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Christopher Chang

Research Focus

To reach Professor Chang during the Fall of 2023, please use this email: [email protected].

Our laboratory studies the chemistry of biology and energy. We advance new concepts in imaging, proteomics, drug discovery, and catalysis by drawing from core disciplines of inorganic, organic, and biological chemistry. For example, we have developed activity-based sensing as a general platform to identify transition metals, reactive oxygen species, and one-carbon units as new classes of single-atom signals for allosteric regulation of protein function. These chemical tools also reveal unique metal and redox disease vulnerabilities as targets for innovative drug discovery efforts to treat neurodegeneration, cancer, and metabolic disorders. Our work in artificial photosynthesis addresses global challenges in climate change. We use design concepts from biology to develop molecular electrocatalysts for carbon dioxide capture and conversion and nitrogen/phosphorus cycling. Representative project areas are summarized below.


Transition Metal Signaling and Metalloallostery: Bioinorganic Chemistry Beyond Active Sites. We are advancing a new paradigm of transition metal signaling, where metal nutrients like copper and iron can serve as dynamic signals to regulate protein function by metalloallostery, going beyond their traditional roles as static active site cofactors. We develop activity-based sensing probes for imaging mobile transition metal pools and activity-based proteomics probes for identifying allosteric metal sites in proteins. These chemical tools enable us to decipher the complex biology of sleep, cognition, and obesity in cell, zebrafish, and mouse models. We also develop medicines to target metals as disease vulnerabilities in cancer, neurodegeneration, and metabolic liver disorders. These drug discovery efforts focus on cuproplasia and cuproptosis, newly recognized forms of copper-dependent cell proliferation and cell death, respectively.

Activity-Based Sensing: Leveraging Selective Chemistry to Decipher New Redox and One-Carbon Biology. We have pioneered the field of activity-based sensing, where we develop chemical sensors for biological analytes that achieve high selectivity using reaction chemistry rather than conventional lock-and-key binding approaches. By applying these chemical tools to enable real-time imaging of reactive oxygen species and one-carbon metabolites at the single-cell, tissue, and animal level, we elucidate principles of how these molecular signals influence fundamental biological processes spanning epigenetics to immune response.

Activity-Based Proteomics: Bioconjugation Chemistry for Single-Atom Signaling and Redox Drug Discovery. We are establishing the area of single-atom signaling, focusing on the study of reversible interconversion of methionine and methionine sulfoxide sites in proteins by adding or removing a single oxygen atom. We develop activity-based proteomics probes to identify new targets of methionine modification as well as writers and erasers that regulate their single-atom biology. These chemical tools also reveal new ligandable hotspots for undruggable protein targets and pathways to accelerate the development of next-generation precision medicines that target redox disease vulnerabilities in cancer and neurodegeneration.

Artificial Photosynthesis: Catalyzing Sustainable Electrosynthesis. We develop catalysts for sustainable electrosynthesis to address climate change and rising global energy demands. Inspired by natural photosynthesis, which produces the value-added products needed to sustain life from light, water, and carbon dioxide, we use biological design principles to create synthetic molecular electrocatalysts for carbon dioxide capture and conversion as well as nitrogen/phosphorus cycling.



2024 – ACS Bader Award in Bioorganic or Bioinorganic Chemistry,

2022 – Ivano Bertini Award, International Conference on Copper Biology

2021 – Guggenheim Fellowship

2020 – Humboldt Award

2019 – Sackler Prize in Chemistry

2018 – RSC Jeremy Knowles Award

2017 – Elected Fellow, American Academy of Arts and Sciences

2016 – Cruickshank Award, Gordon Research Conferences

2015 – Fellow, Royal Society of Chemistry

2015 – Blavatnik National Award in Chemistry

2014 – Sackler Professor, UC Berkeley/UCSF

2013 – Baekeland Award, ACS New Jersey Section

2013 – Noyce Prize for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching, UC Berkeley

