School of Biomedical Sciences

Laszlo Prokai , Ph.D., D.Sc.

Laszlo Prokai

Laszlo Prokai , Ph.D., D.Sc. 
Professor and the Robert A. Welch Chair in Biochemistry
Department: Pharmacology & Neuroscience
Office: EAD 558
Phone: 817-735-2206
Fax: 817-735-2118

Biographical Sketch | Education | Publications | Patents | Awards and Honors

Biographical Sketch

Dr. Prokai is the first Chair in Biochemistry endowed by the Houston-based Welch Foundation, one of the United States’ oldest and largest private funding sources for basic research, at the UNT Health Science Center. He started his academic career as an Assistant Professor at the Department of Pharmaceutics and the Center for Drug Discovery of the College of Pharmacy at the University of Florida in 1991. During his tenure there, he rose in rank to Professor in the Department of Medicinal Chemistry, held an Affiliate Professorship at the Department of Chemistry, was a Joint Professor of the Department of Anesthesiology, Scientific Advisor of the Biotechnology Program, and Member of the McKnight Brain Institute. Dr. Prokai joined the University of North Texas Health Science Center in 2005. Dr. Prokai also is an Adjunct Professor and Associate Member of the Graduate Faculty at the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry of the Texas Christian University. Dr. Prokai has maintained an actively funded research program supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) as well as through collaborations with pharmaceutical and chemical companies, and is recognized nationally and internationally for his work on discovery, bioorganic and medicinal chemistry of central nervous system agents, and on neuropeptides, proteomics and mass spectrometry. Dr. Prokai has been an invited speaker on numerous national and international scientific meetings, received a Pro Renovanda Cultura Hungariae Visiting Professorship at the Department of Medical Chemistry, University of Szeged (Hungary) in 2002, and a Distinguished Guest Fellow of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences at the University of Debrecen (Hungary), in 2022. He was the recipient of the 2017 Wilfred T. Doherty Award of the Dallas/Fort Worth Section of the American Chemical Society (ACS) and the 2017 Southwest ACS Regional Award. He currently serves on the Editorial Boards of numerous scientific journals including Current Medicinal Chemistry and the International Journal of Molecular Sciences.

Research Interests

Dr. Prokai’s current research focuses on
(1) Novel therapies against neurodegenerative and ophthalmic diseases using site-selective prodrugs;
(2) Development and use of proteomics in aging research, studying neurodegenerative diseases and cancer, with especial attention to quantitative expression profiling and oxidative stress-associated posttranslational modifications;
(3) Discovering new therapeutic agents based on neuropeptides and peptidomimetics as lead molecules.
These multidisciplinary projects rely on his broad technical expertise in state-of-the-art methods in bioorganic, medicinal and bioanalytical chemistry, and on an excellent facility.


B.Sc. 1978 Chemical Engineering; Summa Cum Laude, University of Veszprem (now University of Pannonia), Veszprem,Hungary
M.Sc. 1980 Chemical Engineering (Radiochemical Technology); Summa Cum Laude, University of Veszprem (now University of Pannonia), Veszprem, Hungary
Ph.D. 1983 Radiochemistry; Summa Cum Laude, University of Veszprem (now University of Pannonia), Veszprem, Hungary
Postdoctoral training in Medicinal Chemistry, 1987 to 1989; Department of Medicinal Chemistry, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL

Featured Publications

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Prokai L, Nguyen V, Szarka S, Garg P, Sabnis G, Bimonte-Nelson HA, McLaughlin KJ, Talboom JS, Conrad CD, Shughrue PJ, Gould TD, Brodie A, Merchenthaler I, Koulen P, Prokai-Tatrai K. The prodrug DHED selectively delivers 17β-estradiol to the brain for treating estrogen-responsive disorders. Sci. Transl. Med. 2015 July;7(297):297ra113. [Abstract] [Full Text]

Prokai L, Khadiza Z, Prokai-Tatrai K. Mass spectrometry-based retina proteomics. Mass Spectrom Rev. 2023 May/June;42(3):1032-62.

Prokai L, Guo J, Prokai-Tatrai K. Selective chemoprecipitation to enrich nitropeptides from complex proteomes for mass spectrometric analysis. Nat Protocols. 2014 April;9(4):882-95.

Prokai L, Stevens SM, Rauniyar N, Nguyen V. Rapid label-free identification of estrogen-induced differential protein expression in vivo from mouse brain and uterine tissue. J Proteome Res. 2009 August; 8(8):3862-71.

