(Above right) Incorporation of UAAs in Xenopus laevis oocytes. The mRNA of the gene of interest containing a TAG stop codon is coinjected into the oocyte with an orthogonal tRNA (red) and a chemically appended UAA (green asterisk).  

Pless and Ahern, 2013, Annual Review of Pharmacology and Toxicology. 53:211-29.

(Above left) Incorporation of unnatural amino acids (UAAs) in mammalian cells. Three vectors containing the suppressor tRNA, a coevolved synthetase, and the gene of interest with (TAG) stop codon, respectively, are cotransfected into a mammalian cell. The UAA (green asterisk) is supplied in the cell culture media.



Our particular expertise is in the synthesis and expression of channels harboring tailor made non-natural amino acids and the general application of chemical biological approaches to the study of voltage-gated channels. We have had success in expressing synthetic amino acids in many channel and receptor types for pharmacological studies of ligand and drug interactions as well as structure function relationships.

Research Illustration


Research interests

Our current research focus is on the function and pharmacology voltage-gated sodium channels that drive the rapid upstroke of the action-potential throughout the body. We find motivation in the observation that inherited or acquired functional defects in these integral membrane proteins is associated with cardiac arrhythmia, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis and painful syndromes. In the lab, we work at the interface of membrane biophysics and chemical biology.







iowa city
contact us