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Zhiqiang Zhang, PhD

Assistant Professor of Transplant Immunology in Surgery, Institute for Academic Medicine
Assistant Member, Research Institute
Houston Methodist
Weill Cornell Medical College


Dr. Zhiqiang Zhang earned his Ph.D. in Life Science from the University of Dalian University of Technology, Dalian, China, in 1999. He held faculty appointments at the University of Texas, MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston Texas, and the Baylor research Institute, Baylor Institute for Immunology Research, Dallas, Texas, before becoming a member of Houston Methodist Research Institute in 2014. Dr. Zhiqiang Zhang also holds adjunct faculty appointment at Baylor University, Waco, TX. As a member of the Research Institute Transplant Immunology Research Program, he directs a research program focusing on inflammation and virus infection. 

Description of Research

Innate immunity plays a critical role in initiating immune response and pathogen clearance upon microbial infection. Using pattern recognition receptors, including intracellular receptors or cell surface receptors, immune cells sense and respond to pathogenic microbial infection. This triggers activation of various anti-pathogen signaling cascades leading to anti-microbial, type I interferon (IFN), and/or proinflammatory cytokine responses. Understanding the effect of various microbial infections on receptors and signaling pathways will provide molecular insights into the host defense machinery and potential therapeutic targets for treating microbial infection. In contrast, uncontrolled nucleic acid sensing, especially self-nucleic acid sensing, and excessive production of type 1 IFN and proinflammatory cytokines, have been implicated in the development of autoimmune diseases such as systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). Knowing the self-nucleic acid sensing systems in immune cells will help us develop receptor antagonists as a new form of therapy for autoimmune diseases.

Studies conducted by Dr. Zhang ’s group indicate that many helicases are critical cytosolic sensors that recognize RNA, DNA, or c-di-GMP, triggering the IFN host immune response mediated by MAVS, TRIF, or STING. The anti-microbial pathogen activities of these helicases are regulated by protein ubiquitination. Further studies indicate that these helicases as well as the well-known IFI16, play little role in sensing neutrophil-derived mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), which is the major inducer of IFN in SLE. Dr.
Zhang ’s group has:
i) Characterized DNA-binding proteins in monocyte. They expect to identify the cytosolic sensor to mtDNA.
ii) Screened all 70 members in the TRIM family and has found that at least 6 other TRIMs play important roles in regulating nucleic acid sensing.

Together, their studies will focus on revealing the unknown host defense mechanisms, autoimmune mechanisms, and ubiquitin-signaling pathways.

Areas Of Expertise

Autoimmune mechanisms Virus infection Type I interferon Proinflammatory cytokine response
Education & Training

Postdoctoral Fellowship , Chinese Academy of Sciences
MS , Dalian Univ of Technology
PhD , Dalian Univ of Technology
Postdoctoral Fellowship , The Pennsylvania State University
Postdoctoral Fellowship , Tufts University

Identification of a role for TRIM29 in the control of innate immunity in the respiratory tract
Xing, J, Weng, L, Yuan, B, Wang, Z, Jia, L, Jin, R, Lu, H, Li, XC, Liu, Y-J & Zhang, Z 2016, Nature Immunology, vol 17, no. 12, pp. 1373-1380. DOI:

NFATC3 promotes IRF7 transcriptional activity in plasmacy--toid dendritic cells
Bao, M, Wang, Y, Liu, Y, Shi, P, Lu, H, Sha, W, Weng, L, Hanabuchi, S, Qin, J, Plumas, J, Chaperot, L, Zhang, Z & Liu, Y-J 2016, The Journal of experimental medicine, vol 213, no. 11, pp. 2383-2398. DOI:

Rpl22 Loss Selectively Impairs aß T Cell Development by Dysregulating Endoplasmic Reticulum Stress Signaling
Solanki, NR, Stadanlick, JE, Zhang, Y, Duc, A-C, Lee, S-Y, Lauritsen, JPH, Zhang, Z & Wiest, DL 2016, Journal of Immunology, vol 197, no. 6, pp. 2280-9. DOI:

Porous Silicon Microparticle Potentiates Anti-Tumor Immunity by Enhancing Cross-Presentation and Inducing Type I Interferon Response
Xia, X , Mai, J, Xu, R, Perez, JET, Guevara, ML, Shen, Q, Mu, C, Tung, HY, Corry, DB, Evans, SE, Liu, X, Ferrari, M, Zhang, Z, Li, XC, Wang, RF & Shen, H 2015, Cell Reports, vol 11, no. 6, pp. 957-966. DOI:

Human NLRP3 Inflammasome senses multiple types of bacterial RNAs
Sha, W, Mitoma, H, Hanabuchi, S, Bao, M, Weng, L, Sugimoto, N, Liu, Y, Zhang, Z, Zhong, J, Sun, B & Liu, YJ 2014, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, vol 111, no. 45, pp. 16059-16064. DOI:

