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Prof. Fei SUN

Research Area | Research Interests | Current Research Activities | Teaching Assignments | Publications

Research Area

Bioengineering - Protein Engineering, Protein Materials, Directed Evolution and Synthetic Biology

Research Interests

Synthetic Biology Approaches to New Materials, Genetically Encoded Click Chemistry, Directed Evolution, Therapeutic Delivery, Optogenetics, Biosensing, Marine Minerals and Ocean Mining

Current Research Activities

1. Synthetic Biology Approaches toward New Materials

A central question facing the bottom-up approach for material design is how to transfer the function at the molecular level to the material properties at the macroscopic level. In the past years, there has been a growing trend of designing materials with dynamically tunable properties. These 'smart' materials necessitate a new level of control over the structural and functional properties of macromolecules as well as their interactions with external stimuli. While natural evolution has led to the creation of a vast number of protein molecules with extraordinary structural and functional diversity, such an ecological diversity has yet to be fully utilized to design and create functional materials with dynamic properties. Taking advantage of synthetic biology tools, we focus on the strategies that enable the direct assembly of genetically engineered protein molecules into functional macroscopic materials for a variety of applications ranging from regenerative medicine, therapeutic delivery, sea mining to environmental remediation.


2. Genetically Encoded Click Chemistry: Unleashing Chemical Power from Protein Sequence Space

Synthesis of macromolecular systems with precise structural and functional control constitutes a fundamental challenge for materials science and engineering. Development of the ability to construct complex bio-macromolecular architectures provides a solution to this challenge. The past few years have witnessed the emergence of a new category of chemistry which can covalently stitch together protein/peptide molecules with high specificity under mild physiological conditions. It has thus led to the concept of genetically encoded click chemistry (GECC). A prototypical GECC, Spy chemistry, enabled the synthesis of precise macromolecules both in vitro and in vivo while exerting precise control over the fundamental properties of these macromolecules including length, sequence, stereochemistry and topology. The same chemistry further led to the creation of diverse biomaterials for a variety of applications. We will continue to enrich and diversify the GECC toolbox through directed evolution and other protein engineering methods. By bridging the two fields, synthetic biology and materials science, the development of a palette of orthogonal GECCs, reminiscent of the epic of fluorescent proteins, will provide us with enormous opportunities for future material design.

Teaching Assignments

2017-18 Spring: CENG4640 - Biomolecular Engineering
2017-18 Spring: CENG4970 - Introduction to Research in Chemical and Biological Engineering
2017-18 Spring: CENG4980K - Investigation Project
2017-18 Spring: UROP1100T - Undergraduate Research Opportunities Series 1
2017-18 Spring: CENG4911 - Chemical Engineering Project
2017-18 Spring: CENG4912 - Chemical and Environmental Engineering Project
2017-18 Summer: UROP1000 - Undergraduate Research Opportunities
2018-19 Fall: CENG1600 - Biotechnology and Its Business Opportunities
2018-19 Fall: CENG4980L - Investigation Project
2018-19 Fall: CENG4911 - Chemical Engineering Project
2018-19 Fall: CENG4912 - Chemical and Environmental Engineering Project
2018-19 Fall: CENG4913 - Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering Project
2018-19 Spring: CENG4911 - Chemical Engineering Project
2018-19 Spring: CENG4912 - Chemical and Environmental Engineering Project
2018-19 Spring: CENG4913 - Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering Project
2018-19 Spring: CENG4640 - Biomolecular Engineering
2018-19 Spring: CENG4980M - Investigation Project

