Research & Education Building, CB 3628
Office phone icon: 706-721-7582
Members of the Lab
Xiangqin He, PhD
The long-term focus of the research program in Dr. Zhou’s laboratory is to unravel the mechanisms regulating the phenotype of vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMCs), an essential cell type in the blood vessels that carry blood throughout the body. The Zhou lab seeks to define the epigenetic and transcriptional mechanisms controlling smooth muscle cell behavior that contributes to cardiovascular development, homeostasis, and disease. Current focus is on two major areas: Hippo-YAP-TEAD signaling and long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs) in VSMCs.
Dr. Zhou is one of the first to uncover important biological roles of the Hippo-YAP-TEAD pathway in the cardiovascular system. His pioneering work showed that YAP plays a dual role in VSMCs, whereby YAP not only attenuates SM-specific gene expression, but also promotes VSMC proliferation (Wang et al, ATVB, 2012). Functional studies in mice further showed that conditional deletion of YAP in embryonic SMCs led to a hypoplastic vascular wall by diminishing VSMC proliferation (Wang et al, Circulation Research, 2014. Cover article). Recently, Dr. Zhou’s lab have generated an inducible SMC-specific YAP knockout mouse to study the function of YAP in postnatal VSMCs (Islam et al, JMCC, 2021). Dr. Zhou’s lab have expanded their focus in this direction by investigating the nuclear effector of Hippo signaling, TEAD1, in the cardiovascular system (Liu et al, JBC, 2014; Wen et al, Cell Death and Differ., 2019; Osman et al, Circulation Research, 2019; Liu et al, Cell Death and Differ., 2021). Together, these studies show that TEAD1 plays a crucial role, not only in cardiovascular development, but also in cardiomyocyte homeostasis and vascular remodeling. These exciting findings highlight the critical role of the evolutionarily conserved Hippo-YAP-TEAD pathway in cardiovascular biology.
In recent years, Dr. Zhou’s laboratory has developed a robust research program in the emerging research area of long non-coding or circular RNAs (Wang et al, JBC, 2010; Xu et al, ATVB, 2015; Ahmed et al, PNAS, 2018; Dong et al, BMC Medical Genomics, 2020; Dong et al, Circulation, 2021; He et al, Gastroenterology, 2023). Of note, his group identified CARMN, which was initially annotated as the host gene of the MIR143/145 cluster, as a highly abundant and conserved, SMC-specific lncRNA (Dong et al, Circulation, 2021). Recent work from his group further revealed that the lncRNA Carmn is a critical regulator of intestinal smooth muscle contractility (He et al, Gastroenterology, 2023), suggesting a crucial role of lncRNA in smooth muscle. This exciting new direction is likely to yield breakthroughs that will push the boundaries of our knowledge of smooth muscle biology.
Dr. Zhou’s laboratory utilizes integrative approaches that range from in-silico analysis to wet-lab studies using molecular and whole animal approaches. His research has been continuously funded by the NIH and the American Heart Association (AHA). Dr. Zhou has a consistent track record of research productivity and innovation in smooth muscle biology. Dr. Zhou is also a dedicated mentor and highly motivated to train the next generation of cardiovascular scientists.
Dr. Zhou’s laboratory is currently seeking motivated postdoctoral fellows and Ph.D. students to join his dynamic research team. If you are interested in scientific discovery and exploring the inner workings of the cardiovascular system, please contact Dr. Zhou at email@example.com.
2003 - 2005 Postdoctoral Training Department of Cellular & Integrative Physiology, Indiana University School of Medicine, Indianapolis, IN
1999 - 2002 PhD in Public Health Zhejiang University School of Medicine, Hangzhou, China
1996 - 1999 MS in Cellular Biology Zhejiang University School of Medicine, Hangzhou, China
1991 - 1996 MD in Clinical Medicine Jiangxi Medical College, Nanchang, China
2018 - Present Professor Department of Pharmacology & Toxicology, Augusta University, Augusta, GA
2012 - 2018 Associate Professor (tenured in 2015) Department of Pharmacology & Toxicology, Augusta University, Augusta, GA
2008 - 2012 Assistant Professor (tenure track) Center for Cardiovascular Sciences, Albany Medical College, Albany, NY
2008 - 2008 Research Assistant Professor Department of Cellular & Integrative Physiology, Indiana University School of Medicine, Indianapolis, IN
2006 - 2007 Research Associate Department of Cellular & Integrative Physiology, Indiana University School of Medicine, Indianapolis, IN
Frontiers in Cardiovascular Medicine
Grant reviewer for NIH VCMB (Vascular Cell and Molecular Biology) Study Section, Ad Hoc, 2019
Grant reviewer for British Heart Foundation, Ad Hoc, 2019 - 2021
AHA, Vascular Wall Biology Basic Science, Study Section 1, Standing Member, 2013 - present; 2018, co-chair
NIH, Center for Scientific Review, Anonymization Project, Peer Reviewer, 2018
Grant reviewer for Research Grants Council (RGC) of Hong Kong, Ad Hoc, 2017 - 2020
2022 Distinguished Faculty Award. Medical College of Georgia, Augusta University
2022 Session chair and invited session speaker at “Vascular Discovery: From Genes to Medicine” Scientific Sessions. AHA. Seattle, WA
