Chemical Biology; Fluorescence and Bioluminescence Imaging; Protein Engineering

Our lab develops novel molecular probes to peer into cells and brains to understand their communications. We use a collection of innovative techniques, such as protein engineering, fluorescence and bioluminescence imaging, synthetic chemistry, and mass spectrometry, to dissect signaling pathways involving redox-active molecules, neurotransmitters, and protein post-translational modifications (PTMs). Our immediate goal is to monitor biological signaling in real time with excellent spatial resolution and molecular precision in physiologically relevant environments. Our long-term goal is to apply these new probes to live cells and rodent models to understand communications relevant to toxicity of chemicals, cancer development and progression, cognition and behavior, and neurological disorders. Moreover, these basic research efforts are actively being translated to develop novel protein-based diagnostics and therapeutics.


Recent publications:

Yeh HW, Karmach O, Ji A, Carter D, Martins-Green MM, and Ai HW*, “Red-shifted luciferase-luciferin pairs for enhanced bioluminescence”, Nature Methods, DOI:10.1038/nmeth.4400. PMID: 28869756

Fan Y, Makar M, Wang MX, Ai HW*, “Monitoring thioredoxin redox with a genetically encoded red fluorescent biosensor”, Nature Chemical Biology, 2017, doi:10.1038/nchembio.2417. PMID: 28671680

Chen Z, Ai HW*, Single Fluorescent Protein-Based Indicators for Zinc Ion (Zn2+)., 2016; Analytical Chemistry. 88(18) 9029-36. PMID: 27539450

Youssef S, Ren W, Ai HW*, A Genetically Encoded FRET Sensor for Hypoxia and Prolyl Hydroxylases., 2016; ACS Chemical Biology. 11(9) 2492-8. PMID: 27385075 | PMCID: PMC5026574

Chen ZJ, Tian Z, Kallio K, Oleson AL, Ji A, Borchardt D, Jiang DE, Remington SJ, Ai HW*, The N-B Interaction through a Water Bridge: Understanding the Chemoselectivity of a Fluorescent Protein Based Probe for Peroxynitrite., 2016; Journal of the American Chemical Society. 138(14) 4900-7. PMID: 27019313 | PMCID: PMC4958459

Ren W, Ji A, Ai HW*, Light activation of protein splicing with a photocaged fast intein., 2015; Journal of the American Chemical Society. 137(6) 2155-8. PMID: 25647354

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(434) 924-5665
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Room 4020, Pinn Hall

B.S. Tsinghua University, 2003

Ph.D. University of Alberta, 2008

Postdoctoral Fellow, The Scripps Research Institute, 2008-2011

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