Ph.D., Molecular Genetics, Shanghai Institute of Plant Physiology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, China, 1994
B.S., Genetics, Wuhan University, China, 1989
- July 2018 – Present: Professor, Department of Biochemistry, Virginia Tech
- July 2013 – June 2018: Associate Professor, Department of Biochemistry, Virginia Tech
- January 2007 – June 2013: Assistant Professor, Department of Biochemistry, Virginia Tech
- July 2003 – December 2006: Assistant Researcher, Department of Entomology, University of California, Riverside.
- APSC/BCHM 4054 and 5054G - Genomics: 50%
- BCHM 4124 - Biochemistry Laboratory
- BCHM 5204 - Molecular Biology of Eukaryotic Gene Expression
- BCHM 5984 - Prokaryotic/Eukaryotic Gene Regulation: 50%
Other Teaching and Advising
I have advised 41 Biochemistry majors of Class 2012 and 43 students of Class 2016. For the freshmen, I primarily assist students with course planning, registration and academic counseling. Gradually, my focus shifts to discussing with students about their progress toward completing the major's requirements, helping them explore the opportunities of internships or independent studies, and giving advice on research, careers, and other post-graduate options.
Malaria, Dengue, Chikungunya and Zika are infectious diseases that are transmitted to humans through the bite of infected mosquitoes. Major factors that influence the transmission include mosquito density and the fate of pathogens within the mosquito vectors. My laboratory is interested in genetic mechanisms that control mosquito reproduction and the interaction between mosquito vectors and transmitted pathogens. Our long-term goal is to use genetic engineering and chemical intervention to suppress mosquito populations or to impede their ability to transmit the diseases.
Hormonal control of mosquito egg production
Egg maturation in adult female mosquitoes is regulated by insect juvenile hormone (JH), the steroid hormone ecdysone and insulin-like peptides. Each hormone has its own pattern of rise and fall, and together these hormones lead to dynamic gene expression that is essential for egg maturation. We are using interdisciplinary approaches to explore how cells perceive individual hormones and combine inputs from different sources to determine their proper responses. Our recent study has revealed a regulatory hierarchy in JH signal transduction. This pathway contains a JH membrane receptor, the JH intracellular receptor MET and several transcription regulators that act downstream of MET. We are investigating the roles of these key components in the crosstalk between JH and other insect hormones. In addition, we are studying whether JH alters gene expression by regulating both transcription and RNA splicing.
Molecular interaction between mosquitoes and malaria parasites
To accomplish transmission from person to person, the malaria parasite Plasmodium must undergo complex developmental transitions and survive numerous attacks from the mosquito’s innate immunity system. Mosquito microRNAs (miRNAs) have been implicated in the mosquito defense response to malaria parasites. Using cross-linking ligation and sequencing of hybrids (CLASH), we have identified miRNA-mRNA interactions that are affected by Plasmodium infection of the mosquito midgut. The objective of this study is to determine whether these identified miRNAs affect the survival of Plasmodium parasites, and to identify the genes that are regulated directly by the miRNAs during midgut invasion by Plasmodium ookinetes. This study addresses a critical gap in our understanding of miRNA function in mosquito-Plasmodium interactions, and may provide novel molecular targets for blocking malaria transmission.
“Juvenile hormone action, and crosstalk between juvenile hormone and 20-hydroxyecdysone in mosquitoes” – The goal of this study is to elucidate the signal transduction mechanisms by which the mosquito juvenile hormone regulates egg maturation.
“MicroRNA regulation of Anopheles immunity to Plasmodium” – The objective is to identify specific miRNA molecules that can be used to make mosquitoes more resistant to malaria parasites, and to elucidate the molecular functions of these miRNAs.
Liu, P., Fu, X., and Zhu, J. (2018) Juvenile hormone-regulated alternative splicing of the taiman gene primes the ecdysteroid response in adult mosquitoes. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 115: E7738-E7747.
Ojani, R., Fu, X., Ahmed, T., Liu, P., and Zhu, J. (2018) Krüppel homolog 1 acts as a repressor and an activator in the transcriptional response to juvenile hormone in adult mosquitoes. Insect Molecular Biology, 27(2):268-278.
Fu, X., Dimopoulos, G., and Zhu, J. (2017) Association of microRNAs with Argonaute proteins in the malaria mosquito Anopheles gambiae after blood ingestion. Scientific Reports, 7(1):6493.
Ojani, R., Liu, P., Fu, X., and Zhu, J. (2016) Protein kinase C modulates transcriptional activation by the juvenile hormone receptor Methoprene-tolerant. Insect Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, 70: 44-52.
Liu, P., Peng, H., and Zhu, J. (2015) Juvenile hormone-activated phospholipase C pathway enhances transcriptional activation by the methoprene-tolerant protein. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 112: E1871-1879.
Li, M., Liu, P., Wiley, J.D., Ojani, R., Bevan, D.R., Li, J., and Zhu, J. (2014) A steroid receptor coactivator acts as the DNA-binding partner of the methoprene-tolerant protein in regulating juvenile hormone response genes. Molecular and Cellular Endocrinology 394: 47–58.
Wu, X.B., Na, R.H., Wei, S.S., Zhu, J., and Peng, H.J. (2013) Distribution of tick-borne diseases in China. Parasites & Vectors 6:119.
Mead, E.A., Li, M., Tu, Z., and Zhu, J. (2012) Translational regulation of Anopheles gambiae mRNAs in the midgut during Plasmodium falciparum infection. BMC Genomics 13: 366.
Li, M., Mead, E.A., and Zhu, J. (2011) Heterodimer of two bHLH-PAS proteins mediates juvenile hormone-induced gene expression. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 108: 638-643.
Zhu, J., Busche, J.M., and Zhang, X. (2010) Identification of juvenile hormone target genes in the adult female mosquitoes. Insect Biochemistry and Molecular Biology 40: 23-29.
Bian, G., Raikhel, A.S., and Zhu, J. (2008) Characterization of a juvenile hormone-regulated chymotrypsin-like serine protease gene in Aedes aegypti mosquito. Insect Biochemistry and Molecular Biology 38:190-200.
Shiao, S., Hansen, I.A., Zhu, J., Sieglaff, D.H., and Raikhel, A.S. (2008) Juvenile hormone connects larval nutrition with target of rapamycin signaling in the mosquito Aedes aegypti. Journal of Insect Physiology 54:231-239.