Department of Cell and Cancer Biology

Yue Zou, Ph.D.



B.S. 1982 Chemical Engineering Chengdu University of Sci. and Tech., Sichuan University, China
M.S. 1985 Chemical Engineering Dalian Institute of Chemical Physics, CAS, China
Ph.D. 1991 Biophysics Clark University, Worcester, Massachusetts 



Cancer is a devastating disease that affects millions of people’s lives. It remains to be one of the deadliest diseases today. Research in my laboratory focuses on understanding the mechanisms of oncogenesis and drug resistance, and identifying novel molecular targets for improving cancer therapeutics. Our current research projects include:

  1. Mechanisms of oncogenesis

Oncogenesis is driven by proto-oncogenes/oncogenes, which either promote cell proliferation, suppress apoptosis or both. Combined or synergistic actions of these two events are essential for oncogenesis. In this project, we are interested to understand how cancer occurs spontaneously without original genetic defects, such as age-dependent oncogenesis. We recently discovered a mitochondria-specific isomeric form of ataxia telangiectasia and Rad3-related protein (ATR) which is an anti-apoptotic protein at mitochondria. Our mouse model studies indicate that this mitochondria-specific ATR is oncogenic and essential for spontaneous oncogenesis. Remarkably, it accumulates in cells through the process of natural aging via DNA  damage accumulation. Given the pivotal role of apoptosis in suppressing cancer and cancer treatments, we currently investigate the potential role of the mitochondrial ATR in genetic defect-driven oncogenesis while exploring the implications of our finding in cancer therapeutics and prevention.

2. Drug resistance and oncogene addiction in pancreatic cancer (PDAC) and melanoma

Drug resistance is a major cause to the failure of cancer treatments, while oncogene addiction forms the essence of tumorigenesis to a single, most important oncogenic defect that a tumor depends on for its survival. Should this defect be targeted or switched off, addicted cancer cells could be disproportionately affected. In this project, we focus on identifying the causes of drug resistance, collateral sensitivity, and oncogenic addition in pancreatic cancer and melanoma. Our goal is to develop creative strategies to treat PDAC and melanoma.

3. Cancer bioinformatics, structural biology and drug discovery

In this project, we carry out bioinformatic analyses of patient data from cancer databases. In addition, we utilize bioinformatic tools to conduct computational therapeutic drug screening and design, followed by experimental tests and modification of identified current and newly synthesized drugs. The work is based on our structural insights into the identified novel protein targets. The goal is to develop potent cancer therapeutic drugs with minimal adverse effects.

4. Premature aging

We are also interested in laminopathy-based Hutchinson-Gilford progeria syndrome (HGPS) disease. HGPS is a devastating progeria disease caused by progerin, a truncated form of lamin A protein, a major inner component of the nuclear envelope and skeleton. We are particularly interested to understand how progerin causes premature aging phenotypes and strategies to treat the disease. This work is based on our findings that progerin causes replication fork stalling, inhibition of DNA double-strand break (DSB) repair, and then DSB accumulation. 



Ongoing Research Support
R01CA219342, National Institutes of Health
Zou, Yue (PI)
Title: ATR Isomerization in Cellular Responses to UV Damage of DNA
Role: PI

Completed Research Support

R15GM112168, National Institutes of Health
Zou, Yue (PI)
Title: Antiapoptotic Role of Ataxia Telangiectasia and Rad3-Related
Role: PI

R15GM112168-01S1, National Institutes of Health
Zou, Yue (PI)
Title: Antiapoptotic Role of Ataxia Telangiectasia and Rad3-Related (Supplement)
Role: PI

R01CA098296, National Institutes of Health (PI: Bongsup Cho)
Title: Sequence Effects of Arylamine-DNA Adducts: Repair and Replication
Role: Co-I (Subcontract)

2R01CA086927, National Institutes of Health
Zou, Yue (PI)
Title: Checkpoint Signaling and Repair of UV Damage to Human DNA
Role: PI

Progeria Research Foundation 2011-31
Zou, Yue (PI)
Title: Molecular Mechanisms of Genome Instability in HGPS
Role: PI


STUDENT OPENINGS:  Currently accepting Ph.D., M.D./Ph.D. students




Last Updated: 2/24/23