Huiwang Ai


  • BS, Tsinghua University
  • PhD, University of Alberta
  • Postdoc, The Scripps Research Institute

Primary Appointment

  • Associate Professor, Molecular Physiology and Biological Physics


Research Interest(s)

Spatiotemporal Regulation of Biological Signaling; Protein Engineering for Imaging, Diagnostics, and Therapeutics

Research Description

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.

List of Publications in Pubmed

Selected Publications

  • Fan Y, Makar M, Wang M, Ai H. Monitoring thioredoxin redox with a genetically encoded red fluorescent biosensor. Nature chemical biology. 2017. PMID: 28671680 | PMCID: PMC5605834
  • Yeh H, Karmach O, Ji A, Carter D, Martins-Green M, Ai H. Red-shifted luciferase-luciferin pairs for enhanced bioluminescence imaging. Nature methods. 2017. PMID: 28869756 | PMCID: PMC5678970
  • Chen Z, Ai H. Single Fluorescent Protein-Based Indicators for Zinc Ion (Zn(2+)). Analytical chemistry. 2016;88(18): 9029-36. PMID: 27539450
  • Chen Z, Tian Z, Kallio K, Oleson A, Ji A, Borchardt D, Jiang D, Remington S, Ai H. The N-B Interaction through a Water Bridge: Understanding the Chemoselectivity of a Fluorescent Protein Based Probe for Peroxynitrite. Journal of the American Chemical Society. 2016;138(14): 4900-7. PMID: 27019313 | PMCID: PMC4958459
  • Youssef S, Ren W, Ai H. A Genetically Encoded FRET Sensor for Hypoxia and Prolyl Hydroxylases. ACS chemical biology. 2016;11(9): 2492-8. PMID: 27385075 | PMCID: PMC5026574
  • Fan Y, Chen Z, Ai H. Monitoring redox dynamics in living cells with a redox-sensitive red fluorescent protein. Analytical chemistry. 2015;87(5): 2802-10. PMID: 25666702
  • Ren W, Ji A, Ai H. Light activation of protein splicing with a photocaged fast intein. Journal of the American Chemical Society. 2015;137(6): 2155-8. PMID: 25647354
  • Chen Z, Ai H. A highly responsive and selective fluorescent probe for imaging physiological hydrogen sulfide. Biochemistry. 2014;53(37): 5966-74. PMID: 25141269
  • Ji A, Ren W, Ai H. A highly efficient oxidative condensation reaction for selective protein conjugation. Chemical communications (Cambridge, England). 2014;50(56): 7469-72. PMID: 24875017
  • Chen Z, Ren W, Wright Q, Ai H. Genetically encoded fluorescent probe for the selective detection of peroxynitrite. Journal of the American Chemical Society. 2013;135(40): 14940-3. PMID: 24059533
  • Chen S, Chen Z, Ren W, Ai H. Reaction-based genetically encoded fluorescent hydrogen sulfide sensors. Journal of the American Chemical Society. 2012;134(23): 9589-92. PMID: 22642566