DHX15 senses double-stranded RNA in myeloid dendritic cells
Lu, H, Lu, N, Weng, L, Yuan, B, Liu, YJ & Zhang, Z 2014, Journal of Immunology, vol 193, no. 3, pp. 1364-1372. DOI:

The interaction between the helicase DHX33 and IPS-1 as a novel pathway to sense double-stranded RNA and RNA viruses in myeloid dendritic cells
Liu, Y, Lu, N, Yuan, B, Weng, L, Wang, F, Liu, YJ & Zhang, Z 2014, Cellular and Molecular Immunology, vol 11, no. 1, pp. 49-57. DOI:

The E3 ubiquitin ligase tripartite motif 33 is essential for cytosolic RNA-Induced NLRP3 inflammasome activation
Weng, L, Mitoma, H, Tricot, C, Bao, M, Liu, Y, Zhang, Z & Liu, YJ 2014, Journal of Immunology, vol 193, no. 7, pp. 3676-3682. DOI:

The DHX33 RNA Helicase Senses Cytosolic RNA and Activates the NLRP3 Inflammasome
Mitoma, H, Hanabuchi, S, Kim, T, Bao, M, Zhang, Z, Sugimoto, N & Liu, YJ 2013, Immunity, vol 39, no. 1, pp. 123-135. DOI:

The E3 ubiquitin ligase TRIM21 negatively regulates the innate immune response to intracellular double-stranded DNA
Zhang, Z, Bao, M, Lu, N, Weng, L, Yuan, B & Liu, YJ 2013, Nature Immunology, vol 14, no. 2, pp. 172-178. DOI:

The helicase DDX41 recognizes the bacterial secondary messengers cyclic di-GMP and cyclic di-AMP to activate a type i interferon immune response
Parvatiyar, K, Zhang, Z, Teles, RM, Ouyang, S, Jiang, Y, Iyer, SS, Zaver, SA, Schenk, M, Zeng, S, Zhong, W, Liu, ZJ, Modlin, RL, Liu, YJ & Cheng, G 2012, Nature Immunology, vol 13, no. 12, pp. 1155-1161. DOI:

DHX9 pairs with IPS-1 to sense double-stranded RNA in myeloid dendritic cells
Zhang, Z, Yuan, B, Lu, N, Facchinetti, V & Liu, YJ 2011, Journal of Immunology, vol 187, no. 9, pp. 4501-4508. DOI:

The helicase DDX41 senses intracellular DNA mediated by the adaptor STING in dendritic cells
Zhang, Z, Yuan, B, Bao, M, Lu, N, Kim, T & Liu, YJ 2011, Nature Immunology, vol 12, no. 10, pp. 959-965. DOI:

Developmental arrest of T cells in Rpl22-deficient mice is dependent upon multiple p53 effectors
Stadanlick, JE, Zhang, Z, Lee, SY, Hemann, M, Biery, M, Carleton, MO, Zambetti, GP, Anderson, SJ, Oravecz, T & Wiest, DL 2011, Journal of Immunology, vol 187, no. 2, pp. 664-675. DOI:

DDX1, DDX21, and DHX36 Helicases Form a Complex with the Adaptor Molecule TRIF to Sense dsRNA in Dendritic Cells
Zhang, Z, Kim, T, Bao, M, Facchinetti, V, Jung, SY, Ghaffari, AA, Qin, J, Cheng, G & Liu, YJ 2011, Immunity, vol 34, no. 6, pp. 866-878. DOI:

Aspartate-glutamate-alanine-histidine box motif (DEAH)/RNA helicase a helicases sense microbial DNA in human plasmacytoid dendritic cells
Kim, T, Pazhoor, S, Bao, M, Zhang, Z, Hanabuchi, S, Facchinetti, V, Bover, L, Plumas, J, Chaperot, L, Qin, J & Liu, YJ 2010, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, vol 107, no. 34, pp. 15181-15186. DOI:

Regulation of p53 target gene expression by peptidylarginine deiminase 4
Li, P, Yao, H, Zhang, Z, Li, M, Luo, Y, Thompson, PR, Gilmour, DS & Wang, Y 2008, Molecular and Cellular Biology, vol 28, no. 15, pp. 4745-58. DOI:

The receptor tyrosine kinase RON represses HIV-1 transcription by targeting RNA polymerase II processivity
Klatt, A, Zhang, Z, Kalantari, P, Hankey, PA, Gilmour, DS & Henderson, AJ 2008, Journal of Immunology, vol 180, no. 3, pp. 1670-7.

Transcription termination factor Pcf11 limits the processivity of Pol II on an HIV provirus to repress gene expression
Zhang, Z, Klatt, A, Henderson, AJ & Gilmour, DS 2007, Genes & development, vol 21, no. 13, pp. 1609-14. DOI:

Negative elongation factor NELF represses human immunodeficiency virus transcription by pausing the RNA polymerase II complex
Zhang, Z, Klatt, A, Gilmour, DS & Henderson, AJ 2007, The Journal of biological chemistry, vol 282, no. 23, pp. 16981-8. DOI: