Indraneel Ghosh

Indraneel Ghosh

Professor, Chemistry and Biochemistry-Sci
Professor, BIO5 Institute
Primary Department
Department Affiliations
(520) 621-6331

Work Summary

The broad objective of our research program in Bioorganic Chemistry and Chemical Biology is to construct protein therapeutics, protein mimetics, biomaterials, and biosensors. Our research at the University of Arizona is highly multidisciplinary and utilizes techniques in organic synthesis, biochemistry, molecular biology, and a host of physical characterization methods. Our research motto is simple: Unraveling mysteries and Enabling discoveries.

Research Interest

Professor Neel Ghosh, is the Emily Davis and Homer Weed Distinguished Professor ’08 at the University of Arizona. His laboratory is broadly interested in Chemical Biology and Protein Design and Engineering with a focus on developing new tools and methods for advancing human health. The laboratory has a particular current interest in understanding protein kinases and protein-protein interactions and designing new ways to inhibit them in human diseases. Neel Ghosh is also a co-founder and Chief Scientific Officer for Luceome Biotechnologies. Neel received his doctoral degree in 1998 while working with Professor Jean Chmielewski at Purdue University. His doctoral research focused on designing inhibitors of protein-protein interactions and self-replicating peptides. In 1998 he joined Professor Andrew Hamilton and Professor Lynne Regan’s laboratories at Yale University as a joint postdoctoral fellow. At Yale, he discovered the first conditional split-Green Fluorescent Protein, which has been used as a means for measuring protein-protein interactions by many laboratories and the methodology is sometimes called fluorescent protein complementation. In 2001, Neel Ghosh joined the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of Arizona as an Assistant Professor and was promoted to Associate Professor and then to the Davis & Weed Chair and Full Professor in 2011. Keywords: Chemistry, Biochemistry, Biomedical Engineering, Cancer


Meyer, S. C., Shomin, C. D., Gaj, T., & Ghosh, I. (2007). Tethering small molecules to a phage display library: Discovery of a selective bivalent inhibitor of protein kinase A. Journal of the American Chemical Society, 129(45), 13812-13813.

PMID: 17944472;Abstract:

We report a noncovalent tethering methodology for the fragment-based selection of bivalent ligands targeting protein kinases. In this approach, a small-molecule warhead, staurosporine, directs a phage display cyclic peptide library to the active site of cAMP-dependent protein kinase (PKA), allowing for targeted library enrichment. A cyclic peptide discovered through this selection, when covalently attached to a staurosporine derivative, displayed a 90-fold increase in affinity for PKA. Moreover, the bivalent inhibitor was shown to be significantly more selective than the starting warhead when tested against a small panel of kinases. Thus our general methodology allows for covalent linkage of known small-molecule ligands to biological libraries for discovering potent bivalent inhibitors of biological targets. Copyright © 2007 American Chemical Society.

Ghosh, I., Furman, J. L., Badran, A. H., Shen, S., Stains, C. I., Hannallah, J., Segal, D. J., & Ghosh, I. -. (2009). Systematic evaluation of split-fluorescent proteins for the direct detection of native and methylated DNA. Bioorganic & medicinal chemistry letters, 19(14).

In order to directly detect nucleic acid polymers, we have designed biosensors comprising sequence-specific DNA binding proteins tethered to split-reporter proteins, which generate signal upon binding a predetermined nucleic acid target, in an approach termed SEquence-Enabled Reassembly (SEER). Herein we demonstrate that spectroscopically distinct split-fluorescent protein variants, GFPuv, EGFP, Venus, and mCherry, function effectively in the SEER system, providing sensitive DNA detection and the ability to simultaneously detect two target oligonucleotides. Additionally, a methylation-specific SEER-Venus system was generated, which was found to clearly distinguish between methylated versus non-methylated target DNA. These results will aid in refinement of the SEER system for the detection of user defined nucleic acid sequences and their chemical modifications as they relate to human disease.

