Henry J. Pownall

Henry J. Pownall, PhD

Sanford I. Weill and Antonio M. Gotto, Jr. MD Centennial Directorship in Translational Biomedical Sciences, Academic Institute
Professor of Bioenergetics, Academic Institute
Full Member, Research Institute
Houston Methodist
Weill Cornell Medical College


Dr. Pownall’s doctoral training was in physical chemistry with postdoctoral fellowships in molecular spectroscopy at the University of Houston, and biochemistry at Baylor College of Medicine with an emphasis on lipid metabolism. Over time he moved his studies from molecules to in vivo models, studying biophysics, peptide design, lipid synthesis and enzymology, and cell and molecular biology. His work is centered on high density lipoprotein therapeutics, and energy metabolism as it relates to obesity-linked diabetes and human lipid metabolism. A major goal of his research is to determine how alcohol ingestion contributes to enhanced postprandial lipemia, attendant pancreatitis, or alcohol-induced reduction of cardiovascular disease, an effect mediated by increased HDL-cholesterol.

His research is multidisciplinary, with extensive collaboration with structural biologists, endocrinologists, and x-ray crystallographers. Structural biologists provide expertise in lipid and lipoprotein structure by electron cryo microscopy. Endocrinologists have synergistic interests in the lipid disorders found in HIV-positive patients on highly active anti retroviral therapies. X-ray crystallographers help discern the total structure of Streptococcal serum opacity factor (SOF) for determination of structure function relationships.

Dr. Pownall maintains an active academic program. He is a member of three graduate programs at Baylor College of Medicine (Structural Computational Biology and Molecular Biophysics, Cell and Molecular Biology, and Cardiovascular Sciences) in which he teaches classes and serves on graduate advisory and qualifying exams committees. He is also active in community education, giving lectures on molecular ethics to local groups including several churches, home owner associations and garden clubs.

Description of Research

Dr. Pownall’s studies encompass multiple aspects of lipid metabolism, particularly HDL structure, properties and function in the context of obesity-linked diabetes and atherogenesis. His research goals are as follows:

-To determine if Streptococcal serum opacity factor (SOF) can enhance cholesterol disposal and reverse atherosclerosis
-To obtain a high resolution X-ray structure of SOF for the identification of active sites and design of SOF analogs
-To compare the energy storage potential of central and femoral gluteal depots, as they relate to obesity-linked diabetes
-To assess the effects of acetate, as an alcohol metabolite and in the food supply, on HDL levels and the onset of pancreatitis

Areas Of Expertise

Physical chemistry Obesity-linked diabetes Cholesterol transport Atherogenesis Fluorescence
Education & Training

Postdoctoral Fellowship, Baylor College of Medicine
PhD, Northeastern University
Postdoctoral Fellowship, The University of Houston
MS, Wilkes College, Wilkes-Barre, PA

Poloxamer 407 Induces Hypertriglyceridemia but Decreases Atherosclerosis in Ldlr-/- Mice
Peng, X, Lian, Z, Perrard, XYD, Xiao, Y, Ni, J, O’brien, V, Dong, H, Pownall, HJ, Ballantyne, CM & Wu, H 2022, , Cells, vol. 11, no. 11, 1795. https://doi.org/10.3390/cells11111795

Free Cholesterol Bioavailability and Atherosclerosis
Abe, RJ, Abe, JI, Nguyen, MTH, Olmsted-Davis, EA, Mamun, A, Banerjee, P, Cooke, JP, Fang, L, Pownall, H & Le, NT 2022, , Current Atherosclerosis Reports, vol. 24, no. 5, pp. 323-336. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11883-022-01011-z

Physico-chemical and physiological determinants of lipo-nanoparticle stability
Pownall, HJ, Liu, J, Gillard, BK, Yelamanchili, D & Rosales, C 2021, , Nanomedicine: Nanotechnology, Biology, and Medicine, vol. 33, 102361. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.nano.2021.102361

High-density lipoproteins, reverse cholesterol transport and atherogenesis
Pownall, HJ, Rosales, C, Gillard, BK & Gotto, AM 2021, , Nature Reviews Cardiology, vol. 18, no. 10, pp. 712-723. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41569-021-00538-z

High Free Cholesterol Bioavailability Drives the Tissue Pathologies in Scarb1-/-Mice
Liu, J, Gillard, BK, Yelamanchili, D, Gotto, AM, Rosales, C & Pownall, HJ 2021, , Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology, pp. E453-E467. https://doi.org/10.1161/ATVBAHA.121.316535

Highly conserved amino acid residues in apolipoprotein A1 discordantly induce high density lipoprotein assembly in vitro and in vivo
Yelamanchili, D, Liu, J, Gotto, AM, Hurley, AE, Lagor, WR, Gillard, BK, Davidson, WS, Pownall, HJ & Rosales, C 2020, , Biochimica et Biophysica Acta - Molecular and Cell Biology of Lipids, vol. 1865, no. 12, 158794. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bbalip.2020.158794

Within-Trial Cost-Effectiveness of a Structured Lifestyle Intervention in Adults With Overweight/Obesity and Type 2 Diabetes: Results From the Action for Health in Diabetes (Look AHEAD) Study
Look AHEAD Research Group 2021, , Diabetes care, vol. 44, no. 1, pp. 67-74. https://doi.org/10.2337/dc20-0358

