Yang Hai

Assistant Professor

Contact Phone

(805) 893-8085

Office Location

CHEM 1126B
CHEM 1132 (lab)



Ph.D. in Chemistry at the University of Pennsylvania (2011-2016)


Dr. Hai received his B.S. in Chemistry from Peking University in 2011. He then pursued a Ph.D. in Chemistry at the University of Pennsylvania (2011-2016) under the guidance of Prof. David W. Christianson. At UPenn, he focused on studying the structure and function relationship of metallohydrolases primarily using protein X-ray crystallography; and developed a keen interest in enzyme mechanism, catalysis and inhibition. He then pursued postdoctoral studies (2016-2020) in the group of Prof. Yi Tang at UCLA to study fungal natural product biosynthesis, where he discovered new enzymes and metabolic pathways through genome mining. In 2018, Dr. Hai spent a summer at the Marine Biological Laboratory at Woods Hole to study microbiology, where he was intrigued by the microbial diversity in nature.



In this postgenomic era, the exponentially growing number of protein and DNA sequences provides tremendous opportunities to discover novel enzymes carrying out unusual biochemical transformations; metabolites/natural products with new biological activities, and previously unknown metabolic/biological pathways. The Hai research group will (1) integrate both chemical and biological approaches to uncover new enzyme functions and expand the toolboxes of enzymes in biocatalysis; (2) focus on the structure-function relationship of emerging enzymes implicated in human diseases and agriculture. In addition to our expertise in biochemistry, we will also collaborate with materials scientists and engineers on campus to develop biocatalytic and synthetic biological approaches for synthesizing new biopolymers and other biomaterials.


Hai, Y.; Huang, A.; and Tang, Y. "Biosynthesis of amino acid-derived alpha-pyrones by an NRPS-NRPKS hybrid megasynthetase in fungi. JNatProd. 2020, 83, 593-600.
Hai, Y.; Jenner, M.; and Tang, Y. "Complete stereoinversion of L-tryptophan by a fungal single-module nonribosomal peptide synthetase. J. Am. ChemSco. 141, 8198-8206.
Hai, Y.; Huang, A.; and Tang, Y. "Structure-guided function discovery of an NRPS-like glycine betaine reductase for choline biosynthesis in fungi. Proc. NatlAcadSci. USA 2019, 116, 10348-10353.
Hai, Y. and Tang, Y. "Biosynthesis of long-chain N-acyl amide by a truncated polyketide synthase-nonribosomal peptide synthetase hybrid megasynthase in fungi. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2018, 140, 1271-1274.
Hai, Y.; Shinsky, S. A.; Porter, N. J.; and Christianson, D. W. "Histone deacetylase 10 structure and molecular function as a polyamine deacetylase." NatCommun. 2017, 8, 15368.
Hai, Y. and Christianson, D. W. "Histone deacetylase 6 structure and molecular basis of catalysis and inhibition." NatChemBiol. 2016, 12, 741-747.
Hai, Y. and Christianson, D. W. "Crystal structures of Leishmania mexicana arginase complexed with alpha, alpha-disubstituted boronic amino acid inhibitors." Acta Cryst. F 2016, 72, 300-306.
Hai, Y.; Kerkhoven, E. J.; Barrett, M. P.; and Christianson D. W. "Crystal structure of an arginase-like protein from Trypanosoma brucei that evolved without a binuclear manganese cluster. Biochemistry 2015, 54, 458-471.
Hai, Y.; Edwards, J. E.; Van Zandt, M. C.; Hoffmann, K. F.; and Christianson, D. W. "Crystal structure of Schistosoma mansoni arginase, a potential drug target for the treatment of schistosomiasis. Biochemistry 2014, 53, 4671-4684.
Hai, Y.; Dugery, R. J.; Healy, D.; and Christianson, D. W. "Formiminoglutamase from Trypanosoma cruzi is an arginase-like manganese metalloenzyme. Biochemistry 2013, 52, 9294-9309.
Hai, Y.; Chen, J. J.; Zhao, P.; Lv, H.; Yu, Y.; Xu, P.; and Zhang, J. L. (2011) Luminescent zinc salen complexes as single and two-photon fluorescence subcellular imaging probes. ChemCommun. 2011, 47, 2435-2437.