Liqin Zhao Lab

Liqin Zhao Lab

Liqin Zhao
Lab Members
Liqin Zhao Lab Group

Associate Researchers

Heejung Moon, Ph.D.

Associate Researcher | Zhao Lab

  • Ph.D., Bioscience and Biotechnology, Konkuk University, Seoul, South Korea (2011)
  • M.S., Food and Nutirtion, Sungshin Women’s University, Seoul, South Korea (2001)
  • B.S., Food and Nutirtion, Sungshin Women’s University, Seoul, South Korea (1999)
Research Interests:
  • Roles of PTMs of apolipoproteins in the development of late-onset Alzheimer’s disease

Graduate Students

Punam Rawal

Punam Rawal

Graduate Student | Zhao Lab

  • Bachelor of Pharmacy, Kathmandu University, Dhulikhel, Kavre, Nepal (2016)
Research Interests:
  • Elucidation of role of Apolipoprotein J in Alzheimer's Disease
Xin Zhang

Xin Zhang

Graduate Student | Zhao Lab

  • M.S., Obstetrics and Gynecology, China Medical University, Shenyang, China (2014)
  • B.S., Clinical Medicine, China Medical University, Shenyang, China (2012)
Research Interests:
  • How estrogen signaling and ApoE polymorphisms interact to modulate energy metabolism in neuronal cell models

Former Lab Members

Name Title(s) Post KU
Nadine Alshakhshir
Graduate Student
Anindit Chhibber
Graduate Student

Ph.D. Program, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT

Lucy He
Graduate Student

Assistant Specialist, UCSF, San Francisco, CA

Shaher Ibrahimi
Assistant Researcher

M.S. Program, Kansas City University, Kansas City, MO

Shreya Indulkar, M.S.
Graduate Student

Research Technician, Albany Medical College, Albany, NY

Jeriel Keeney, Ph.D.
Postdoctoral Researcher

Postdoctoral Researcher, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI

Kenneth McFarlin
Graduate Student

Research Associate, Vium Inc, San Mateo, CA

Sarah Woody
Graduate Student

Staff Scientist, MRIGlobal, Kansas City, MO

Long Wu
Graduate Student

Postdoctoral Researcher, UCSF, San Francisco, CA

Research Interests

The primary focus of research in our laboratory is directed toward a molecular understanding of sex differences and interactions of sex and genetic susceptibility in the development of late-onset Alzheimer’s disease (LOAD). Our current research involves two lines of investigation: 1) the mechanisms underlying sex and apolipoprotein E (ApoE) polymorphisms (ApoE2, ApoE3, ApoE4)-mediated differential risks for LOAD; and 2) the roles of apolipoprotein J (ApoJ) isoforms (cytosolic vs nuclear) and regulation by sex hormones in the brain under both normal and neurodegenerative conditions. The goals of these investigations are to identify the key molecular pathways and biomarkers for translational development of therapeutic strategies aimed at AD prevention, risk reduction, and early intervention.

We are also interested in exploring the mechanisms involved in the development of perimenopausal depression. Women are more than 2.5 times more likely than men to experience major depression, with most cases occurring during perimenopause. We are currently investigating our hypothesis that perturbation of estrogen receptor beta (ERbeta) activity resulting from perimenopause leads to deficits in BDNF—5-HT duo signaling that results in decreased plasticity of brain to adapt in response to environmental stressors and thus increased vulnerability for the onset of depression.      

The state-of-the-art techniques used in our studies include: primary neuronal cultures, transgenic rodent models, qRT-PCR gene arrays, 2D proteomics, bioinformatics, mitochondrial biochemistry, behavioral modeling, and computational simulations, in addition to other general methods commonly used in molecular and cellular biological, pharmacological, and drug design and discovery research.


Currently Funded Projects:

NIH: Sporadic Alzheimer’s Disease: A Bioenergetic Etiology?

NIH: ApoE, Energy, and Synaptic V-ATPase

NIH: Role of Clusterin in Brain Mitochondria

J.R. and Inez Jay Fund: ApoE2 as a Therapeutic Shield Against Alzheimer’s Disease: A Proof-of-Concept Study


  • Research Scientist, Molecular Pharmacology and Toxicology, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA (2002-2006)
  • Postdoctoral Fellowship, Beijing Institute of Pharmacology and Toxicology, Beijing, China (2002)
  • Ph.D., Pharmaceutical Sciences, Shenyang Pharmaceutical University, Shenyang, China (1999)

Professional Experience

  • Research Assistant Professor, Research Associate Professor, Pharmacology and Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA (2006-2013)
  • Director of Translational Research Laboratory, Director of Core Facilities and Services, School of Pharmacy, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA (2009-2013)


Liqin Zhao’s research focuses on neurobiology and neuroendocrinology of aging and neurodegenerative diseases with an emphasis on late-onset Alzheimer’s that are investigated at both mechanistic and translational levels. Zhao has authored over 50 research articles, 80 conference presentations, and six patents with four granted. She and her research have been featured by multiple news outlets including USC News, USC Trojan Family Magazine, USC Pharmacy Magazine, KU News, Lawrence 6News, NPR News, Nature Medicine, Society for Neuroscience, and Alzheimer’s Association under Spotlight on Researchers Dedicated to Alzheimer’s.

At the KU School of Pharmacy, in addition to directing a research lab, Zhao teaches in both Pharm.D. and graduate (M.S. and Ph.D.) programs, with a teaching focus on pharmacology of the nervous system including both autonomic and central nervous system. Dr. Zhao also directs the “Beyond the Lab” career development program.

Selected Publications