Research Interest

The long-term goal of our laboratory is to illuminate the function of immune surface molecules and to open up a new research field at the interface of cancer, immunology, and stem cell research. We are also actively developing novel therapies for cancer treatment.

1) The function of ITIM receptors in cancer and hematopoietic stem cells. The leukocyte Ig-like receptor subfamily B (LILRB) is a group of type I transmembrane glycoproteins with extracellular Ig-like domains and intracellular ITIMs (immunoreceptor tyrosine-based inhibitory motifs). This group of receptors contains five members, LILRB1 to LILRB5. LILRB 1-5 transduce signals via ITIMs that recruit phosphatase SHP-1, SHP-2, or SHIP, leading to negative regulation of immune cell activation. The activation of LILRBs on immune cells by their ligands may contribute to immune evasion by tumors. We cloned LILRB2 as a receptor for the “orphan ligand” Angptl2, revealing unexpected function of classical immune inhibitory receptors in maintenance of stemness of hematopoitic stem cells (HSCs). Subsequently we demonstrated that several members of LILRB family are expressed by tumor cells, including certain hematopoietic and solid cancer cells, and may directly regulate cancer development and relapse as well as the activity of cancer stem cells. We further elucidated unique signaling downstream of a representative ITIM-containing receptor in leukemia cells. LILRBs thus have dual concordant roles in tumor biology – as immune checkpoint molecules and as tumor-sustaining factors. Importantly, the study of knockout mice indicated that LILRBs do not affect hematopoiesis and normal development. Therefore LILRBs may represent ideal targets for tumor treatment. Targeting LILRBs may perfectly combine immunotherapy and targeted therapy, and lead to the development of novel therapies for cancer treatment.

2) Angiopoietin-like proteins and receptors. In addition to LILRB2, we are identifying additional receptors for various angiopoietin-like proteins. We are studying the function of these ligands and receptors in cancer, stem cells, and immunity.

3) The role of PD-L1 in hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs). We demonstrated that the immune privilege of HSCs can be regulated by controlling surface expression of the immune inhibitor PD-L1, and ex vivo expanded HSCs efficiently overcome MHC barrier and engraft allogeneic recipient mice.

4) The opposite effects of fasting on different types of cancer. How dietary restrictions affect hematopoietic malignancies are unknown. We showed that fasting alone robustly inhibits initiation and reverses later development of acute lymphoblastic leukemia (both B-ALL and T-ALL) but not acute myeloid leukemia (AML). Fasting blocks ALL development by upregulation of leptin receptor (LepR) and its downstream signaling through Prdm1. Our results indicate that the effects of fasting on tumor growth are cancer-type dependent, and suggest new avenues for development of novel strategies for leukemia treatment.

Awards and honors

  • Basil O'Connor Scholar
  • American Society of Hematology Junior Faculty Scholar
  • New Investigator Award, American Cancer Society/UT Southwestern
  • Michael L. Rosenberg Scholar in Biomedical Research, UT Southwestern
  • Howard Temin KO1 award, National Cancer Institute
  • Gabrielle’s Angel Foundation for Cancer Research Fellow
  • Royan International Research Award
  • Leukemia & Lymphoma Society Scholar Award
  • Hortense L. and Morton H. Sanger Professorship in Oncology

