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

Post-doctoral Associates and Scholars
Bogdan Ion, PhD

Graduate Students
Marta Wells (Computational & Systems Biology)

Lab Contact Info

Pei Tang, PhD

Office Phone: 412-383-9798

Lab Phones: 412-648-2945