Selected Publications

  • Park, Byung Min; Luo, Jiran; Sun, Fei "Enzymatic Assembly of Adhesive Molecular Networks With Sequence-dependent Mechanical Properties Inspired by Mussel Foot Proteins", Polymer Chemistry, v. 10, (7), Febuary 2019, p. 823-826 (2019)
  • Cao, Y., Wei, X., Lin, Y. and Sun, F. "Synthesis of Bio-Inspired Viscoelastic Molecular Networks by Metal-Induced Protein Assembly", Molecular Systems Design & Engineering. DOI: 10.1039/C9ME00027E. (Invited for MSDE Emerging Investigators 2020 Special Issue). (2019)
  • Zhang, X.-J.; Wang, X.-W.; Da, X.-D.; Shi, Y.; Liu, C.; Sun, Fei; Yang, S.; Zhang, W.-B. "A Versatile and Robust Approach to Stimuli-Responsive Protein Multilayers with Biologically Enabled Unique Functions", Biomacromolecules, v. 19, (3), 2018, p. 1065-1073 (2018)
  • Wu, Xia-Ling; Liu, Yajie; Liu, Dong; Sun, Fei; Zhang, Wen-Bin "An Intrinsically Disordered Peptide-Peptide Stapler for Highly Efficient Protein Ligation Both in Vivo and in Vitro", Journal of the American Chemical Society, v. 140, (50), December 2018, p. 17474-17483 (2018)
  • Wei, J., Wu, W., Wang, R., Yang, Z., Sun, F., and Zhang, W.B. "B12-Dependent Protein Oligomerization Facilitates Layer-by-Layer Growth of Photo/Thermal Responsive Nanofilms. ", ACS Macro Letters 0, 7. DOI: 10.1021/acsmacrolett.8b00147. (2018)
  • Yang, Zhongguang; Kou, Songzi; Wei, Xi; Zhang, Fengjie; Li, Fei; Wang, Xiao-Wei; Lin, Yuan; Wan, Chao; Zhang, Wen-Bin; Sun, Fei "Genetically Programming Stress-Relaxation Behavior in Entirely Protein-Based Molecular Networks", ACS Macro Letters, v. 7, (12), December 2018, p. 1468-1474 (2018)
  • Tyagi, Abhishek; Liu, Xiaotian; Abidi, Irfan Haider; Gao, Zhaoli; Park, Byung Min; Zeng, Xiangze; Ou, Xuewu; Cagang, Aldrine Abenoja; Zhuang, Minghao; Hossain, Md Delowar; Zhang, Kai; Weng, Lutao; Sun, Fei; Luo, Zhengtang "Modular Functionalization of Crystalline Graphene by Recombinant Proteins: A Nanoplatform for Probing Biomolecules", Nanoscale, 2018 (2018)
  • Wu, xin; Huang, wenmao; Wu, wenhao; Xue, bin; Xiang, dongfang; Li, Ying; Qin, Meng; Sun, Fei; Wang, wei; Zhang, wenbin; Cao, yi "Reversible hydrogels with tunable mechanical properties for optically controlling cell migration", Nano Research, v. 11, (10), Ocotber 2018, p. 5556-5565 (2018)
  • Luo, J., Liu, X., Yang, Z. and Sun, F. "Synthesis of Entirely Protein-Based Hydrogels by Enzymatic Oxidation Enabling Water-Resistant Bioadhesion and Stem Cell Encapsulation. ", ACS Appl. Bio Mater. 2018, 1, 5, 1735-1740 (2018)
  • Liu, X., Yang, X., Yang, Z., Luo, J., Tian, X., Liu, K., Kou, S., and Sun, F. "Versatile Engineered Protein Hydrogels Enabling Decoupled Mechanical and Biochemical Tuning for Cell Adhesion and Neurite Growth ", ACS Applied Nano Materials Article ASAP DOI: 10.1021/acsanm.8b00077 (2018)
  • Wang, Ri; Yang, Zhongguang; Luo, Jiren; Hsing, I-Ming; Sun, Fei "B12-Dependent Photoresponsive Protein Hydrogels for Controlled Stem Cell/Protein Release", Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, May 2017, 114, 23, 5912-5917. (2017)
  • Songzi Kou, Zhongguang Yang, Jiren Luo, and Fei Sun "Entirely Recombinant Protein-Based Hydrogels for Selective Heavy Metal Sequestration ", Polymer Chemistry, DOI: 10.1039/C7PY01206C (2017)
  • Kou, Songzi; Yang, Zhongguang; Sun, Fei "Protein Hydrogel Microbeads for Selective Uranium Mining from Seawater", ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces, v. 9, (3), 2017, Jan, p. 2035-2039 (2017)
  • Xin Wu, Wenmao Huang, Wenhao Wu, Bin Xue, Dongfang Xiang, Ying Li, Meng Qin, Fei Sun, Wei Wang, Wenbin Zhang, and Yi Cao "Reversible hydrogels with tunable mechanical properties for optically controlling cell migration", Nano Research, DOI: 10.1007/s12274-017-1890-y (2017)
  • Sun, Fei; Zhang, Wen-Bin "Unleashing Chemical Power From Protein Sequence Space Toward Genetically Encoded “click” Chemistry", Chinese Chemical Letters, v. v. 28, ((11)), 2017, p. 2078-2084 (2017)
  • Kou, Songzi ; Cheng, Danhui ; Sun, Fei; Hsing, I-Ming "Microfluidics and microbial engineering", Lab on a chip, v. 16, (3), 2016, p. 432-446 (2016)
  • Claire N Bedbrook, Mihoko Kato, Sripriya Ravindra Kumar, Anupama Lakshmanan, Ravi D Nath, Fei Sun, Paul W Sternberg, Frances H Arnold, Viviana Gradinaru "Genetically Encoded Spy Peptide Fusion System to Detect Plasma Membrane-Localized Proteins In Vivo", Chemistry & Biology (2015)
  • Deng, Xin ; Liang, Haihua ; Ulanovskaya, Olesya A. ; Ji, Quanjiang ; Zhou, Tianhong ; Sun, Fei; Lu, Zhike ; Hutchison, Alan L. ; Lan, Lefu ; Wu, Min ; Cravatt, Benjamin F. ; He, Chuan "Steady-State Hydrogen Peroxide Induces Glycolysis in Staphylococcus aureusnd Pseudomonas aeruginosa", Journal of Bacteriology v.196, (14), 2014, July, p. 2499-2513 (2014)
  • Sun, Fei; Zhang, Wen-Bin ; Mahdavi, Alborz ; Arnold, Frances H. ; Tirrell, David A. "Synthesis of bioactive protein hydrogels by genetically encoded SpyTag-SpyCatcher chemistry", Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences v.111, (31), 5 August 2014, p. 11269-11274 (2014)
  • Zhang, Wen-Bin ; Sun, Fei ; Tirrell, David A. ; Arnold, Frances H. "Controlling Macromolecular Topology with Genetically Encoded SpyTag-SpyCatcher Chemistry", Journal of the American Chemical Society v.135, (37), 21 August 2013, p. 13988–13997 (2013)

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