2013 – ACS Nobel Laureate Signature Award in Graduate Education

2012 – RSC Chemistry of Transition Metals Award

2012 – ACS Eli Lilly Award in Biological Chemistry

2011 – Wilson Prize, Harvard University

2011 – Miller Institute Professor, UC Berkeley

2011 – Society for Biological Inorganic Chemistry Early Career Award

2010 – ACS Cope Scholar Award

2009 – Novartis Early Career Award

2009 – Astra Zeneca Excellence in Chemistry Award

2008 – Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator

2008 – Technology Review TR35 Young Innovator

2008 – Bau Award in Inorganic Chemistry

2008 – Hellman Faculty Award

2008 – Amgen Young Investigator Award

2008 – Paul Saltman Award, Metals in Biology Gordon Research Conference

2007 – Sloan Fellowship

2006 – Packard Fellowship

2006 – NSF CAREER Award

2005 – Beckman Young Investigator

2005 – American Federation for Aging Research Award

2004 – Dreyfus New Faculty Award

Selected Publications

“Formaldehyde regulates S-adenosylmethionine biosynthesis and one-carbon metabolism”, Pham, V. N.; Bruemmer, K. J.; Toh, J. D.; Ge, E. J.; Tenney, L.; Ward, C. C.; Dingler, F. A.; Millington, C. L.; Garcia-Prieto, C. A.; Pulos-Homes, M. C.; Ingolia, N. T.; Bontel, L. B.; Esteller, M.; Patel, K. J.; Nomura, D. K.; Chang, C. J.* Science 2023, 382, 1-10.

“Oxidation state-specific fluorescent copper sensors reveal oncogene-driven redox changes that regulate labile copper(II) pools”, Pezacki, A. T.; Matier, C. D.; Gu, X,; Kummelstedt, E.; Bond, S. E.; Torrente, L; Jordan-Sciutto, K. L.; DeNicola, G. M.; Su, T. A.; Brady, D. C.; Chang, C. J.* Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 2022, 119, e2202736119.

“A tandem activity-based sensing and labeling strategy enables imaging of transcellular hydrogen peroxide signaling”, Iwashita, H.; Castillo, E.; Messina, M. S.; Swanson, R.A.; Chang, C. J.* Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 2021, 118, e2018513118.

“Activity-based ratiometric FRET probe reveals oncogene-driven changes in labile copper pools induced by altered glutathione metabolism”, Chung, C. Y.; Posimo, J. M.; Lee, S.; Tsang, T.; Davis, J. M.; Brady, D. C.; Chang, C. J.* Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 2019, 116, 18285-18294.

“Copper regulates rest-activity cycles through the locus coeruleus-norepinephrine system”, Xiao, T.; Ackerman, C. M.; Carroll, E. C.; Jia, S.; Hoagland, A.; Chan, J.; Thai. B.; Liu, C. S.; Isacoff, E. Y.; Chang, C. J.* Nature Chem. Biol. 2018, 14, 655-663.

“Redox-based reagents for chemoselective methionine bioconjugation”, Lin, S.; Yang, X.; Jia, S.; Weeks, A. M.; Hornsby, M.; Lee, P. S.; Nichiporuk, R. V.; Iavarone, A. T.; Wells, J. A.; Toste, F. D.; Chang, C. J.* Science 2017, 355, 597-602.

“Copper regulates cyclic-AMP-dependent lipolysis”, Krishnamoorthy, L.; Cotruvo Jr., J. A.; Chan, J.; Kaluarachchi, H.; Muchenditsi, A.; Pendyala, V. S.; Jia, S.; Aron, A. T.; Ackerman, C. M.; Wander Wal, M. N.; Guan, T.; Smaga, L. P.; Farhi, S. L.; New, E. J.; Lutsenko, S.;Chang, C. J.* Nature Chem. Biol. 2016, 12, 586-593.

