Lees JA, Yip CK, Walz T, Hughson FM. (2010) Molecular organization of the COG vesicle tethering complex. Nat Struct Mol Biol. 17: 1292-97. PubMed

Yu IM, Hughson FM. (2010) Tethering factors as organizers of intracellular vesicular traffic. Annu Rev Cell Dev Biol. 26: 137-56. PubMed

Hughson FM. (2010) Copy coats: COPI mimics clathrin and COPII. Cell. 142: 19-21. PubMed

Hughson FM, Reinisch KM. (2010) Structure and mechanism in membrane trafficking. Curr Opin Cell Biol. 22: 454-60. PubMed

Ren Y, Yip CK, Tripathi A,...Hughson FM. (2009) A structure-based mechanism for vesicle capture by the multisubunit tethering complex Dsl1. Cell. 139: 1119-29. PubMed

Kelly RC, Bolitho ME, Higgins DA,...Hughson FM, Bassler BL. (2009) The Vibrio cholerae quorum-sensing autoinducer CAI-1: analysis of the biosynthetic enzyme CqsA. Nat Chem Biol. 5: 891-95. PubMed

Richardson BC, Smith RD, Ungar D,...Hughson FM. (2009) Structural basis for a human glycosylation disorder caused by mutation of the COG4 gene. Proc Natl Acad Sci. 106: 13329-34. PubMed

Tripathi A, Ren Y, Jeffrey PD, Hughson FM. (2009) Structural characterization of Tip20p and Dsl1p, subunits of the Dsl1p vesicle tethering complex. Nat Struct Mol Biol. 16: 114-23. PubMed

Hughson FM. (2008) Both layers of the COPII coat come into view. Cell. 134: 384-85. PubMed

Neiditch MB, Hughson FM. (2007) The regulation of histidine sensor kinase complexes by quorum sensing signal molecules. Methods Enzymol. 423: 250-63. PubMed

Cavanaugh LF, Chen X, Richardson BC,...Hughson FM. (2007) Structural analysis of conserved oligomeric golgi complex subunit 2. J Biol Chem. 282: 23418-26. PubMed

Neiditch MB, Federle MJ, Pompeani AJ,...Hughson FM. (2006) Ligand-induced asymmetry in histidine sensor kinase complex regulates quorum sensing. Cell. 126: 1095-108. PubMed

Ungar D, Oka T, Krieger M, Hughson FM. (2006) Retrograde transport on the COG railway. Trends Cell Biol. 16: 113-20. PubMed

Ungar D, Oka T, Vasile E, Krieger M, Hughson FM. (2005) Subunit architecture of the conserved oligomeric Golgi complex. J Biol Chem. 280: 32729-35. PubMed

Oka T, Vasile E, Penman M,...Hughson FM, Krieger M. (2005) Genetic analysis of the subunit organization and function of the conserved oligomeric golgi (COG) complex: studies of COG5- and COG7-deficient mammalian cells. J Biol Chem. 280: 32736-45. PubMed

Neiditch MB, Federle MJ, Miller ST, Bassler BL, Hughson FM. (2005) Regulation of LuxPQ receptor activity by the quorum-sensing signal autoinducer-2. Mol Cell. 18: 507-18. PubMed

Oka T, Ungar D, Hughson FM, Krieger M. (2004) The COG and COPI complexes interact to control the abundance of GEARs, a subset of Golgi integral membrane proteins. Mol Biol Cell. 15: 2423-35. PubMed

Miller ST, Xavier KB, Campagna SR,...Hughson FM. (2004) Salmonella typhimurium recognizes a chemically distinct form of the bacterial quorum-sensing signal AI-2. Mol Cell. 15: 677-87. PubMed

Zweifel ME, Leahy DJ, Hughson FM, Barrick D. (2003) Structure and stability of the ankyrin domain of the Drosophila Notch receptor. Protein Sci. 12: 2622-32. PubMed

Ungar D, Hughson FM. (2003) SNARE protein structure and function. Annu Rev Cell Dev Biol. 19: 493-517. PubMed

Munson M, Hughson FM. (2002) Conformational regulation of SNARE assembly and disassembly in vivo. J Biol Chem. 277: 9375-81. PubMed

Chen X, Schauder S, Potier N,...Hughson FM. (2002) Structural identification of a bacterial quorum-sensing signal containing boron. Nature. 415: 545-49. PubMed

Barrick D, Hughson FM. (2002) Irreversible assembly of membrane fusion machines. Nat Struct Biol. 9: 78-80. PubMed

Related Faculty/Research News


Upcoming Events

Wed, Sep 14, 2016

Tue, Sep 20, 2016

Wed, Sep 28, 2016

Contact Us

Lewis Thomas Laboratory at Princeton University

119 Lewis Thomas Laboratory
Washington Road, Princeton, NJ  08544-1014

Need help? Contact us

Fax: (609) 258-3980
Website:  molbio.princeton.edu