Ai Lab

Laboratory of Protein Engineering for Bioactivity Imaging

The Ai laboratory 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 organisms to understand communications.

We use a collection of technologies, such as protein engineering, fluorescence imaging, bioluminescence imaging, synthetic chemistry, and electrophysiology to dissect biological pathways related to metabolism, redox signaling, and neurotransmission.

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 diabetes, cognition and behavior, and neurological disorders.

addgene: the nonprofit plasmid repository


We are currently working with Addgene a nonprofit plasmid repository, to deposit frequently requested plasmids. Also see "Practical Notes for teLuc-DTZ and Antares2-DTZ".
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A general strategy to red-shift green fluorescent protein-based biosensors

In our Nature Chemical Biology paper, we describe a general and convenient method, which uses a genetically encoded noncanonical amino acid, 3-aminotyrosine, to red-shift green fluorescent protein-like proteins and biosensors.
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Highly Cited Paper (top 1% in Chemistry)

As of January/February 2020, our manuscript "Reaction-Based Genetically Encoded Fluorescent Hydrogen Sulfide Sensors" is a highly cited paper (in the top 1% of the academic field of Chemistry based on a highly cited threshold for the field and publication year), according to "Web of Science".
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Shen Zhang defended Ph.D. thesis

Congratulations to Shen Zhang, who have successfully defended his thesis for a Ph.D. degree in Chemistry. Shen gave an impressive presentation via ZOOM on April 14, 2020.

Tianchen, Ying, and Yu became PhD candidates

Recently, Tianchen (Biophysics), Ying (Biophysics), and Yu (Chemistry) all passed their oral exams and became PhD candidates in their respective graduate programs. Congratulations!

Ai named Charter Member of NIH Study Section

Dr. Ai has been appointed by NIH as a charter member of the Imaging Guided Interventions and Surgery – IGIS study section. Dr. Ai will hold the position four years, attending…

Lab Location

Pinn Hall - Rm. 4013-4020, 1340 Jefferson Park Avenue, Charlottesville, VA 22908