Selected Publications

  1. Zhang CC, Krieg S, and Shapiro DJ. 1999. HMG-1 Stimulates Estrogen Response Element Binding by Estrogen Receptor from Stably Expressed HeLa Cells. Molecular Endocrinology 13: 632-643.
  2. Zhang CC and Shapiro DJ. 2000. Activation of the p38 Mitogen-activated Protein Kinase Pathway by Estrogen or by 4-Hydroxy Tamoxifen is Coupled to Estrogen Receptor-induced Apoptosis. Journal of Biological Chemistry 275: 479-486.
  3. Zhang CC, Glenn K, Kuntz M, and Shapiro DJ. 2000. High Level Expression of Full-length Estrogen Receptor in E. coli is Facilitated by the Uncoupler of Oxidative Phosphorylation, CCCP. Journal of Steroid Biochemistry and Molecular Biology 74: 169-178.
  4. Tomas E, Tsao TS, Saha AK, Murrey HE, Zhang CC, Itani SI, Lodish HF, Ruderman NB. 2002. Enhanced muscle fat oxidation and glucose transport by ACRP30 globular domain: acetyl-CoA carboxylase inhibition and AMP-activated protein kinase activation. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A  99: 16309-16313.
  5. Zhang CC and Lodish HF. 2004. Insulin-like growth factor 2 expressed in a novel fetal liver cell population is a growth factor for hematopoietic stem cells. Blood 103: 2513-2521.
  6. Zhang CC and Lodish HF. 2005. Murine hematopoietic stem cells change their surface phenotype during ex vivo expansion. Blood 105: 4314-4320.
  7. Thomas M, Lu JJ, Ge Q, Zhang CC, Chen J, Klibanov AM. 2005. Full deacylation of polyethylenimine dramatically boosts its gene delivery efficiency and specificity to mouse lung. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A  102: 5679-5684.
  8. Zhang CC, Kaba M, Ge G, Xie K, Tong W, Hug C, Lodish HF. 2006. Angiopoietin-like proteins stimulate ex vivo expansion of hematopoietic stem cells. Nature Medicine 12: 240-245.
  9. Zhang CC, Steele AD, Lindquist S, Lodish HF. 2006. Prion protein is expressed on long-term repopulating hematopoietic stem cells and is important for their self-renewal. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 103: 2184-2189.
  10. Thomas M, Lu JJ, Zhang CC, Chen J, Klibanov AM. 2007. Identification of Novel Superior Polycationic Vectors for Gene Delivery by High-throughput Synthesis and Screening of a Combinatorial Library. Pharm Res 24: 1564-1571.
  11. Liao MJ*, Zhang CC*, Zhou B*, Zimonjic DB, Mani SA, Kaba M, Gifford A, Reinhardt F, Popescu NC, Guo W, Eaton EG, Lodish HF, Weinberg RA. 2007. Enrichment of a population of mammary gland cells that forms mammospheres and has in vivo repopulating activity. Cancer Res. 67: 8131-8138 (* first authors).
  12. Zhang CC*, Kaba M, Iizuks S, Huynh H, Lodish HF*. 2008. Angiopoietin-like 5 and IGFBP2 stimulate ex vivo expansion of human cord blood hematopoietic stem cells.  Blood 111: 3415-3423 (* corresponding authors)
  13. Zhang CC and Lodish HF. 2008. Cytokines regulation of hematopoietic stem cell functions. Current Opinion in Hematology 15: 307-311.
  14. Huynh H, Iizuka S, Kaba M, Kirak O, Zheng J, Lodish HF, Zhang CC. 2008. IGFBP2 secreted by a tumorigenic cell line supports ex vivo expansion of mouse hematopoietic stem cells. Stem Cells 26: 1628-1635.
  15. Mani SA, Guo W, Liao MJ, Eaton EN, Ayyanan A, Zhou AY, Brooks M, Reinhard F, Zhang CC, Shipitsin M, Campbell LL, Polyak K, Brisken C, Yang J, Weinberg RA. 2008. The epithelial-mesenchymal transition generates cells with properties of stem cells. Cell 133:704-715.
  16. Zhao L, Dong H, Zhang CC, Kinch L, Osawa M, Iacovino M, Grishin NV, Kyba M, Huang L. 2009. A JAK2 inter-domain linker relays Epo receptor engagement signals to kinase activation. Journal of Biological Chemistry 284:26988-26998.
