Christian Kaiser

Christian Kaiser

Associate Professor

Dr. rer. nat. (PhD), Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität, Munich; Germany Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry, Martinsried, Germany

205 Biology East
Group/Lab Website

Christian Kaiser joined the Department of Biology in 2013 as assistant professor. He holds a joint appointment in the Department of Biophysics, as well as in the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine Department of Biophysics and Biophysical Chemistry. Prior to coming to Hopkins, he did postdoctoral work at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, and the University of California, Berkeley.

Our lab is interested in learning how cells make and maintain functional proteins. Protein biogenesis involves a variety of processes: Translation of the genetic code by the ribosome, targeting of the translation product to the proper cellular location, and folding into its native structure, often aided by molecular chaperones. We want to understand—at a mechanistic level—the molecular machines that synthesize, transport, and fold proteins. Knowing the molecular mechanisms will help us understand how these processes are tuned and synchronized.

We use optical tweezers to watch and manipulate the molecular machines involved in protein biogenesis. This single molecule approach helps us to overcome some of the challenges associated with studying these machines and the processes they carry out. Using reconstituted components, we are studying how the ribosome and the nascent chain interact with each other, how molecular chaperones affect protein folding and structural maintenance, and how the translocon helps polypeptides cross membranes and become functional. Ultimately, this will enable us to understand how cells obtain and maintain a functional proteome.

Bustamante, C., Alexander, L., Maciuba, K. & Kaiser C. M. (2020). Single-Molecule Studies of Protein Folding with Optical Tweezers.Annual Review of Biochemistryin press

Liu, K., Chen, X., & Kaiser, C. M. (2019). Energetic dependencies dictate folding mechanism in a complex protein. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 116(51), 25641–25648. 

Liu, K., Maciuba, K., & Kaiser, C. M. (2019). The Ribosome Cooperates with a Chaperone to Guide Multi-domain Protein Folding. Molecular Cell, 74(2), 310-319.e7. 

Kaiser, C. M., & Liu, K. (2018). Folding up and Moving on—Nascent Protein Folding on the Ribosome. Journal of Molecular Biology, 430(22), 4580–4591. 

Liu, K., Rehfus, J. E., Mattson, E., & Kaiser, C. M. (2017). The ribosome destabilizes native and non-native structures in a nascent multidomain protein. Protein Science, 26(7), 1439–1451. 

Motlagh, H. N., Toptygin, D., Kaiser, C. M., & Hilser, V. J. (2016). Single-Molecule Chemo-Mechanical Spectroscopy Provides Structural Identity of Folding Intermediates.Biophysical Journal, 110(6), 1280–1290. 

Goldman, D. H., Kaiser, C. M., Milin, A., Righini, M., Tinoco, I., & Bustamante, C. (2015). Mechanical force releases nascent chain-mediated ribosome arrest in vitro and in vivo. Science, 348(6233), 457–460. 

Kaiser, C. M., & Tinoco, I. (2014). Probing the Mechanisms of Translation with Force.Chemical Reviews, 114(6), 3266–3280. 

Bustamante, C. J., Kaiser, C. M., Maillard, R. A., Goldman, D. H., & Wilson, C. A. M. (2014).Mechanisms of Cellular Proteostasis: Insights from Single-Molecule Approaches.Annual Review of Biophysics, 43(1), 119–140.

Graduate Students

Riti Gupta

Kevin Maciuba

Xiuqi Chen

Nandakumar Rajasekaran

Hannah Haller


Nagaraju Chada

Undergraduate students

Annie Kim

Sunny Patel

Noah Sobel

Maggie Zhu