Professional Education

  • Doctor of Philosophy, Nanjing Normal University (2015)

Stanford Advisors


All Publications

  • Molecular changes in hepatic metabolism in ZDSD rats-A new polygenic rodent model of obesity, metabolic syndrome, and diabetes. Biochimica et biophysica acta. Molecular basis of disease Han, L., Bittner, S., Dong, D., Cortez, Y., Bittner, A., Chan, J., Umar, M., Shen, W. J., Peterson, R. G., Kraemer, F. B., Azhar, S. 2020: 165688


    In recent years, the prevalence of obesity, metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes is increasing dramatically. They share pathophysiological mechanisms and often lead to cardiovascular diseases. The ZDSD rat was suggested as a new animal model to study diabetes and the metabolic syndrome. In the current study, we have further characterized metabolic and hepatic gene expression changes in ZDSD rats. Immuno-histochemical staining of insulin and glucagon on pancreas sections of ZDSD and control SD rats revealed that ZDSD rats have severe damage to their islet structures as early as 15?weeks of age. Animals were followed till they were 26?weeks old, where they exhibited obesity, hypertension, hyperglycemia, dyslipidemia, insulin resistance and diabetes. We found that gene expressions involved in glucose metabolism, lipid metabolism and amino acid metabolism were changed significantly in ZDSD rats. Elevated levels of ER stress markers correlated with the dysregulation of hepatic lipid metabolism in ZDSD rats. Key proteins participating in unfolded protein response pathways were also upregulated and likely contribute to the pathogenesis of dyslipidemia and insulin resistance. Based on its intact leptin system, its insulin deficiency, as well as its timeline of disease development without diet manipulation, this insulin resistant, dyslipidemic, hypertensive, and diabetic rat represents an additional, unique polygenic animal model that could be very useful to study human diabetes.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.bbadis.2020.165688

    View details for PubMedID 31987840

  • Tissue Specific Ablation of ACSL4 Results in Disturbed Steroidogenesis. Endocrinology Wang, W., Hao, X., Han, L., Yan, Z., Shen, W., Dong, D., Hasbargen, K., Bittner, S., Cortez, Y., Greenberg, A. S., Azhar, S., Kraemer, F. B. 2019


    ACSL4 is a member of the ACSL family that catalyzes the conversion of long chain fatty acids to acyl CoAs, which are essential for fatty acid incorporation and utilization into diverse metabolic pathways including cholesteryl ester synthesis. Cholesteryl esters in steroidogenic tissues such as the adrenal gland are particularly enriched in cholesteryl esters of long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids and constitute an important pool supplying cholesterol for steroid synthesis. The current studies addressed whether ACSL4 is required for normal steroidogenesis. CYP11A1 promoter-mediated Cre was used to generate steroid-tissue specific ACSL4 KO mice. Results demonstrate that ACSL4 plays an important role in adrenal cholesteryl ester formation, as well as determining the fatty acyl composition of adrenal cholesteryl esters, with ACSL4 deficiency leading to reductions in cholesteryl ester storage and alterations in cholesteryl ester composition. Statistically significant reductions in corticosterone and testosterone, but not progesterone, production were observed in vivo, and these deficits were accentuated in ex vivo and in vitro studies of isolated steroid tissues and cells from ACSL4 deficient mice. However, these effects on steroid production appear due to reductions in cholesteryl ester stores rather than disturbances of signaling pathways. We conclude that ACSL4 is dispensable for normal steroidogenesis.

    View details for DOI 10.1210/en.2019-00464

    View details for PubMedID 31504388

  • Creosote bush-derived NDGA attenuates molecular and pathological changes in a novel mouse model of non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). Molecular and cellular endocrinology Han, L., Bittner, S., Dong, D., Cortez, Y., Dulay, H., Arshad, S., Shen, W. J., Kraemer, F. B., Azhar, S. 2019: 110538