Prokai L, Prokai-Tatrai K, Perjesi P, Zharikova D, Perez J, Liu R, Simpkins JW. Quinol-based cyclic antioxidant mechanism in estrogen neuroprotection. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2003 Sep;100(20):11741-6.

Prokai L. Field Desorption Mass Spectrometry, Practical Spectroscopy Monograph Series, Marcel Dekker, New York, 1990, pp. 304.

Book Edited

Prokai L, Prokai-Tatrai K. Peptide Transport and Delivery Into the Central Nervous System, Progress in Drug Research, Vol. 61, Birkhäuser, Basel, 2003, pp. 245.

More Publications (Recent)

Selected Book Chapters

Zaman K, Pandey P, Shulaev V, Prokai L. Global comparative label-free yeast proteome analysis by LC-MS/MS after high-pH reversed-phase peptide fractionation using solid-phase extraction cartridges, in Plant Metabolic Engineering: Methods and Protocols (V. Shulaev, Ed.), Methods in Molecular Biology, Vol. 2396, Springer US, New York, NY, 2022, 71-84.

Prokai-Tatrai K, Prokai L. 17β-Estradiol as a neuroprotective agent, in Sex Hormones in Neurodegenerative Processes (G. Drevenšek, Ed.), InTech, Rijeka, Croatia, 2018, 21-39.

Rauniyar N, Prokai L. Mass spectrometry-based methods to investigate posttranslational protein modifications by lipid-peroxidation products, in Handbook of Mass Spectrometry (M. Lee, Ed.), John Wiley & Sons, Chichester, UK, 2012, 23-40.

Prokai-Tatrai K, Prokai L. Prodrugs for brain delivery of small neuropeptides, Chapter 21 in Neuropeptides: Methods and Protocols (A. Merighi, Ed.), Methods in Molecular Biology, Vol. 789, Humana–Springer, Totowa, NJ, 2011, 313-336.

Prokai L. Application of mass spectrometry in brain research: neurotransmitters, neuropeptides, and brain proteins, in Medical Applications of Mass Spectrometry (K. Vekey, A. Telekes, A. Vertes, Eds.), Elsevier, Amsterdam, 2008, 407-424.

Peer-Reviewed Papers

Prokai-Tatrai K, Nguyen V, Prokai L. [β-Glu2]TRH is a functional antagonist of thyrotropin-releasing hormone (TRH) in the rodent brain. Int J Mol Sci 2021 June 22:6230.

Urbanski HF, Sorwell KG, Prokai L, Kohama SG. Effect of short-term DHEA supplementation on serum and hippocampal estrogen concentrations in perimenopausal female rhesus macaques. Neurobiol Aging 2017 July 55:172-174.

Merchenthaler I, Lane M, Sabnis G, Brodie A, Nguyen V, Prokai L, Prokai-Tatrai K. A bioprecursor prodrug of 17β-estradiol alleviates hot flushes without peripheral hormonal side-effects. Sci Rep (Nature) 2016 August;6:30721. doi: 10.1038/srep30721

Tschiffely AE, Schuh RA, Prokai-Tatrai K, Prokai L, Ottinger MA. A comparative evaluation of treatments with 17β-estradiol and its brain-selective prodrug in a double-transgenic mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease. Horm Behav. 2016 May;83:39-44.

Prokai L, Stevens SM Jr. Direct analysis in real time (DART) of an organothiophosphate at ultrahigh resolution by Fourier transform ion cyclotron resonance mass spectrometry and tandem mass spectrometry. Int J Mol Sci. 2016 January;17(1):116_1-8.

Rahlouni F, Szarka S, Shulaev V, Prokai L. A survey of the impact of deyolking on biological processes covered by shotgun proteomic analyses of zebrafish embryos. Zebrafish 2015 December;12(6):398-407.

Szarka S, Prokai L. Chip-based nanoelectrospray ionization with Fourier transform mass spectrometric detection to screen for local anesthetics intended to mask limb sore in walking horses. J Mass Spectrom. 2015 March;50(3):533-7.

Szarka S, Prokai-Tatrai K, Prokai L. Application of screening experimental designs to assess chromatographic isotope effect upon isotope-coded derivatization for quantitative liquid chromatography–mass spectrometry. Anal Chem. 2014 July;86(14):7033-40.

Talamantes T, Ughy B, Domonkos I, Kis M, Gombos Z, Prokai L. Label-free LC–MS/MS identification of phosphatidylglycerol-regulated proteins in Synechocystis sp. PCC6803. Proteomics. 2014 April;14(9):1053-7.

