Lawrence Tabak, DDS, PhD

Senior Investigator

Section on Biological Chemistry


Principal Deputy Director


Lab: Building 30, Room 524
NIH Office: Building 1, Room 126
Bethesda MD 20892-2290


Research Topics

Dr. Lawrence Tabak's laboratory studies the functions and biosynthesis of O-glycans. Mucin-glycoproteins are heavily decorated with carbohydrate side-chains, termed O-glycans, which are often clustered within repeating amino acids sequences of the protein (tandem repeats). Functionally, membrane-bound mucins are involved in signal transduction events, whereas secreted mucins contribute to the formation of extracellular matrix or to the gel-like mucus coat which envelopes mucosal surfaces of the body thereby forming the most exterior face of the innate immune system. Although it is known that O-glycans are ubiquitous among proteins, the precise nature of the “O-glycome” remains to be defined. We have approached this by both top-down and bottom-up proteomic studies as well as investigations of the substrate specificities of the multi-gene family of enzymes that are responsible for the formation of O-glycans, the UDP-GalNAc:polypeptide N-Acetylgalactosaminyltransferases (GalNAcTs).


Lawrence A. Tabak, D.D.S., Ph.D. is the Principal Deputy Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). He served as Acting NIH Director from December 20, 2021, to November 8, 2023. Dr. Tabak was appointed as the NIH Principal Deputy Director and the Deputy Ethics Counselor in August 2010 following his tenure as Director of the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research from 2000-10.

Prior to joining NIH, Dr. Tabak served as the senior associate dean for research and professor of dentistry and biochemistry & biophysics in the School of Medicine and Dentistry at the University of Rochester in New York. A former NIH MERIT recipient, Dr. Tabak has received several honors and awards for his work including election to membership in the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies. He has also received teaching awards for his work with both graduate and medical students.

Selected Publications

  1. Ji S, Samara NL, Revoredo L, Zhang L, Tran DT, Muirhead K, Tabak LA, Ten Hagen KG. A molecular switch orchestrates enzyme specificity and secretory granule morphology. Nat Commun. 2018;9(1):3508.
  2. May C, Ji S, Syed ZA, Revoredo L, Paul Daniel EJ, Gerken TA, Tabak LA, Samara NL, Ten Hagen KG. Differential splicing of the lectin domain of an O-glycosyltransferase modulates both peptide and glycopeptide preferences. J Biol Chem. 2020;295(35):12525-12536.
  3. Zhang L, Mann M, Syed ZA, Reynolds HM, Tian E, Samara NL, Zeldin DC, Tabak LA, Ten Hagen KG. Furin cleavage of the SARS-CoV-2 spike is modulated by O-glycosylation. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2021;118(47).
  4. Verzijl CRC, Oldoni F, Loaiza N, Wolters JC, Rimbert A, Tian E, Yang W, Struik D, Smit M, Kloosterhuis NJ, Fernandez AJ, Samara NL, Ten Hagen KG, Dalal K, Chernish A, McCluggage P, Tabak LA, Jonker JW, Kuivenhoven JA. A novel role for GalNAc-T2 dependent glycosylation in energy homeostasis. Mol Metab. 2022;60:101472.
  5. Yang W, Tian E, Chernish A, McCluggage P, Dalal K, Lara A, Ten Hagen KG, Tabak LA. Quantitative mapping of the in vivo O-GalNAc glycoproteome in mouse tissues identifies GalNAc-T2 O-glycosites in metabolic disorder. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2023;120(43):e2303703120.

Related Scientific Focus Areas

This page was last updated on Tuesday, November 14, 2023