“In vivo bioluminescence imaging reveals copper deficiency in a murine model of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease”, Heffern, M. C.; Park, H. M.; Au-Yeung, H. Y.; Van de Bittner, G. C.; Ackerman, C. M.; Stahl, A.; Chang, C. J.* Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 2016, 113, 14219-14224.

“A Molecular MoS2 Edge Site Mimic for Catalytic Hydrogen Generation”, Karunadasa, H. I.; Montalvo, E.; Sun, Y.; Majda, M.; Long, J. R.; Chang, C. J.* Science 2012, 335, 698-702.

“Calcium-dependent copper redistributions in neuronal cells revealed by a fluorescent copper sensor and X-ray fluorescence microscopy”, Dodani, S. C.; Domaille, D. W.; Nam, C. I.; Miller, E. W.; Finney, L. A.; Vogt, S.; Chang, C. J.* Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 2011, 108, 5980-5985.

“Aquaporin-3 Mediates Hydrogen Peroxide Uptake to Regulate Downstream Intracellular Signaling”, Miller, E. W.; Dickinson, B. C.; Chang, C. J.* “Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 2010, 107, 15681-15686.

“Molecular Imaging of Hydrogen Peroxide Produced for Cell Signaling”, Miller, E. W.; Tulyathan, O.; Isacoff, E. Y.; Chang, C. J.* Nature Chem. Biol. 2007, 3, 263-267.

“A Selective, Cell-Permeable Optical Probe for Hydrogen Peroxide in Living Cells”, Chang, M. C. Y.; Pralle, A.; Isacoff, E. Y.; Chang, C. J.* J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2004, 126, 15392-15393.


Selected Reviews

“Metalloallostery and Transition Metal Signalling: Bioinorganic Copper Chemistry Beyond Active Sites”, Pham, V. N.; Chang, C. J.* Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2023, 62, e202213644.

“Connecting copper and cancer: from transition metal signalling to metalloplasia”, Ge, E. J.; Bush, A. I.; Casini, A.; Cobine, P. A.; Cross, J. R.; DeNicola, G. M.; Dou, Q. P.; Franz, K. J.; Gohil, V. M.; Gupta, S.; Kaler, S. G.; Lutsenko, S.; Mittal, V.; Petris, M. J.; Polishchuk, R.; Ralle, M.; Schilsky, M. L.; Tonks, N. K.; Vahdat, L. T.; Aelst, L. V.; Xi, D.; Yuan, P.; Brady, D. C.; Chang, C. J.* Nature Rev. Cancer. 2022, 22, 102–113.

“Activity-Based Sensing: A Synthetic Methods Approach for Selective Molecular Imaging and Beyond”, Bruemmer, K. J.; Crossley, S. W. M.; Chang, C. J.* Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2020, 59, 13734–13762.

“Hybrid Catalysts for Artificial Photosynthesis: Merging Approaches from Molecular, Materials, and Biological Catalysis”, Smith, P. T,; Nichols, E. M.; Cao, Z.; Chang, C. J.* Acc. Chem. Res. 2020, 53, 575–587.

“Searching for Harmony in Transition-Metal Signaling”, Chang, C. J.* Nature Chem. Biol. 2015, 111, 744-747.

“Reaction-based small-molecule fluorescent probes for chemoselective bioimaging”, Chan, J.; Dodani, S. C.; Chang, C. J.* Nat. Chem. 2012, 4, 973-984.

“Boronate Oxidation as a Bioorthogonal Reaction Approach for Studying the Chemistry of Hydrogen Peroxide in Living Systems”, Lippert, A. R.; Van de Bittner, G. C.; Chang, C. J.* Acc. Chem. Res. 2011, 44, 793-804.

“Metals in Neurobiology: Probing Their Chemistry and Biology with Molecular Imaging”, Que, E. L.; Domaille, D. W.; Chang, C. J.* Chem. Rev. 2008, 108, 1517-1549.