  17. Huynh H, Kaba M, Rudra S, Zheng J, Wu CJ, Lodish HF, Zhang CC. 2009. IGFBP2 supports ex vivo expansion of hematopoietic stem cells. IGFs: Local Repair and Survival Factors Throughout Life Span. D.R. Clemmons, I. Robinson, and Y. Christen, editors. Springer. 21-42.
  18. Lou Z, Zhang CC, Tirado CA, Slone T, Zheng J, Zaremba CM, Oliver D, Chen W. 2010. infantile mixed phenotype acute leukemia (bilineal and biphenotypic) with t(10;11)(p12;q23);MLL-MLLT10. Leukemia Research 34:1107-1109.
  19. Patrick DM, Zhang CC, Tao Y, Yao H, Qi X, Schwarz RJ, Huang LJ, Olson EN. 2010. Defective erythroid differentiation in miR-451 mutant mice mediated by 14-3-3z. Genes and Development 24:1614-1619.
  20. Simsek T, Kocabas F, Zheng J, DeBerardinis RJ, Olson EN, Schneider JW, Zhang CC*, Sadek HA*. 2010. The distinct metabolic profile of hematopoietic stem cells reflects their location in a hypoxic niche. Cell Stem Cell 7:380-390. (* corresponding authors)
  21. Zheng J, Huynh H, Umikawa M, Silvany R, Zhang CC. 2011. Angiopoietin-like protein 3 supports the activity of mouse hematopoietic stem cells in the bone marrow niche. Blood 117:470-479
  22. Zhang S, Yajima H, Huynh H, Zheng J, Callen E, Chen H, Wong N, Bunting S, Lin Y, Lee K, Story M, Gapud E, Sleckman BP, Nussenzweig A, Zhang CC, Chen DJ, Chen BPC. 2011. Congenital bone marrow failure in DNA-PKcs mutant mice associated with deficiencies in multiple DNA repair pathways. Journal of Cell Biology 193:295-305
  23. Huynh H, Zheng J, Umikawa M, Silvany R, Xie XJ, Wu CJ, Holzenberger M, Wang Q, Zhang CC. 2011. Components of the hematopoietic compartments in tumor stroma and tumor-bearing mice. PLoS ONE 6:e18054
  24. Zhang L, Tan C, Wang Q, Zhang CC. 2011. Anion/Cation Induced Optical Switches Based on Luminescent Lanthanide (Tb3+ and Eu3+) Hydrogels. Photochemistry and Photobiology 87:1036-1041
  25. Tan C, Wang Q, Zhang CC. 2011. Optical and Electrochemical Responses of an Anthrax Biomarker Based on Single-Walled Carbon Nanotubes Covalently Loaded with Terbium Complexes. Chemical Communications 47:12521–12523
  26. Zheng Y, Tan C, Wang Q, Zhang CC. 2011. 2-(3-Pyridyl)imidazole-4,5-dicarboxylic acid based lanthanide luminescent anion sensor. Solid State Sciences 13:1687e1691
  27. Nair A, Shen J, Lotfi P, Ko C-Y, Zhang CC, Tang L. 2011. Biomaterial implants mediate autologous stem cell recruitment in mice. Acta Biomaterialia 7:3887-3895
  28. Zheng J, Umikawa M, Zhang S, Huynh H, Silvany R, Chen BPC, Chen L, Zhang CC. 2011. Ex vivo expanded hematopoietic stem cells overcome the MHC barrier in allogeneic transplantation. Cell Stem Cell 9:119-130 
  29. Schuster K, Zheng J, Arbini AA, Zhang CC, Scaglioni PP. 2011. Selective targeting of the mTOR1/2 protein kinase complex leads to antileukemic effects in vitro and in vivo. Blood Cancer Journal 1:e34
  30. Huynh H, Zheng J, Umikawa M, Zhang C, Silvany R, Iizuka S, Holzenberger M, Zhang W, Zhang CC. 2011. IGF Binding Protein 2 Supports the Survival and Cycling of Hematopoietic Stem Cells. Blood 118:3236-3243 
  31. Zheng J, Song C, Zhang CC. 2011. A new chapter: hematopoietic stem cells are direct players in immunity. Cell & Bioscience 1(1):33 
  32. Zheng J, Umikawa M, Cui C, Li J, Chen X, Zhang C, Huynh H, Kang X, Silvany R, Wan X, Ye J, Canto AP, Chen SH, Wang HY, Ward ES, Zhang CC. 2012. Inhibitory receptors bind Angptls and support blood stem cells and leukemia development. Nature 485:656-660 
  33. Kocabas F, Zheng J, Thet S, Copeland NG, Jenkins NA, DeBerardinis RJ, Zhang CC*, Sadek HA*. 2012. Meis1 regulates the metabolic phenotype and oxidative defense of hematopoietic stem cells. Blood. 120(25):4963-72 (*corresponding authors)
  34. Umikawa M, Zhang CC. 2012. Inhibitory receptors bind Angptls and support blood stem cells and leukemia development. Experimental Medicine 30:2969-2973