Prokai D, Nguyen T, Kamrowski K, Chandra A, Talamantes T, Baxter LR Jr, Prokai L. An exploratory evaluation of tyrosine hydroxylase inhibition in planaria as a model for parkinsonism. Int J Mol Sci. 2013 December;14(12):23289-96.

Nagaprashantha LD, Talamantes T, Singhal J, Guo J, Vatsyayan R, Rauniyar N, Awasthi S, Singhal SS, Prokai L. Proteomic analysis of signaling network regulation in renal cell carcinomas with differential hypoxia-inducible factor-2α expression. PLoS One. 2013 August;8(8):e71654.

Prokai-Tatrai K, Hua X, Nguyen V, Szarka S, Prokai L, Koulen P. 17β-Estradiol eye drops protect the retinal ganglion cell layer and preserve visual function in an in vivo model of glaucoma. Mol Pharmaceutics. 2013 August;10(8):3253–61.

Guo J, Prokai-Tatrai K, Prokai L. Differential quantitation of protein nitration by liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry using isotope-coded dimethyl labeling and chemoprecipitation. J Chromatogr A.2012 April;1232(1):266-75.

Rauniyar N, Prokai L. Isotope-coded dimethyl tagging for differential quantification of posttranslational protein carbonylation by 4-hydroxy-2-nonenal, an end-product of lipid peroxidation. J Mass Spectrom.2011 October;46(10):976-85.

Guo J, Prokai-Tatrai K, Nguyen V, Rauniyar N, Ughy B, Prokai L. Protein targets for carbonylation by 4-hydroxy-2-nonenal in rat liver mitochondria. J Proteomics. 2011 October;74(11):2370-9.

Prokai-Tatrai K, Guo J, Prokai L. Selective chemoprecipitation and subsequent release of tagged species for the analysis of nitropeptides by liquid chromatography–tandem mass spectrometry. Mol Cell Proteomics. 2011 August;10(10):10.1074/mcp.M110.002923,1-10

Nagaprashantha LD, Vatsyayan R, Singhal J, Lelsani P, Prokai L, Awasthi S, Singhal SS. 2’-Hydroxyflavanone inhibits proliferation, tumor vascularization and promotes normal differentiation in VHL-mutant renal cell carcinoma. Carcinogenesis. 2011 April;32(4):568-575.

Laczko-Dobos H, Frycak P, Ughy B, Domonkos I, Wada H, Prokai L, Gombos Z. Remodeling of phosphatidylglycerol in Synechocystis PCC6803. Biochim Biophys Acta – Mol Cell Biol Lipids. 2010 February; 1801(2):163-70.

Prokai-Tatrai K, Prokai L. Prodrugs of thyrotropin-releasing hormone and related peptides as central nervous system agents. Molecules. 2009 February; 14(2):633-54.

Rauniyar N, Stevens SM, Prokai-Tatrai K, Prokai L. Characterization of 4-hydroxy-2-nonenal-modified peptides by liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry using data-dependent acquisition: neutral loss-driven MS3 versus neutral loss-driven electron capture dissociation. Anal Chem. 2009 Jan;81(2):782-9.

Stevens SM, Prokai-Tatrai K, Prokai L. Factors that contribute to the misidentification of tyrosine nitration by shotgun proteomics. Mol Cell Proteomics. 2008 Dec;7(12):2442-51.

Stevens SM, Duncan RS, Koulen P, Prokai L. Proteomic analysis of mouse brain microsomes: identification and bioinformatic characterization of endoplasmic reticulum proteins in the mammalian central nervous system. J Proteome Res. 2008 March;7(3):1046-54.

Prokai-Tatrai K, Perjesi P, Rivera-Portalatin NM, Simpkins JW, Prokai L. Mechanistic investigations on the antioxidant action of a neuroprotective estrogen derivative. Steroids. 2008 March;73(3):280-8.

Branca RMM, Bodo G, Bagyinka C, Prokai L. De novo sequencing of a 21-kDa cytochrome c4 from Thiocapsa roseopersicina by nanoelectrospray ionization ion-trap and Fourier-transform ion-cyclotron resonance mass spectrometry. J Mass Spectrom. 2007 Dec;42(12):1569-82.

Rivera-Portalatin NM, Serrano-Vera JL, Prokai-Tatrai K, Prokai L. Comparison of estrogen-derived ortho-quinone and para-quinol concerning induction of oxidative stress. J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol.2007 June-July;105(1-5):71-5.

Prokai-Tatrai K, Rivera-Portalatin N, Rauniyar N, Prokai L. A facile microwave-assisted synthesis of p-quinols by lead(IV)acetate oxidation. Lett Org Chem. 2007 June;4(4):265-7.

