Professional Education

  • Bachelor of Science, Peking University (2005)
  • Doctor of Philosophy, University of Wisconsin Madison (2013)

Stanford Advisors


All Publications

  • Hypothalamic programming of systemic ageing involving IKK-ß, NF-?B and GnRH. Nature Zhang, G., Li, J., Purkayastha, S., Tang, Y., Zhang, H., Yin, Y., Li, B., Liu, G., Cai, D. 2013; 497 (7448): 211-216


    Ageing is a result of gradual and overall functional deteriorations across the body; however, it is unknown whether an individual tissue primarily works to mediate the ageing progress and control lifespan. Here we show that the hypothalamus is important for the development of whole-body ageing in mice, and that the underlying basis involves hypothalamic immunity mediated by I?B kinase-? (IKK-?), nuclear factor ?B (NF-?B) and related microglia-neuron immune crosstalk. Several interventional models were developed showing that ageing retardation and lifespan extension are achieved in mice by preventing ageing-related hypothalamic or brain IKK-? and NF-?B activation. Mechanistic studies further revealed that IKK-? and NF-?B inhibit gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) to mediate ageing-related hypothalamic GnRH decline, and GnRH treatment amends ageing-impaired neurogenesis and decelerates ageing. In conclusion, the hypothalamus has a programmatic role in ageing development via immune-neuroendocrine integration, and immune inhibition or GnRH restoration in the hypothalamus/brain represent two potential strategies for optimizing lifespan and combating ageing-related health problems.

    View details for DOI 10.1038/nature12143

    View details for PubMedID 23636330

  • Treatment of obesity and diabetes using oxytocin or analogs in patients and mouse models. PloS one Zhang, H., Wu, C., Chen, Q., Chen, X., Xu, Z., Wu, J., Cai, D. 2013; 8 (5)


    Obesity is important for the development of type-2 diabetes as a result of obesity-induced insulin resistance accompanied by impaired compensation of insulin secretion from pancreatic beta cells. Here, based on a randomized pilot clinical trial, we report that intranasal oxytocin administration over an 8-week period led to effective reduction of obesity and reversal of related prediabetic changes in patients. Using mouse models, we further systematically evaluated whether oxytocin and its analogs yield therapeutic effects against prediabetic or diabetic disorders regardless of obesity. Our results showed that oxytocin and two analogs including [Ser4, Ile8]-oxytocin or [Asu1,6]-oxytocin worked in mice to reverse insulin resistance and glucose intolerance prior to reduction of obesity. In parallel, using streptozotocin-induced diabetic mouse model, we found that treatment with oxytocin or its analogs reduced the magnitude of glucose intolerance through improving insulin secretion. The anti-diabetic effects of oxytocin and its analogs in these animal models can be produced similarly whether central or peripheral administration was used. In conclusion, oxytocin and its analogs have multi-level effects in improving weight control, insulin sensitivity and insulin secretion, and bear potentials for being developed as therapeutic peptides for obesity and diabetes.

    View details for DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0061477

    View details for PubMedID 23700406

  • Hypoxia-Inducible Factor Directs POMC Gene to Mediate Hypothalamic Glucose Sensing and Energy Balance Regulation PLOS BIOLOGY Zhang, H., Zhang, G., Gonzalez, F. J., Park, S., Cai, D. 2011; 9 (7)


    Hypoxia-inducible factor (HIF) is a nuclear transcription factor that responds to environmental and pathological hypoxia to induce metabolic adaptation, vascular growth, and cell survival. Here we found that HIF subunits and HIF2? in particular were normally expressed in the mediobasal hypothalamus of mice. Hypothalamic HIF was up-regulated by glucose to mediate the feeding control of hypothalamic glucose sensing. Two underlying molecular pathways were identified, including suppression of PHDs by glucose metabolites to prevent HIF2? degradation and the recruitment of AMPK and mTOR/S6K to regulate HIF2? protein synthesis. HIF activation was found to directly control the transcription of POMC gene. Genetic approach was then employed to develop conditional knockout mice with HIF inhibition in POMC neurons, revealing that HIF loss-of-function in POMC neurons impaired hypothalamic glucose sensing and caused energy imbalance to promote obesity development. The metabolic effects of HIF in hypothalamic POMC neurons were independent of leptin signaling or pituitary ACTH pathway. Hypothalamic gene delivery of HIF counteracted overeating and obesity under conditions of nutritional excess. In conclusion, HIF controls hypothalamic POMC gene to direct the central nutrient sensing in regulation of energy and body weight balance.

    View details for DOI 10.1371/journal.pbio.1001112

    View details for Web of Science ID 000293219800016

    View details for PubMedID 21814490

  • Neural dysregulation of peripheral insulin action and blood pressure by brain endoplasmic reticulum stress PROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA Purkayastha, S., Zhang, H., Zhang, G., Ahmed, Z., Wang, Y., Cai, D. 2011; 108 (7): 2939-2944


    Chronic endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress was recently revealed to affect hypothalamic neuroendocrine pathways that regulate feeding and body weight. However, it remains unexplored whether brain ER stress could use a neural route to rapidly cause the peripheral disorders that underlie the development of type 2 diabetes (T2D) and the metabolic syndrome. Using a pharmacologic model that delivered ER stress inducer thapsigargin into the brain, this study demonstrated that a short-term brain ER stress over 3 d was sufficient to induce glucose intolerance, systemic and hepatic insulin resistance, and blood pressure (BP) increase. The collection of these changes was accompanied by elevated sympathetic tone and prevented by sympathetic suppression. Molecular studies revealed that acute induction of metabolic disorders via brain ER stress was abrogated by NF-?B inhibition in the hypothalamus. Therapeutic experiments further revealed that acute inhibition of brain ER stress with tauroursodeoxycholic acid (TUDCA) partially reversed obesity-associated metabolic and blood pressure disorders. In conclusion, ER stress in the brain represents a mediator of the sympathetic disorders that underlie the development of insulin resistance syndrome and T2D.

    View details for DOI 10.1073/pnas.1006875108

    View details for Web of Science ID 000287377000059

    View details for PubMedID 21282643

  • Neuropeptide Exocytosis Involving Synaptotagmin-4 and Oxytocin in Hypothalamic Programming of Body Weight and Energy Balance NEURON Zhang, G., Bai, H., Zhang, H., Dean, C., Wu, Q., Li, J., Guariglia, S., Meng, Q., Cai, D. 2011; 69 (3): 523-535


    Hypothalamic neuropeptides play essential roles in regulating energy and body weight balance. Energy imbalance and obesity have been linked to hypothalamic signaling defects in regulating neuropeptide genes; however, it is unknown whether dysregulation of neuropeptide exocytosis could be critically involved. This study discovered that synaptotagmin-4, an atypical modulator of synaptic exocytosis, is expressed most abundantly in oxytocin neurons of the hypothalamus. Synaptotagmin-4 negatively regulates oxytocin exocytosis, and dietary obesity is associated with increased vesicle binding of synaptotagmin-4 and thus enhanced negative regulation of oxytocin release. Overexpressing synaptotagmin-4 in hypothalamic oxytocin neurons and centrally antagonizing oxytocin in mice are similarly obesogenic. Synaptotagmin-4 inhibition prevents against dietary obesity by normalizing oxytocin release and energy balance under chronic nutritional excess. In conclusion, the negative regulation of synaptotagmin-4 on oxytocin release represents a hypothalamic basis of neuropeptide exocytosis in controlling obesity and related diseases.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.neuron.2010.12.036

    View details for Web of Science ID 000287609700013

    View details for PubMedID 21315262

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