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Zhen Huang

Professor / Organic Chemistry/ Biochemistry / Bio-Analytical Chemistry/ Chemical & Structural Biology

BS: 1980-1984, Sichuan University
MS: 1984-1987, Peking University
Ph.D.: 1988-1994, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH), Zurich
Post-doc Fellow: 1994-1998, Harvard Medical School


Organic Chemistry, Biochemistry, Bio-Analytical Chemistry, Chemical & Structural Biology


Research Interest:



Nucleic Acids play the most important roles in living organisms, therefore, to better study how nucleic acids behave in vitro and in vivo is essential to understand their biochemical and biological functions. My research group pioneered and developed selenium nucleic acids (SeNA) for structure and function studies. My research projects integrate organic chemistry synthetic skills, enzymatic methods and molecular and structural biology techniques to better understand structural properties and molecular mechanisms of nucleic acids. Our current projects are in synthesis of nucleoside and nucleotide analogs as anticancer and antiviral drugs, selenium nucleic acids, derivatization of DNA and RNA for nucleic acid X-ray crystallographic studies, in vitro and in vivo selection and evolution of ligand-binding and catalytic RNAs, ribozyme gene therapy, and Micro-Chip development for direct detection of human diseases and pathogens. Via our chemogenetic studies, selenium nucleic acid research creates a novel paradigm of nucleic acids.Picture of synthesis reaction


Representative Publications

  1. Liqin Zhang, et., Zhen Huang*, Weihong Tan* and Steven A. Benner*, “Crystal Structure, Evolution, and Function of Six-Nucleotide DNA. Exploring its Large Sequence Space”, Journal of American Chemical Society, 2015, 137, 6734-
  2. Abdur, et al., Huang*, “Novel Complex MAD Phasing and RNase H Structural Insights by Selenium Oligonucleotides”, Acta Cryst. D., 2014, D70, 354-361.
  3. Sheng, et al. Huang*, “Structural Insights of Non-canonical U•U Pair and Hoogsteen Interaction Probed with Se Atom”, Nucleic Acids Research, 2013, 41, 10476-10487.
  4. Jia Sheng, Jianhua Gan and Zhen Huang*, “Structure-Based DNA-Targeting Strategies with Small Molecule Ligands for Drug Discovery”, Medicinal Research Reviews, 2013, 33, 1119-1173.
  5. Sun, et al., Huang*, “Novel RNA Base Pair with Higher Specificity using Single Selenium Atom”, Nucleic Acids Res., 2012, 40, 5171-5179.
  6. Lin, Sheng, Huang*, “Nucleic Acid X-ray Crystallography via Direct Selenium Derivatization”, Chemical Society Reviews, 2011, 40, 4591-4602.
  7. Hassan, et al. Huang*, “High Fidelity of Base Paring by 2-Selenothymidine in DNA”, Journal of American Chemical Society, 2010, 132, 2120–2121.