Erik A. Rodriguez

Erik A. Rodriguez
Assistant Professor
SEH 4000
Science & Engineering Hall (SEH)
800 22nd St. NW
Washington, District Of Columbia 20052
United States
[email protected]
The Erik A. Rodriguez Group

Areas of Expertise

Fluorescent Proteins, Fluorescence Imaging, Bioengineering, Biochemistry, Biophysics, Chemical Biology, Biosensors, Imaging Probes

Throughout my doctoral and post-doctoral training, I have pursued research in biological and chemical tool development to elucidate biology.

In my doctoral work at Caltech with Dennis A. Dougherty and Henry A. Lester, I developed orthogonal suppressor tRNAs to site-specifically incorporate multiple unnatural amino acids in vivo. I received broad training in chemical biology, biochemistry, and neurobiology.

My postdoctoral work at UCSD with Roger Y. Tsien enhanced my expertise to include evolving and characterizing fluorescent proteins, fluorescence imaging, cell culture, and animal imaging. I enjoy collaborating to gain knowledge in diverse fields and to ensure my tools are utilized. The newly evolved fluorescent protein is biophysically the brightest far-red fluorescent protein created, so far, and comparable to jellyfish derived fluorescent proteins.

Richard Ting (Weill Cornell Medicine) and I developed dual-modality imaging (near-infrared fluorescence and positron emission tomography) agents to image cancer, strokes, and cerebrospinal fluid in living mice, which will be tested in humans.

Current Research

My lab will continue to develop new fluorescent proteins, protein labeling tags, and tools for imaging human maladies.

I will evolve new fluorescent proteins with unique properties compared to currently available fluorescent proteins. New biosensors will be created and characterized for sensing calcium, cAMP, voltage, and other molecules or chemical properties of the cell. Improving genetically encoded, photoacoustic imaging probes will allow for deeper imaging than single photon fluorescence for non-invasive optical imaging in living animals.  A far-red and near-infrared fluorescence cell cycle indicator has been developed and biological applications in cancer will be explored.

Richard Ting (Weill Cornell Medicine) and I will continue to develop probes. The new fluorescent protein was evolved to express in large quantities (grams are easily purified in <24 hours). The protein is an excellent scaffold or nanocarrier for attachment of chemical molecules to enhance single to noise for positron emission tomography and magnetic resonance imaging. Additionally, cancer drugs can be attached for drug delivery and location is verified with imaging.


Postdoctoral Scholar, University of California, San Diego, Professor Roger Y. Tsien

Ph.D., California Institute of Technology (Caltech), Professor Dennis A. Dougherty,2009

B.S., California Institute of Technlogy (Caltech), 2002


Rodriguez, EA., Tran, GN., Gross, LA., Crisp, JC., Shu, XS., Lin, JY., & Tsien, RY.. 2016 “A far-red fluorescent protein evolved from a cyanobacterial phycobiliprotein.”Nature Methods. 13(9): 763-9.

Rodriguez, EA., Wang, Y., Crisp, JL., Vera, DR., Tsien, RY., & Ting, R.. 2016 “New dioxaborolane chemistry enables 18F-positron-emitting, fluorescent 18F-multimodality biomolecule generation from the solid phase." Bioconjugate Chemistry. 27(5): 1390-9.

Rodriguez, EA., Campbell, RE., Lin, JY., Lin, MZ., Miyawaki, A., Palmer, AE., Shu, X., Zhang, J., & Tsien, RY.. 2017 “The growing and glowing toolbox of fluorescent and photoactive proteins.” Trends   in Biochemical Sciences. 42(2): 111-29.

Wang, Y., An, FF., Chan, M., Friedman, B., Rodriguez, EA., Tsien, RY., Aras, O., & Ting, R.. 2017 “18F-positron-emitting/fluorescent labeled erythrocytes allow imaging of internal hemorrhage in  murine intracranial hemorrhage model.” Journal of Cerebral Blood Flow and Metabolism. 37(3):  776-86.

Pantoja, R., Rodriguez, EA., Dibas, MI., Dougherty, DA., & Lester, HA.. 2009 “Single-molecule imaging of a fluorescent unnatural amino acid incorporated into nicotinic receptors.” Biophysical Journal. 96(1): 226-37.

Rodriguez, EA., Lester, HA., & Dougherty, DA.. 2007 “Improved amber and opal suppressor tRNAs  for incorporation of unnatural amino acids in vivo. Part 1: Minimizing misacylation.” RNA 13: 1703- 14.

Rodriguez, EA., Lester, HA., & Dougherty, DA.. 2007 “Improved amber and opal suppressor tRNAs for incorporation of unnatural amino acids in vivo. Part 2: Evaluating suppression efficiency.” RNA 13: 1715-22.

Rodriguez, EA., Lester, HA., & Dougherty, DA.. 2006 “In vivo incorporation of multiple unnatural  amino acids through nonsense and frameshift suppression.” Direct submission to the Proceedings of  the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 103(23): 8650-5.

Samson, AO., Chill, JH., Rodriguez, E., Scherf, T., & Anglister, J.. 2001 “NMR mapping and  secondary structure determination of the major acetylcholine receptor α-subunit determinant       interacting with α-bungarotoxin.” Biochemistry. 40(18): 5464-73.

Classes Taught

CHEM 4123: Instrumental Analytical Chemistry Laboratory

CHEM 6370: Biophysical Chemistry