  35. Zhang CC. 2012. Hematopoietic stem cells: interplay with immunity. American Journal of Blood Research 2:219-227
  36. Zhang CC, Sadek H. 2014. Hypoxia and Metabolic Properties of Hematopoietic Stem Cells. Antioxidants & Redox Signaling.  20(12):1891-1901
  37. Li Y, Zheng Y, Wang Q, Zhang CC. 2013. Synthesis of luminescent YVO4:Eu3+ submicrometer crystals through hydrogels as directing agents. Materials Chemistry and Physics, 135:451-456.
  38. Chen X, Zheng J, Zou Y, Song C, Hu X, Zhang CC. 2013. IGF Binding Protein 2 is a Cell-autonomous Factor Supporting Survival and Migration of Acute Leukemia Cells. Journal of Hematology & Oncology. 6:72
  39. Zheng J, Lu Z, Kocabas F, Bottcher RT, Costell M, Kang X, Liu X, DeBerardinis RJ, Wang Q, Chen G, Sadek H, Zhang CC. 2014. Profilin-1 is essential for retention and metabolism of mouse hematopoietic stem cells in bone marrow. Blood. 123: 992-1001
  40. Shen J, Nair A, Saxena R, Zhang CC, Borrelli J, Tang L. 2014. Tissue Engineering Bone Using Autologous Progenitor Cells in the Peritoneum. PlosOne.  9(3): e93514
  41. Zhang CC. 2014. Novel signaling axis in CML-initiating cells. Blood. 123: 2443-2445
  42. Deng M*, Lu Z*, Zheng J, Wan X, Chen X, Hirayasu K, Sun H, Lam Y, Chen L, Wang Q, Song C, Huang N, Gao GF, Jiang Y, Arase H, Zhang CC. 2014. A motif in LILRB2 critical for Angptl2 binding and activation. Blood. 124(6):924-35
  43. Wang Q, Zhou Z, Zheng Y, Zheng J, Zhang CC. 2014. Relationship between the structural specialties and morphologies based on a group of luminescent imidazole derivatives with sensing properties. Science of Advanced Materials. 6(6):1133-1139.
  44. Fan X, Shi P, Dai J, Lu Y, Chen X, Liu X, Wu X, Wang K, Zhu L, Zhang CC, Chen GQ, Zhang J, Zheng J, Liu J. 2014. Paired immunoglobin-like receptor B regulates platelet activation. Blood. 124(15):2421-30
  45. Kimura W, Muralidhar S, Canseco D, Puente B, Zhang CC, Xiao F, Abderrahman Y, Sadek H. 2014. Redox Signaling in Cardiac Renewal. Antioxidants & Redox Signaling. 21(11):1660-73
  46. Lin J, Zheng Y, Wang Q, Zeng Z, Zhang CC. 2014. Novel lanthanide pH fluorescent probes based on multiple emissions and its visible-light-sensitized feature. Anal Chim Acta. 839:51-8.
  47. Yu X, Wang Y, Deng M, Li Y, Ruhn KA, Zhang CC, Hooper LV. 2014. The basic leucine zipper transcription factor NFIL3 directs the development of a common innate lymphoid cell precursor. eLife. 10.7554/eLife.04406
  48. Kocabas F, Zheng J, Zhang CC, Sadek HA. 2014. Metabolic characterization of hematopoietic stem cells. Methods in Molecular Biology. 1185:155-164.
  49. Xie J*, Chen X*, Zheng J, Li C, Stacy S, Holzenberger M, Hu X, Zhang CC. 2015. IGF-IR determines the fates of BCR/ABL leukemia. Journal of Hematology & Oncology. 8(1):3
  50. Xie J, Zhang CC. 2015. Recent progress in ex vivo expansion of hematopoietic stem cells. SCIENCE CHINA Life Sciences. In press
  51. Lin MI, Price EN, Boatman S, Hagedorn EJ, Trompouki E, Satishchandran S, Carspecken CW, Uong A, DiBiase A, Yang S, Canver MC, Dahlberg A, Lu Z, Zhang CC, Orkin SH, Bernstein ID, Aster JC, White RM, Zon LI. 2015 Angiopoietin-like proteins stimulate HSPC development through interaction with Notch receptor signaling. eLife. 10.7554/eLife.05544
  52. Kang X, Cui C, Lu Z, Dong B, Han X, Tyner JW, Coligan JE, Collins R, You MJ, Zhang CC. 2015. ITIM-containing receptor LAIR1 is essential for acute myeloid leukemia development. Nature Cell Biology. 17(5):665-677
  53. Li C, Xie J, Lu Z, Chen C, Yin Y, Zhan R, Fang Y, Hu X, Zhang CC. 2015. ADCY7 supports development of acute myeloid leukemia. BBRC. S0006-291X(15)30354-5
  54. Shen J, Zheng J, Saxena R, Kamath S, Borchardt J, Zhang CC, Tang L. 2015. Multipotent stem cells recruited in response to peritoneal dialysis. Stem Cell Research. 15(2):299-304