Intensive Weight Loss Intervention and Cancer Risk in Adults with Type 2 Diabetes: Analysis of the Look AHEAD Randomized Clinical Trial
Yeh, HC, Bantle, JP, Cassidy-Begay, M, Blackburn, G, Bray, GA, Byers, T, Clark, JM, Coday, M, Egan, C, Espeland, MA, Foreyt, JP, Garcia, K, Goldman, V, Gregg, EW, Hazuda, HP, Hesson, L, Hill, JO, Horton, ES, Jakicic, JM, Jeffery, RW, Johnson, KC, Kahn, SE, Knowler, WC, Korytkowski, M, Kure, A, Lewis, CE, Mantzoros, C, Meacham, M, Montez, MG, Nathan, DM, Pajewski, N, Patricio, J, Peters, A, Xavier Pi-Sunyer, F, Pownall, H, Ryan, DH, Safford, M, Sedjo, RL, Steinburg, H, Vitolins, M, Wadden, TA, Wagenknecht, LE, Wing, RR, Wolff, AC, Wyatt, H & Yanovski, SZ 2020, , Obesity, vol. 28, no. 9, pp. 1678-1686. https://doi.org/10.1002/oby.22936

Dietary Alcohol and Fat Differentially Affect Plasma Cholesteryl Ester Transfer Activity and Triglycerides in Normo- and Hypertriglyceridemic Subjects
Gaubatz, JW, Gillard, BK, Rosales, C & Pownall, HJ 2020, , Lipids, vol. 55, no. 4, pp. 299-307. https://doi.org/10.1002/lipd.12237

The alcohol–high-density lipoprotein athero-protective axis
Rosales, C, Gillard, BK, Gotto, A & Pownall, HJ 2020, , Biomolecules, vol. 10, no. 7, 987, pp. 1-16. https://doi.org/10.3390/biom10070987

Commentary on SSO and other putative inhibitors of FA transport across membranes by CD36 disrupt intracellular metabolism, but do not affect fatty acid translocation
Pownall, HJ 2020, , Journal of lipid research, vol. 61, no. 5, pp. 595-597. https://doi.org/10.1194/jlr.C120000745

Weight Change 2 Years After Termination of the Intensive Lifestyle Intervention in the Look AHEAD Study
Look AHEAD Research Group 2020, , Obesity, vol. 28, no. 5, pp. 893-901. https://doi.org/10.1002/oby.22769

History of Cardiovascular Disease, Intensive Lifestyle Intervention, and Cardiovascular Outcomes in the Look AHEAD Trial
Look AHEAD Research Group 2020, , Obesity, vol. 28, no. 2, pp. 247-258. https://doi.org/10.1002/oby.22676

Proceedings of the Ninth HDL (High-Density Lipoprotein) Workshop: Focus on Cardiovascular Disease
Rodriguez, A, Trigatti, BL, Mineo, C, Knaack, D, Wilkins, JT, Sahoo, D, Asztalos, BF, Mora, S, Cuchel, M, Pownall, HJ, Rosales, C, Bernatchez, P, Ribeiro Martins da Silva, A, Getz, GS, Barber, JL, Shearer, GC, Zivkovic, AM, Tietge, UJF, Sacks, FM, Connelly, MA, Oda, MN, Davidson, WS, Sorci-Thomas, MG, Vaisar, T, Ruotolo, G, Vickers, KC & Martel, C 2019, , Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology, vol. 39, no. 12, pp. 2457-2467. https://doi.org/10.1161/ATVBAHA.119.313340

Replacing Saturated Fat With Unsaturated Fat in Western Diet Reduces Foamy Monocytes and Atherosclerosis in Male Ldlr-/- Mice
Lian, Z, Perrard, XYD, Peng, X, Raya, JL, Hernandez, AA, Johnson, CG, Lagor, WR, Pownall, HJ, Hoogeveen, RC, Simon, SI, Sacks, FM, Ballantyne, CM & Wu, H 2020, , Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology, vol. 40, no. 1, pp. 72-85. https://doi.org/10.1161/ATVBAHA.119.313078

Vulnerable Atherosclerotic Plaque Imaging by Small-Molecule High-Affinity Positron Emission Tomography Radiopharmaceutical
Yang, Z, Li, F, Yelamanchili, D, Zeng, Z, Rosales, C, Youker, KA, Shen, H, Ferrari, M, Mahmarian, J, Pownall, HJ, Hamilton, DJ & Li, Z 2019, , advanced therapeutics, vol. 2, no. 8. https://doi.org/10.1002/adtp.201900005

Effects of Conserved Proline- APOA1 Variants on HDL Structure and Function.
Rosales, C, Yelamanchili, D, Gillard, BK, Gotto, A & Pownall, HJ 2019, .

Revisiting Reverse Cholesterol Transport in the Context of High-Density Lipoprotein Free Cholesterol Bioavailability
Rosales, C, Gillard, BK, Xu, B, Gotto, AM & Pownall, HJ 2019, , Methodist DeBakey cardiovascular journal, vol. 15, no. 1, pp. 47-54. https://doi.org/10.14797/mdcj-15-1-47

Lipids and Cardiovascular Disease: Putting It All Together
Pownall, HJ & Gotto, AM 2019, , Methodist DeBakey cardiovascular journal, vol. 15, no. 1, pp. 5-8. https://doi.org/10.14797/mdcj-15-1-5

Cholesterol: Can't Live With It, Can't Live Without It
Pownall, HJ & Gotto, AM 2019, , Methodist DeBakey cardiovascular journal, vol. 15, no. 1, pp. 9-15. https://doi.org/10.14797/mdcj-15-1-9