Zhao Lab

Lab Members

Lab facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/NeuroRockJayhawks

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

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