Research Interests

Chemical probes offer a valuable way to directly interrogate the function and disease-relevance of proteins and they can also serve as valuable leads for new therapies, yet most proteins in the human proteome lack small-molecule tools to study their function. The Parker lab aims to develop various chemical probes and integrate them with powerful proteomic methods, to interrogate the function and contributions of proteins that have pathophysiological roles in human disease but currently lack useful chemical probes.


Chemical biology approaches to study molecular transport

Low molecular weight molecules (e.g. amino acids, sugars, lipids, metals, nucleotides, etc) play essential roles in cellular signaling, metabolism and communication. Disease is often associated with the dysregulation of these molecules, thus new strategies to study and control their regulation could prove valuable for therapeutic intervention. Transporters can be considered molecular gates of the cell, allowing these molecules to traverse through cellular barriers (i.e. membranes), thus serving as crucial points of control for various processes. However, despite their critical functions and therapeutic promise, many transporters, such as the solute carrier (SLC) super family, remain largely underexplored. Using powerful chemical proteomic platforms from our lab, we are developing chemical probes to explore SLC-mediated transport and function in the context of basic cellular biology and disease pathways .


Cellular "Fingerprinting"

The transition of cells from one state to another state, for example, the acquisition of oncogenic mutations or cellular activation (e.g. activation of T-cells), is associated with alterations of protein expression, protein location, protein- and metabolite-interactions (PPIs and PMIs), and post-translational modifications (PTMs). These changes can affect protein structure and function, as well as accessibility by small molecules. We are developing strategies to create global "fingerprints" of these alterations, particularly those resultant from non-expression based changes, and furthermore, to deconvolute consequences on protein pharmacological tractability. 


Bifunctional small molecules to alter protein function

Most chemical probes directly inhibit, and sometimes enhance, protein activity. We are leveraging our chemical proteomic platforms to develop bifunctional molecules to redirect protein activity or endow them with new function in order to investigate various biological processes.


Illuminating interactions of bioactive small molecules

The identification of new pharmacologically actionable targets remains a top priority for academia and pharma/biotech alike. The phenotypic screening of small molecule libraries represents a powerful approach to discover small molecules capable of producing a desirable phenotype in a target-agnostic fashion. However, a bottleneck of characterizing hits is the identification of the molecular target(s). The Parker Lab integrates chemical proteomics with phenotypic discovery to expedite the target-compound discovery process. We also extend this approach to other bioactive small molecules, such as metabolites, to understand their influence on protein function.