  55. Kimura W, Xiao F, Canseco DC, Muralidhar S, Thet S, Zhang HM, Abderrahman Y, Chen R, Garcia JA, Shelton JM, Richardson JA, Ashour AM, Asaithamby A, Liang H, Xing C, Lu Z, Zhang CC, Sadek HA. 2015. Hypoxia fate-mapping identifies cycling cardiomyocytes in the adult heart. Nature. 523(7559):226-23

  56. Rimmelé P, Liang R, Bigarella CL, Kocabas F, Xie J, Serasinghe MN, Chipuk J, Sadek H, Zhang CC, Ghaffari S.  2015. Mitochondrial Metabolism in Hematopoietic Stem Cells Requires Functional FOXO3. EMBO Reports. e201439704.

  57. Kocabas F, Xie L, Xie J, Yu Z, DeBerardinis RJ, Kimura W, Thet S, Elshamy AF, Abouellail H, Muralidhar S, Liu X, Chen C, Sadek HA, Zhang CC*, Zheng J*.. 2015. Unique Metabolic Footprint of Human Hematopoietic Stem Cells. Cell & Bioscience. 5:39

  58. Zhang F, Zheng J, Kang X, Deng M, Lu Z, Kim J, Zhang CC. 2015. Inhibitory leukocyte immunoglobulin-like receptors in cancer development. SCIENCE CHINA Life Sciences. 58(12):1216-1225

  59. Umikawa M, Umikawa A, Asato T, Takei K, Matsuzaki G, Kariya KI, Zhang CC. 2015. Angiopoietin-like protein 2 induces proinflammatory responses in peritoneal cells. BBRC. 467(2):235-241