2022 Invited Speaker at the 22nd Internation Vascular Biology Meeting (IVBM). Oakland, CA
2019 Invited Speaker at the Scientific Session, American Heart Association (AHA). Philadelphia, PA
2019 Invited Speaker at the ISHR World Congress. International Society for Heart Research. Beijing, China.
2019 Transformational Project Award, AHA
He X, Dong K, Shen J, Hu G, Mintz JD, Atawia RT, Zhao J, Chen X, Caldwell RW, Xiang
M, Stepp DW, Fulton DJ, Zhou J. The Long Noncoding RNA Cardiac Mesoderm Enhancer-Associated Noncoding RNA (Carmn)
Is a Critical Regulator of Gastrointestinal Smooth Muscle Contractile Function and
Motility. Gastroenterology. 2023 Apr 6: S0016-5085(23)00583-8. doi: 10.1053/j.gastro.
2023.03.229. PMID: 37030336.
Dong K, Shen J, He X, Hu G, Wang L, Osman I, Bunting KM, Dixon-Melvin R, Zheng Z, Xin H, Xiang M, Vazdarjanova A, Fulton DJR, Zhou J. CARMN Is an Evolutionarily Conserved Smooth Muscle Cell-Specific LncRNA That Maintains Contractile Phenotype by Binding Myocardin. Circulation. 2021 Dec 7;144(23):1856-1875. doi: 10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.121.055949. PMID: 34694145.
Osman I., Dong K., Kang X., Yu L., Xu F., Ahmed ASI., He X., Shen J., Hu G., Zhang W., Zhou J. YAP1/TEAD1 upregulate platelet-derived growth factor receptor beta to promote vascular smooth muscle cell proliferation and neointima formation. Journal of Molecular and Cellular Cardiology. 2021 Mar 19;156:20-32. doi: 10.1016/j.yjmcc.2021.03.005. PMID: 33753119.
He X., Dong K., Shen J., Hu G., Liu J., Kang X., Wang L., Atawia RT, Osman I., Caldwell RW, Xiang M., Zhang W., Zheng Z., Li L., Fulton DJR, Deng K., Xin H., Zhou J. Deficiency of the novel high mobility group protein HMGXB4 protects against systemic inflammation-induced endotoxemia in mice. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 2021 Feb 16;118(7): e2021862118. doi: 10.1073/pnas.2021862118. PMID: 33563757.
Liu J., Wen T., Dong K., He X., Zhou H., Shen J., Fu Z., Hu G., Ma W., Li J., Wang W., Wang L., Akerberg BN, Xu J., Osman I., Zheng Z., Wang W., Du Q., Pu WT, Xiang M., Chen W., Su H., Zhang W., Zhou J. TEAD1 protects against necroptosis in postmitotic cardiomyocytes through regulation of nuclear DNA-encoded mitochondrial genes. Cell Death Differ. 2021 Jan 19. doi: 10.1038/s41418-020-00732-5. PMID: 33469230
Osman I., Wang L., Hu G., Zheng Z., Zhou J. GFAP (Glial Fibrillary Acidic Protein)-positive progenitor cells contribute to the
development of vascular smooth muscle cells and endothelial cells. Arteriosclerosis,
Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology. 2020. 40(5):1231-1238.
Selected as the cover article.
Wen T., Liu J., He X., Dong K., Hu G., Yu L., Yin Q., Osman I., Peng J., Zheng Z., Xin H., Fulton D., Du Q., Zhang W., Zhou J. Transcription factor TEAD1 is essential for vascular development by promoting vascular smooth muscle differentiation. Cell Death & Differentiation. 2019. 26(12): 2790-2806.
Osman I., He X., Liu J., Dong K., Wen T., Zhang F., Yu L., Hu G., Xin H., Zhang W.,
Zhou J. TEAD1 (TEA Domain Transcription Factor 1) promotes smooth muscle cell proliferation
through upregulating SLC1A5 (Solute Carrier Family 1 Member 5)-mediated glutamine
uptake. Circulation Research. 2019. 124(9): 1309-1322.
Selected as an “Editor’s Picks” and highlighted with an editorial “Hippo and Hyperplasia: TEAD Promotes mTORC1 Activation Post-Injury”.
Ahmed A.S.I., Dong K., Liu J., Wen T., Yu L., Xu F., Kang X., Osman I., Hu G., Bunting KM., Crethers D., Gao H., Zhang W., Liu Y., Wen K., Agarwal G., Hirose T., Nakagawa S., Vazdarjanova A., Zhou J. Long noncoding RNA NEAT1 (nuclear paraspeckle assembly transcript 1) is critical for phenotypic switching of vascular smooth muscle cells. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 2018, 115(37): E8660-E8667.
Xu F., Ahmed A., Kang X., Hu G., Liu F., Zhang W., Zhou J. MicroRNA-15b/16 attenuates vascular neointima formation by promoting the contractile phenotype of vascular smooth muscle through targeting YAP. Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology. 2015, 35(10): 2145-2152.
Wang Y., Hu G., Liu F., Wang X., Wu M., Schwarz J., Zhou J. Deletion of Yes-Associated Protein (YAP) specifically in cardiac and vascular smooth
muscle cells reveals a crucial role for YAP in mouse cardiovascular development. Circulation
Research. 2014, 114(6): 957-965.
Selected as the Cover Article and an “Editor’s Picks”.