Office: Biology 205
Lab: Biology 203, 204
- Postdoc: Molecular parasitology, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO (2000-2006).
- Ph.D., Cellular and Microbial Biology, The Catholic University of America, Washington, DC. (2000)
- BSc., Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Peking University, Beijing, China (1996)
- MBIO 3401: Principles of Microbiology (bio-major)
- MBIO 3400: Microbiology (non bio-major)
- MBIO4367/MBIO6367: Molecular Pathogenesis of Protozoans (undergraduate/graduate, Communication Literacy Requirement)
Protozoan parasites of the genus Leishmania alternate between flagellated promastigotes in sandfly vectors and non-flagellated amastigotes residing in mammalian macrophages. They are the causative agents for a group of devastating diseases (leishmaniasis) infecting 10-12 million people worldwide. Current drugs for leishmaniasis are plagued with low efficacy and high toxicity. With resistance on the rise and no safe vaccine available, there is a pressing need to maintain a steady stream of new drugs and drug targets. Our long term goal is to decipher the molecular strategy utilized by Leishmania parasites to thrive in the harsh environments in sandflies and mammals. Understanding the fundamental mechanism of pathogenesis can lead to new and improved treatments.
Leishmania parasites are easy to culture and highly amenable to genetic manipulations. Genomes of several Leishmania species have been fully sequenced and annotated, providing excellent opportunities to study various genes/pathways that are relevant to parasite virulence. My lab focuses on the role of lipid metabolism and acquisition in Leishmania pathogenesis. Lipids are essential components of life. They exert important functions in membrane biology, energy conservation, protein modification, and signal transduction. The role of lipids is relatively understudied in protozoan parasites. My lab utilizes a combination of molecular biology, cell biology, animal models and lipidomic approaches to uncover the significance of sphingolipids, phospholipids, and sterols in Leishmania survival and virulence. A better understanding of lipid metabolism will not only advance our knowledge on the basic biology of Leishmania parasites, but also facilitate the development of novel drugs.
If you are interested in doing innovative research in Leishmania parasites as a postdoc, graduate student, or undergraduate student, please contact Dr. Kai Zhang for more information!
- Xu, W., Mukherjee, S., Ning, Y., Hsu, F. F., Baykal, E., Huang, J., and Zhang, K. (2017) Cyclopropane fatty acid synthesis affects cell shape and acid resistance in Leishmania mexicana. International Journal for Parasitology in press.
- Pawlowic, M. C., Hsu, F.F., Moitra, S., Biyani, N., and Zhang, K. (2016) Plasmenylethanolamine
synthesis in Leishmania major.Mol. Microbiol. 101(2):238-49. PMCID: PMC4935589.
- Xu, W., Hsu, F. F., Baykal, E., Huang, J., and Zhang, K. (2014) Sterol biosynthesis is required for heat resistance but notextracellular survival in Leishmania. PLoS Pathogens. 10(10):e1004427. PMCID: PMC4207814.
- Zhang, O., Hsu, F. F., Xu, W., Pawlowic, M.C., and Zhang, K. (2013) Sphingosine kinase A is a pleiotropic and essential enzyme for Leishmania survival and virulence. Mol. Microbiol. 90(3):489-501. PMCID: PMC3938578.
- Pillai, A. B., Xu, W., Zhang, O., and Zhang,K. (2012) Sphingolipid Degradation in Leishmania (Leishmania) amazonensis. PLoS Negl Trop Dis. 6(12):e1944. PMCID: PMC3527339.
- Pawlowic, M. C., and Zhang, K. (2012) Leishmania parasites possess a platelet-activating factor acetylhydrolase important for virulence. Mol Biochem Parasitol. PMCID: PMC3492548.
- Zhang, O, Xu, W., Pillai, A., and Zhang, K. (2012) Developmentally Regulated Sphingolipid Degradation in Leishmania major. PLoS One. 7(1):e31059. PMCID: PMC3267774.
- Xu, W., Xin, L., Soong, L., and Zhang, K. (2011)Sphingolipid degradation by Leishmania is required for its resistance to acidic pH in the mammalian host. Infect Immun. 79(8):3377-87.PMCID: PMC3147570.
- Zhang, K., and Beverley, S. M. (2010) Phospholipid and sphingolipid metabolism in Leishmania. Mol. Biochem. Parasitol. 170(2):55-64. PMCID: PMC2815228.
- Zhang, K., Bangs, J. D., and Beverley, S.M. (2010) Sphingolipids in parasitic protozoa. Adv Exp MedBiol. 688:238-48. PMCID: PMC2951629.
- Zhang, O., Wilson, M. C., Xu, W., Hsu, F.F., Turk, J., Kuhlmann, F. M., Wang, Y., Soong, L., Key, P., Beverley, S. M.,and Zhang, K. (2009) Degradation of Host Sphingomyelin Is Essential for Leishmania Virulence. PLoS Pathogens 5(12): e1000692.doi:10.1371/journal.ppat.1000692. PMCID: PMC2784226.
- Sutterwala, S. S., Hsu, F. F., Sevova, E.S.,Schwartz, K. J., Zhang, K., Key, P., Turk, J., Beverley, S. M., and Bangs,J.D. (2008) Developmentally Regulated Sphingolipid Synthesis in African Trypanosomes. Mol. Microbiol. 70(2):281-296. PMCID: PMC2629665.
- Hsu, F. F., Turk, J., Zhang, K., and Beverley,S. M. (2007) Characterization of Inositol Phosphorylceramides from Leishmania major by Tandem Mass Spectrometry with Electrospray Ionization. J Am Soc Mass Spectrom 18(9):1591-604. PMCID: PMC2065762.
- Zhang, K., Pompey, J. M, Hsu, F.F., Key, P.,B and Bandhuvula P., Saba, J. D., Turk, J., and Beverley, S. M. (2007) Redirection of sphingolipid metabolism towards de novo synthesis of ethanolamine in the protozoan parasite Leishmania major. EMBOJ 26:1094-1104. PMCID: PMC1852826.
- Zhang, K., Hsu, F. F., Scott, D. A., Docampo,R., Turk, J., and Beverley, S. M. (2005) Leishmania salvage and remodeling of host sphingolipids in amastigote survival and acidocalcisome biogenesis. Mol.Microbiol.55(5): 1566-78. PMCID: PMC3803142.
- Zhang, K., Barron, T., Turco, S. J., and Beverley,S. M. (2004) The LPG1 gene family of Leishmania major. Mol. Biochem. Parasitol.136(1):11-23. PMCID: PMC3791616.
- Zhang, K., Showalter, M., Revollo, J., Hsu,F.F., Turk, J., and Beverley, S. M. (2003) Sphingolipids are essential for differentiation but not growth in Leishmania. EMBOJ 22:6016-6026. PMCID: PMC275442.
- Descoteaux, A., Avila, H. A.,Zhang, K.,Turco,S. J., and Beverley, S. M. (2002) Leishmania LPG3 encodes a GRP94 homolog required for phosphoglycan synthesis implicated in parasite virulence but not viability. EMBO J 21: 4458-69. PMCID: PMC126187.
- Zhang, K., and Rathod, P. K. (2002) Divergent regulation of dihydrofolate reductase between malaria parasite and human host. Science 296:545-7. PMCID:PMC3830934.
- Shallom, S., Zhang, K., Jiang, L., and Rathod,P. K. (1999) Essential protein-protein interactions between Plasmodium falciparum thymidylate synthase and dihydrofolate reductase domains. J Biol Chem.274(53):37781-6. PMCID: PMC3791593.