  60. Zhou Z, Wang Q, Wang J, Zhang CC 2015. Imaging two targets in live cells based on rational design of lanthanide organic structure appended carbon dots. Carbon. 93, 671-680

  61. Kang X, Kim J, Deng M, John S, Chen H, Wu G, Phan H, Zhang CC. 2016. Inhibitory leukocyte immunoglobulin-like receptors: immune checkpoint proteins and tumor sustaining factors. Cell Cycle. 15(1):25-40 Zhou Z, Zhang CC, Zheng Y, Wang Q. 2016. Aggregation induced emission mediated controlled release by using a built-in functionalized nanocluster with theranostic features. J Med Chem. 59(1):410-8
  62. Zhou Z, Zhang CC, Zheng Y, Wang Q. 2016. Aggregation induced emission mediated controlled release by using a built-in functionalized nanocluster with theranostic features. J Med Chem. 59(1):410-8
  63. Chen C, Yin Y, Li C, Chen J, Xie J, Lu Z, Li M, Wang Y, Zhang CC. 2016. ACER3 supports development of acute myeloid leukemia. BBRC. 478:33-38
  64. Zhou Z, Wang Q, Zhang CC, Gao J. 2016. Molecular imaging of biothiols and in vitro diagnostics based on an organic chromophore bearing a terbium hybrid probe. Dalton Trans. 2016 Apr 25;45(17):7435-42

  65. Constanzo JD, Deng M, Rindhe S, Tang KJ, Zhang CC, Scaglioni PP. 2016. Pias1 is essential for erythroid and vascular development in the mouse embryo. Developmental Biology. 415(1):98-110 

  66. Fang X, Chen C, Xia F, Yu Z, Zhang Y, Zhang F, Gu H, Wan J, Zhang X, Weng W, Zhang CC, Chen GQ, Liang A, Xie L, Zheng J. 2016. CD274 promotes cell cycle entry of leukemia-initiating cells through JNK/Cyclin D2 signaling. J Hematol Oncol. 9(1):124. 

  67. Gu H, Chen C, Hao X, Zhang X, Zeng H, Yu Z, Xie L, Xia F, Zhang F, Liu X, Zhang Y, Jiang H, Zhu J, Wang J, Wang C, Weng W, Xie J, Zhang CC, Liu J, Chen GQ, Zheng J. 2016. VPS33B regulates the exosome-mediated autocrine effect on hematopoiesis and leukemogenesis. Journal of Clinical Investigation. 126(12):4537-4553

  68. Zhou Z, Zheng Y, Zhang CC, Wen J, Wang Q. 2017. Materials Science and Engineering C 70: 9-14

  69. Zheng Y, Zhang CC, Wang Q. 2017. Sensors and Actuators B. 245: 622-640

  70. Zhang F, Liu X, Chen C, Zhu J, Yu Z, Xie J, Xie L, Bai H, Zhang Y, Fang X, Gu H, Wang C, Weng W, Zhang CC, Chen GQ, Liang A, Zheng J. 2017. CD244 maintains the proliferation ability of leukemia initiating cells through SHP-2/p27kip1 signaling. Haematologica. 2017 Jan 25.
  71. Nakada Y, Canseco DC, Thet S, Abdisalaam S, Asaithamby A, Santos CX, Shah A, Zhang H, Faber JE, Kinter MT, Szweda LI, Xing C, Deberardinis R, Oz O, Lu Z, Zhang CC, Kimura W, Sadek HA. 2017. Hypoxia induces heart regeneration in adult mice. Nature. 541(7636):222-227
  72. Lu Z, Xie J, Wu G, Shen J, Collins R, Chen W, Kang X, Luo M, Zou Y, Huang LJ, Amatruda JF, Slone T, Winick N, Scherer PE, Zhang CC. 2017. Fasting selectively blocks acute lymphoblastic leukemia development via leptin receptor upregulation. Nature Medicine. 23(1):79-90

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