FIP Virtual Seminar "Let there be light- Molecular lanterns to illuminate redox and brain activities"

This event has passed.

Wed, 02/10/2021 - 12:00 to 13:00

Dr. Huiwang Ai


Dr. Huiwang Ai, Associate Professor of Molecular Physiology & Biophysics, Chemistry, and Biomedical Engineering, University of Virginia


Fluorescent protein (FP)-based biosensors are indispensable research tools. In this talk, I will share three short stories each of which attempts to advance the FP-based biosensor technology in a different direction. Serotonin has been widely recognized as a key neurotransmitter in the central nervous system and a key hormone in peripheral tissues. First, I will present our structure-guided engineering of a green fluorescent, genetically encoded serotonin sensor (G-GESS) from a serotonin-binding lipocalin in the soft tick and our use of this high-quality biosensor to image serotonin in cultured cells, brain slices and behaving mice. Peroxynitrite is a reactive nitrogen species (RNS) that plays critical roles in signal transduction, stress response, and numerous human diseases. I will also share our work on the development of a high-performance, reaction-based, genetically encodable biosensor for imaging live-cell peroxynitrite. Compared to green FP (GFP) based biosensors, red FP (RFP) based biosensors are inherently advantageous because of reduced phototoxicity, decreased autofluorescence, and enhanced tissue penetration. However, there is a limited choice of RFP-based biosensors and development of each biosensor requires significant effort. In the last part of my talk, I will present a general and convenient method which uses the genetically encoded amino acid, 3-aminotyrosine (aY), to convert GFPs and GFP-based biosensors into red.

Professor Huiwang Ai received his B.S. degree from Tsinghua University in 2003 and Ph.D. degree from the University of Alberta in 2008 with Prof. Robert E. Campbell. He received his postdoctoral training from 2008 to 2011 in the lab of Peter G. Schultz at The Scripps Research Institute. He then became an assistant professor at the University of California, Riverside. In 2017, he moved to the University of Virginia (UVA) Department of Molecular Physiology and Biological Physics as a tenured associate professor. He is a resident faculty member of the Center for Membrane and Cell Physiology. He is also affiliated with Department of Chemistry, Department of Biomedical Engineering, and the UVA Cancer Center. His lab uses interdisciplinary approaches in biophysics, chemical biology, bioengineering, and electrophysiology to study and manipulate complex biological systems, with a focus on the development of novel molecular biosensors to peer into cells and brains to understand their communications. Dr. Ai received the Hellman Fellows Award in 2013, the National Science Foundation CAREER award in 2014, and the American Chemical Society Toxicology Young Investigators Award in 2017.