Prokai L, Simpkins JW. Structure-nongenomic neuroprotection relationship of estrogens and estrogen-derived compounds. Pharmacol Therapeut. 2007 April;114(1):1-12.

Prokai L, Zharikova AD, Juhasz A, Prokai-Tatrai K. Cardiovascular effects of neuropeptide FF antagonists. Peptides. 2006 May;27(5):1015-9.

Prokai L, Prokai-Tatrai K, Perjesi P, Simpkins JW. Mechanistic insights into the direct antioxidant effects of estrogens. Drug Dev Res. 2005 Oct;66(6):118-25.

Stevens SM, Chung AY, Chow MC, McClung SH, Strachan CN, Harmon AC, Denslow ND, Prokai L. Enhancement of phosphoprotein analysis using a fluorescent affinity tag and mass spectrometry. Rapid Commun Mass Spectrom. 2005 Jun;19(15):2157-62.

Bergeron RJ, Bharti N, Wiegand J, McManis JS, Yao H, Prokai L. Polyamine-vectored iron chelators: the role of charge. J Med Chem. 2005 Jun;48(12):4120-37.

Simpkins JW, Wang J, Wang X, Perez E, Prokai L, Dykens JA. Mitochondria play a central role in estrogen-induced neuroprotection. Curr Drug Targets CNS Neurol Disord. 2005 Feb;4(1):69-83.

Prokai L, Zharikova AD, Stevens SM. Effect of chronic morphine exposure on the synaptic plasma-membrane subproteome of rats: a quantitative protein profiling study based on isotope-coded affinity tags and liquid chromatography/mass spectrometry. J Mass Spectrom. 2005 Feb;40(2):169-75.

Stevens Jr SM, Prokai-Tatrai K, Prokai L. Screening of combinatorial libraries for substrate preference by mass spectrometry. Anal Chem. 2005 Jan;77(2):698-701.

Prokai L, Prokai-Tatrai K, Zharikova AD, Nguyen V, Perjesi P, Stevens SM. Centrally acting and metabolically stable thyrotropin-releasing hormone analogues by replacement of histidine with substituted pyridinium. J Med Chem. 2004 Nov;47(24):6025-33.

Yang SH, Liu R, Perez EJ, Wen Y, Stevens SM, Valencia T, Brun-Zinkernagel AM, Prokai L, Will Y, Dykens J, Koulen P, Simpkins JW. Mitochondrial localization of estrogen receptor beta. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2004 Mar;101(12):4130-5.

Ross BP, Braddy AC, McGeary RP, Blanchfield JT, Prokai L, Toth I. Micellar aggregation and membrane partitioning of bile salts, fatty acids, sodium dodecyl sulfate, and sugar-conjugated fatty acids: correlation with hemolytic potency and implications for drug delivery. Mol Pharmaceutics. 2004 Jan;1(3):233-45.

Kem WR, Mahnir VM, Prokai L, Papke RL, Cao X, LeFrancois S, Wildeboer K, Prokai-Tatrai K, Porter-Papke J, Soti F. Hydroxy metabolites of the Alzheimer’s drug candidate 3-[(2,4-dimethoxy)benzylidene]-anabaseine dihydrochloride GTS-21): their molecular properties, interactions with brain nicotinic receptors, and brain penetration. Mol Pharmacol. 2004 Jan;65(1):56-67.


Antagonists of RF-Amide Neuropeptides, US Patent 6,797,707
Antagonists of RF-Amide Neuropeptides, US Patent 6,960,574
Steroidal Quinols and Their Use for Antioxidant Therapy, US Patent 7,026,306
Thyrotropin-releasing hormone analogues and their therapeutic applications, US Patent 7,067,257
Prodrugs for Use as Ophthalmic Agents, US Patent 7,186,707
Steroidal Quinols and Their Use for Estrogen Replacement Therapy, US Patent 7,300,926
Quinol Compound and Pharmaceutical Composition, US Patent 7,534,779
Prodrugs for Use as Ophthalmic Agents, US Patent 7,572,781
HDL Particles for Delivery of Nucleic Acids, US Patent 8,734,853

Awards and Honors

Southwest Regional Award by the American Chemical Society, in 2017
Wilfred T. Doherty Award by the Dallas/Fort Worth Section of the American Chemical Society, in 2017
Doctor Academiae Scientiarum Hungaricae (D.Sc.) by the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, in 2010
Habilitation (Dr. habil.) by the University of Veszprem (currently: University of Pannonia), in 2000
Candidate of Science in Chemistry (C.Sci) by the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, in 1987