James Penner-Hahn

George A. Lindsay Collegiate Professor of Chemistry and Biophysics

Ph.D., Stanford University
Postdoctoral Fellow, Stanford University

Research Focus: Biophysical Chemistry and Inorganic Spectroscopy

Phone: 734.764.7324
E-mail: jeph@umich.edu

Although they are only present at part-per-million to part-per-billion levels, trace metals are absolutely essential for life. Our research is focused on understanding the many roles that trace metals (especially Mn, Fe, Co, Ni, Cu and Zn) play in biology.

A portion of this work focuses on the biochemistry of metalloenzymes (proteins with metals at their active sites). Metalloenzymes catalyze reactions with a speed and selectivity that is unrivaled by conventional catalysts. We want to understand how metalloenzymes work. Our approach is to correlate metal-site structure with enzymatic function using x-ray absorption spectroscopy.

In addition to their enzymatic roles, essential trace elements play numerous other roles in biology and fluctuations in metal concentration are associated with numerous disease states. We have developed techniques that allow us to follow the distribution and chemical speciation of first row transition metals in intact tissue. Using an X-ray nanoprobe, we have been able to map sub-cellular distributions of metal ions with spatial resolutions as good as 100nm. Using x-ray absorption spectroscopy, we are able to determine the chemical speciation of these metal ions in intact biological tissues. The ultimate goal of this work is to develop the new field of inorganic physiology - the study of the transport, storage and distribution of metal ions in biology.

We make extensive use of synchrotron radiation, using the unique resources available at synchrotron laboratories in the U.S. (Brookhaven, Argonne, Stanford and Berkeley) and abroad (Japan, France). A key technique is X-ray absorption spectroscopy, one of the only ways to obtain detailed structural information for non-crystalline systems.

Penner-Hahn Research Group



Farrel Lytle Award
Akron Section Award (American Chemical Society)
Fogarty Senior International Fellowship
University of Michigan, Faculty Recognition Award
Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellow
1988 US Young Investigator for the IUPAC assembly
Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation Distinguished New Faculty Award Recipient
National Science Foundation pre-doctoral fellowship
  Elected Fellow of the AAAS

Representative Publications

  1. JD Cook, JE Penner-Hahn, TL Stemmler, “Structure and Dynamics of Metalloproteins in Live Cells” Methods Cell Biology (2008) 90, 199.

  2. H Chen, S Pazicni, NL Krett, RW Ahn, JE Penner-Hahn, ST Rosen, TV O'Halloran, “Coencapsulation of Arsenic- and Platinum-based Drugs for Targeted Cancer Treatment” Angew. Chem. Intl. Ed. Eng. (2009) 48, 9295-9299.

  3. Alvarez, Y Xue, CD Robinson, MA Canalizo-Hernandez, RG Marvin, RA Kelly, A Mondragon, JE Penner-Hahn, TV O'Halloran, “Tetrathiomolybdate Inhibits Copper Trafficking Proteins Through Metal Cluster Formation”, Science (2010) 327, 331-334.

  4. K.S. Koutmou, A.Casiano-Negroni, M.M. Getz, S. Pazicni, A.J. Andrews, J.E. Penner-Hahn, H.M. Al-Hashimi, & C.A. Fierke “NMR and XAS reveal an inner-sphere metal binding site in the P4 helix of the metallo-ribozyme ribonuclease P”, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA, (2010), 107 2479-2484.

  5. J. Stasser, F. Namuswe, G.D. Kasper, Y.B. Jiang, C.M. Krest, M.T. Green, J. Penner-Hahn, and D.P. Goldberg, “X-ray Absorption Spectroscopy and Reactivity of Thiolate-Ligated FeIII-OOR Complexes”, Inorg. Chem., (2010)49 9178-9190

  6. D.P. Bhave, W.-G. Han, S. Pazicni, J.E. Penner-Hahn, K.S. Carroll, and L. Noodleman, “Geometric and Electrostatic Study of the [4Fe-4S] Cluster of Adenosine-5’-Phosphosulfate Reductase from Broken Symmetry Density Functional Calculations and Extended X-ray Absorption Fine Structure Spectroscopy”, Inorg. Chem., (2011), 50, 6610-6625.