Department of Anesthesiology

Tang Lab

Research Overview (publications)

We are interested in the action of low-affinity drugs, such as general anesthetics and alcohols, on the neurotransmitter-gated receptor channels. Our current research focuses on the structures, dynamics, and functions of neuronal nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs), γ-aminobutyric acid receptors (GABAA), and their bacterial homologues (ELIC and GLIC). We have developed various expression systems for the over-production of channel proteins in such a large quantity and high purity that they can be studied by high-resolution nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy and X-ray crystallography. Parallel to our experimental approaches, we are also developing theoretical models to generalize the underlying mechanisms of low-affinity drug interaction with ion channel proteins using computational tools ranging from ab initio calculations to large-scale molecular dynamic simulations. Our long-term goal is to elucidate the structure-function and dynamics-function relationships of drug action at or near atomic resolution.


  • Characterization at the molecular level of how low-affinity drugs, particularly general anesthetics and alcohols, affect the functions of transmembrane ion channels.
  • Determination of high-resolution domain structures of neuronal ion channels, such as nicotinic acetylcholine and glycine receptors

News/Media Appearances

Lab Members

Principal InvestigatorPei Tang, PhD

Research Associates
Vasyl Bondarenko, PhD
Qiang "Charles" Chen, PhD
Tommy Tillman, PhD

Visiting Scientists and Research Faculty
Palaniappa Arjunan, PhD

Graduate Students
Marta Wells (Computational & Systems Biology)

Lab Contact Info

Pei Tang, PhD

Office Phone: 412-383-9798

Lab Phones: 412-648-2945