Bioorganic Chemistry, Molecular Self-Assembly, Molecular Synthesis, Materials Chemistry, Bionanotechnology
University of California, Berkeley
Visiting Associate Professor of Neurology, Harvard Medical School
Awards and Academic Honors
California HIV/AIDS IDEA Award
NSF CAREER Award
Alzheimer's Association New Investigator Award
American Cancer Society Research Scholar
Wallace H. Coulter Translational Research Partnership Award
UCSD Faculty Career Development Award
Thieme Journal Award, Synthesis and Synlett
Ph.D. with Distinction, Columbia University
Hammett Award for excellence in research, Columbia University
EPA NCERQA STAR graduate fellowship
Bristol-Myers Squibb graduate fellowship
Sylvia and Victor G. Fourman graduate fellowship
Jack Miller Award for excellence in teaching, Columbia University
Outstanding Teaching Award, U.C. Berkeley
B.S. with Honors, U.C. Berkeley
Our lab is interested in using organic chemistry as a tool to study problems in biology and materials science. The foundation of our interdisciplinary program lies in organic synthesis that allows for designing structures with tailored chemical function. In addition to synthetic techniques, students will be trained in a broad range of analytical, physical, and biological methods to probe the molecular details of their systems. Brief descriptions of three research areas currently pursued in the group are:
Molecular probes to study amyloid-based diseases:
We have been exploring potential functional properties of small, synthetic molecules that target aggregated forms of beta-amyloid (Ab) peptides for the development of new therapeutic and diagnostic strategies for Alzheimers disease (AD). A central hypothesis of our research is that aggregated forms of natural, disease-related peptides (e.g., aggregated AD-related Ab peptides) can cause cellular injury and, thus, play an important role in disease progression. We recently introduced the idea of generating molecular assemblies on the surface of aggregated AD-related peptides that could function as protein-resistive surface coatings on these disease-related materials. Current efforts in the group focus on the synthesis of small molecules that can attenuate the toxicity of aggregated forms of the Ab peptides on neurons either through inhibiting protein-amyloid interactions or through other Ab-neutralizing mechanisms. Related work also includes the development of in vivo imaging agents for the diagnosis and monitoring of Alzheimers and other amyloid-based neurodegenerative diseases.
Nanoscale sensors using ion channel-forming peptides:
The goal of this research is to use synthetic derivatives of ion channel-forming peptides to detect chemically reactive agents in aqueous solutions. For instance, we recently demonstrated that an ion channel-forming peptide can be used to monitor chemical and biochemical reactions on individual molecules. Detection is based on measurement of a change in the single ion channel conductance upon conversion of chemical groups on molecules attached near the opening of these semi-synthetic nanopores in the presence of chemically reactive analytes. A major focus of this research is to develop simple and reliable methods to derivatize ion channel-forming peptides in order to make these types of sensors available to the broader scientific community. We anticipate that ion channel-based sensors will offer advantages of higher sensitivity and similar specificity for detection of selected environmental or biological analytes compared to other currently available technologies.
Nanoparticle-based cancer drug delivery systems:
The goal of this research is to develop new biocompatible, polymeric nanoparticles capable of improving the targeting of cancer therapeutics to solid tumors by controlling the location and time over which active drug release occurs. A central component of this research has been the development of a new class of acid-sensitive linkers that are designed to exploit the lower extracellular pH of some tumor cells, as well as the acidic environment of endosomes and lysosomes in cells, to trigger the controlled release of therapeutic agents from drug delivery vessels.
Primary Research Area
- Mentor for female undergraduate and graduate students and postdoctoral scholars and interns.
- Mentor for minority high school, undergraduate and graduate students and postdoctoral scholars.
- Mentor for international visiting students.
- Mentor for UC LEADS and UC STAR program.
- Cifelli JL, Dozier L, Chung TS, Patrick GN, Yang J "Benzothiazole Amphiphiles Promote the Formation of Dendritic Spines in Primary Hippocampal Neurons", J Biol Chem, 2016, Vol. 291, Issue 23, 11981-92
- Koyanagi T, Leriche G, Onofrei D, Holland GP, Mayer M, Yang J "Cyclohexane Rings Reduce Membrane Permeability to Small Ions in Archaea-Inspired Tetraether Lipids", Angew Chem Int Ed, 2016, Vol. 55, Issue 5, 1890-3
- Sheik DA, Brooks L, Frantzen K, Dewhurst S, Yang J "Inhibition of the enhancement of infection of human immunodeficiency virus by semen-derived enhancer of virus infection using amyloid-targeting polymeric nanoparticles", ACS Nano, 2015, Vol. 9, Issue 2, 1829-36
- Mayer M, Yang J "Engineered Ion Channels as Emerging Tools for Chemical Biology", Acc Chem Res, 2013, Vol. 46, Issue 12, 2998-3008
- Cao K, Farahi M, Dakanali M, Chang WM, Sigurdson CJ, Theodorakis EA, Yang J, "Aminonaphthalene 2-cyanoacrylate (ANCA) probes fluorescently discriminate between amyloid-β and prion plaques in brain.", J Am Chem Soc, 2012, Vol. 134, Issue 42, 17338-41
- Capule CC, Brown C, Olsen JS, Dewhurst S, Yang J, "Oligovalent amyloid-binding agents reduce SEVI-mediated enhancement of HIV-1 infection.", J Am Chem Soc, 2012, Vol. 134, Issue 2, 905-8
- "Controlling the Translocation of Proteins Through Nanopores with Bioinspired Fluid Walls" E.C. Yusko, J.M. Johnson, S. Majd, P. Prangkio, R.C. Rollings, J. Li, J. Yang, and M. Mayer, Nature Nanotech., (2011), 6, 253-260
- Habib LK, Lee MT, Yang J, "Inhibitors of catalase-amyloid interactions protect cells from beta-amyloid-induced oxidative stress and toxicity.", J Biol Chem, 2010, Vol. 285, Issue 50, 38933-43
- Macrae MX, Blake S, Mayer M, Yang J, "Nanoscale ionic diodes with tunable and switchable rectifying behavior.", J Am Chem Soc, 2010, Vol. 132, Issue 6, 1766-7
- Olsen JS, Brown C, Capule CC, Rubinshtein M, Doran TM, Srivastava RK, Feng C, Nilsson BL, Yang J, Dewhurst S, "Amyloid-binding small molecules efficiently block SEVI (semen-derived enhancer of virus infection)- and semen-mediated enhancement of HIV-1 infection.", J Biol Chem, 2010, Vol. 285, Issue 46, 35488-96