    Creosote bush (Larrea tridentata)-derived nordihydroguaiaretic acid (NDGA) was shown to have profound effects on the core components of metabolic syndrome. This study investigated the in vivo potential of NDGA for prevention or attenuation of the pathophysiologic abnormalities of NASH. A novel dietary NASH model with feeding C57BL/6J mice with a high trans-fat, high cholesterol and high fructose (HTF) diet, was used. The HTF diet fed mice exhibited obesity, insulin resistance, hepatic steatosis, fibrosis, inflammation, ER stress, oxidative stress, and liver injury. NDGA attenuated these metabolic abnormalities as well as hepatic steatosis and fibrosis together with attenuated expression of genes encoding fibrosis, progenitor and macrophage markers with no effect on the levels of mRNAs for lipogenic enzymes. NDGA increased expression of fatty acid oxidation genes. In conclusion, NDGA exerts anti-NASH/anti-fibrotic actions and raises the therapeutic potential of NDGA for treatment of NASH patients with fibrosis and other associated complications.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.mce.2019.110538

    View details for PubMedID 31415794

  • The role of miRNAs in regulating adrenal/gonadal steroidogenesis. Journal of molecular endocrinology Azhar, S., Dong, D., Shen, W. J., Hu, Z., Kraemer, F. B. 2019


    MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are endogenous noncoding single-stranded small RNAs of ~22 nucleotides in length that post-transcriptionally repress the expression of their various target genes. They contribute to the regulation of a variety of physiologic processes including embryonic development, differentiation and proliferation, apoptosis, metabolism, hemostasis and inflammation. In addition, aberrant miRNA expression is implicated in the pathogenesis of numerous diseases including cancer, hepatitis, cardiovascular diseases and metabolic diseases. Steroid hormones regulate virtually every aspect of metabolism and acute and chronic steroid hormone biosynthesis is primarily regulated by tissue-specific trophic hormones involving transcriptional and translational events. In addition, it is becoming increasingly clear that steroidogenic pathways are also subject to post-transcriptional and post-translational regulations including processes such as phosphorylation/dephosphorylation, and protein?protein interactions and regulation by specific miRNAs, although the latter is in its infancy state. Here, we summarize the recent advances in miRNA-mediated regulation of steroidogenesis with emphasis on adrenal and gonadal steroidogenesis.

    View details for DOI 10.1530/JME-19-0105

    View details for PubMedID 31671401

  • Plasma membrane cholesterol trafficking in steroidogenesis. FASEB journal : official publication of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology Deng, B., Shen, W., Dong, D., Azhar, S., Kraemer, F. B. 2018: fj201800697RRR


    Cholesterol is an important component of plasma membranes (PMs) and the precursor of all steroid hormones. In steroidogenic tissues, upon hormone stimulation, there is a rapid transfer of cholesterol to the mitochondria, which is the site of the initial step in steroidogenesis. In the current study, we examined PM cholesterol trafficking for steroidogenesis. In a mitochondrial reconstitution assay, adrenal PMs supported steroidogenesis in the absence of additional transport proteins. Depletion of cholesterol in PMs by 50% eliminated the membranes' ability to support steroidogenesis in vitro and reduced steroid production in intact Y1 adrenocortical cells. Syntaxin (STX)-5 and alpha-soluble N-ethylmaleimide-sensitive factor attachment protein (alpha-SNAP) are enriched in adrenal PMs, and adrenocorticotropic hormone treatment of rats recruited STX5 and alpha-SNAP to adrenal PMs and mitochondria. Immunodepletion of STX5 and alpha-SNAP from PMs decreased steroidogenesis supported by PMs in vitro. Protease digestion of PMs decreased, whereas recombinant STX5 or alpha-SNAP restored, the PMs' ability to support steroidogenesis. Knockdown of either STX5 or alpha-SNAP in Y1 cells decreased stimulated steroidogenesis. These results indicate that STX5 and alpha-SNAP facilitate cholesterol trafficking from PMs to mitochondria for adrenal steroid synthesis and underscore the importance of vesicular trafficking of PM cholesterol for steroidogenesis.-Deng, B., Shen, W.-J., Dong, D., Azhar, S., Kraemer, F. B. Plasma membrane cholesterol trafficking in steroidogenesis.

    View details for PubMedID 30133326

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