Zhou, M., Nakatani, E., Gronenberg, L. S., Tokimoto, T., Wirth, M. J., Hruby, V. J., Roberts, A., Lynch, R. M., & Ghosh, I. (2007). Peptide-labeled quantum dots for imaging GPCRs in whole cells and as single molecules. BIOCONJUGATE CHEMISTRY, 18(2), 323-332.
Livnat, I., Finkelshtein, D., Ghosh, I., Arai, H., & Reiner, O. (2010). PAF-AH catalytic subunits modulate the wnt pathway in developing gabaergic neurons. Frontiers in Cellular Neuroscience, 4(MAY).


Platelet-activating factor acetylhydrolase 1B (PAF-AH) inactivates the potent phospholipid platelet-activating factor (PAF) and is composed of two catalytic subunits (α1 and α2) and a dimeric regulatory subunit, LIS1. The function of the catalytic subunits in brain development remains unknown. Here we examined their effects on proliferation in the ganglionic eminences and tangential migration. In α1 and α2 catalytic subunits knockout mice we noticed an increase in the size of the ganglionic eminences resulting from increased proliferation of GABAergic neurons. Our results indicate that the catalytic subunits act as negative regulators of the Wnt signaling pathway. Overexpression of each of the PAF-AH catalytic subunits reduced the amount of nuclear beta-catenin and provoked a shift of this protein from the nucleus to the cytoplasm. In the double mutant mice, Wnt signaling increased in the ganglionic eminences and in the dorsal part of the cerebral cortex. In situ hybridization revealed increased and expanded expression of a downstream target of the Wnt pathway (Cyclin D1), and of upstream Wnt components (Tcf4, Tcf3 and Wnt7B). Furthermore, the interneurons in the cerebral cortex were more numerous and in a more advanced position. Transplantation assays revealed a non-cell autonomous component to this phenotype, which may be explained in part by increased and expanded expression of Sdf1 and Netrin-1. Our findings strongly suggest that PAF-AH catalytic subunits modulate the Wnt pathway in restricted areas of the developing cerebral cortex. We hypothesize that modulation of the Wnt pathway is the evolutionary conserved activity of the PAF-AH catalytic subunits. © 2010 Livnat, Finkelshtein, Ghosh, Arai and Reiner.

Ghosh, I., Bishop, P., & Chmielewski, J. (2001). DNA binding properties of basic helix-loop-helix fusion proteins of Tal and E47. Journal of Peptide Research, 57(5), 354-360.

PMID: 11350595;Abstract:

The basic helix-loop-helix (bHLH) transcription factor Tal has been shown to form heterodimers with the ubiquitously expressed bHLH transcription factor E47 and thereby modulate gene expression. The absence of homodimeric Tal-DNA complexes had been attributed to the inability of Tal to homodimerize, but subsequent studies have shown that the bHLH region of Tal does homodimerize. In order to correlate the contributions of both the basic region and the helix-loop-helix (HLH) domain to the lack of DNA binding by Tal homodimers, mutant and fusion proteins based on Tal and E47 were designed and synthesized. Size-exclusion chromatography established that all mutant and fusion proteins were dimeric. Point mutations were made within the basic region of Tal based on residues within E47 that are essential for DNA binding, but an affinity for DNA was not observed. Even complete replacement of the basic region in Tal with the basic region of E47, in an E47-Tal fusion protein, did not confer DNA binding upon the protein. However, when the dimerization domain in Tal was replaced with its E47 counterpart, in a Tal-E47 fusion protein, sequence specific DNA binding was observed with an apparent dissociation constant of 3.6×10-9 M2. Furthermore, circular dichroism studies showed that the basic region of Tal in the Tal-E47 fusion protein underwent a random coil to helix transition in the presence of a specific DNA probe. These experimental observations indicate that the inability of Tal homodimers to recognize DNA stems from a misalignment of its basic region with respect to the HLH domain, rather than an intrinsic inability of the Tal basic region to bind DNA.