Christopher Chang

Christopher J. Chang

Title
Class of 1942 Chair; Professor
Department
Dept of Chemistry
Dept of Molecular & Cell Biology
Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute
Phone
(510) 642-4704
Research Expertise and Interest
chemistry, inorganic chemistry, neuroscience, bioinorganic chemistry, general physiology, organic chemistry, new chemical tools for biological imaging and proteomics, new metal complexes for energy catalysis and green chemistry, chemical biology
Research Description

Chemical Biology, Bioinorganic Chemistry, and Inorganic Chemistry

The Chang laboratory studies the chemistry of biology and energy. They advance new concepts in imaging, proteomics, drug discovery, and catalysis by drawing from core disciplines of inorganic, organic, and biological chemistry. For example, they 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. Their work in artificial photosynthesis addresses global challenges in climate change. They 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. They 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. They 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. They 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. They have pioneered the field of activity-based sensing, where they 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, they 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. They 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. They 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. They 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, they use biological design principles to create synthetic molecular electrocatalysts for carbon dioxide capture and conversion as well as nitrogen/phosphorus cycling.

In the News

June 29, 2022

Scientists find trigger that sets off metastasis in pancreatic cancer

Pancreatic cancer, though rare, is one of the deadliest of cancers, killing nearly 50,000 people yearly and doing so quickly, primarily because it metastasizes rapidly through the body. Barely one in 10 people survive beyond five years. But a discovery by chemists at the University of California, Berkeley, suggests a new way to slow or stop metastatic spread of pancreatic and perhaps other cancers.
April 9, 2021

Guggenheim fellowships awarded to four UC Berkeley faculty

Four UC Berkeley faculty are among this year’s 184 John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation fellows. The prestigious awards recognize scholars with impressive achievements in fields ranging from the natural sciences to the creative arts.
June 6, 2016

Copper is Key in Burning Fat

A new study is further burnishing copper’s reputation as an essential nutrient for human physiology. A research team has found that copper plays a key role in metabolizing fat.

May 17, 2016

Copper: A new player in health and disease

Chris Chang, who is part of the Sackler Sabbatical Exchange Program, carries out experiments to find proteins that bind to copper and may influence the storage and burning of fat.

April 16, 2015

Major Advance in Artificial Photosynthesis Poses Win/Win for the Environment

A potentially game-changing breakthrough in artificial photosynthesis has been achieved with the development of a system that can capture carbon dioxide emissions before they are vented into the atmosphere and then, powered by solar energy, convert that carbon dioxide into valuable chemical products.

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In the News

June 29, 2022

Scientists find trigger that sets off metastasis in pancreatic cancer

Pancreatic cancer, though rare, is one of the deadliest of cancers, killing nearly 50,000 people yearly and doing so quickly, primarily because it metastasizes rapidly through the body. Barely one in 10 people survive beyond five years. But a discovery by chemists at the University of California, Berkeley, suggests a new way to slow or stop metastatic spread of pancreatic and perhaps other cancers.
April 9, 2021

Guggenheim fellowships awarded to four UC Berkeley faculty

Four UC Berkeley faculty are among this year’s 184 John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation fellows. The prestigious awards recognize scholars with impressive achievements in fields ranging from the natural sciences to the creative arts.
June 6, 2016

Copper is Key in Burning Fat

A new study is further burnishing copper’s reputation as an essential nutrient for human physiology. A research team has found that copper plays a key role in metabolizing fat.

May 17, 2016

Copper: A new player in health and disease

Chris Chang, who is part of the Sackler Sabbatical Exchange Program, carries out experiments to find proteins that bind to copper and may influence the storage and burning of fat.

April 16, 2015

Major Advance in Artificial Photosynthesis Poses Win/Win for the Environment

A potentially game-changing breakthrough in artificial photosynthesis has been achieved with the development of a system that can capture carbon dioxide emissions before they are vented into the atmosphere and then, powered by solar energy, convert that carbon dioxide into valuable chemical products.

Featured in the Media

Please note: The views and opinions expressed in these articles are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or positions of UC Berkeley.
April 12, 2021
Michael T. Nietzel
The Guggenheim Fellows for 2021 were announced this week. This year's winners include 184 scholars, artists, scientists and writers selected via a rigorous peer review process from more than 3,000 initial candidates. UC Berkeley hosts four new Guggenheim fellows: Christopher J. Chang (Chemistry), Raúl Coronado (Ethnic Studies), Ken Light (Journalism), and Debarati Sanyal (French). The prestige of a Guggenheim Fellowship is substantial. Since its inception almost a hundred years ago, the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation has granted nearly $400 million in Fellowships to over 18,000 individuals. For more on this, see our press release at Berkeley News.
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