Ke Zhang

Assistant Professor of Biology

Postdoctoral Fellow, Laboratory of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, National Cancer Institute, National Institute of Health, Bethesda, Maryland (2006-2012)
PhD,  Genes & Development program, University of Texas, M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas (2005)
MS, Oncology, Peking Union Medical College, Beijing, P. R. China (1999)
BS, Biochemistry, Wuhan University, Wuhan, P.R. China (1997)

003 Winston Hall                                                                                                                                                           Lab open house party 2013

phone: 336-758-2018
email: zhangk at

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Areas of Interest

Epigenetics, Genomics, Cell Biology


We all developed from a zygote and all the cells in our body have the same genes. However, why are there so many different cell types in our body? How could a kidney cell know how to be completely different from a photoreceptor cell in your eye? If they both contain the exact same genes, shouldn’t they be exactly the same? We now know that it is the epigenome that tells those cells what they should be and how they should develop. However, how the epigenome is regulated in response to nuclear signaling networks, and how misregulation of the epigenome contributes to physiological and pathological processes remain enigmatic. Two fundamental mechanisms in epigenomic regulation intrigue me: 1) how RNAPII generated non-coding RNAs (ncRNAs) are produced and how their dysregulation leads to human diseases such as cancer; 2) how lysine methylation and deacetylation of histones and non-histone substrates functionally integrate nuclear signals to govern various cellular functions. Using fission yeast and mammalian cells as model systems, we will address these questions by combining genetic, biochemical, proteomic, and genomic approaches. Alterations in epigenome, especially at the early stage of development, can cause lifelong health effects. Elucidating these mechanisms holds enormous promise for health prevention of intractable human diseases including birth defect and cancer.

Link to Ke Zhang CV


JF Tucker, C Ohle, G Schermann, K Bendrin, W Zhang, T Fischer, K Zhang. 2016. A novel epigenetic silencing pathway involving the highly conserved 5’-3’ exoribonuclease Dhp1/Rat1/Xrn2 in Schizosaccharomyces pombe. PLoS Genet 12(2):e1005873. [pubMed]

M Zofall, S Yamanaka, FE Reyes-Turcu,K Zhang, C Rubin, SI Grewal. 2013. RNA elimination machinery targeting meiotic mRNAs promotes facultative heterochromatin formation. Science 335:96-100 [pubMed Abstract]

K Zhang, T Fischer, RL Porter, J Dhakshnamoorthy, M Zofall, M Zhou, TD Veenstra, SI Grewal. 2011.  Clr4/Suv39 and RNA quality control factors cooperate to trigger RNAi and suppress antisense RNA. Science331: 1624-1627 [pubMed Abstract]

FE Reyes-Turcu*, K Zhang*, M Zofall, E Chen, SI Grewal.  2011. Defects in RNA quality control machinery promote RNAi-independent heterochromatin formation. Nature Structural and Molecular Biology 18:1132-1138.  *These authors contributed equally to this work [pubMed Abstract]

M Zofall, T Fischer, K Zhang, M Zhou, B Cui, TD Veenstra and SI Grewal. 2009. Histone H2A.Z cooperates with RNAi and heterochromatin factors to suppress antisense RNAs. Nature461:419-422 [pubMed Abstract]

A Roguev, S Bandyopadhyay, M Zofall, K Zhang, TFischer, SR Collins, H Qu, M Shales, HO Park, J Hayles, KL Hoe, DU Kim, T Ideker, SI Grewal, JS Weissman and NJ Krogan. 2008. Conservation and rewiring of functional modules revealed by an epistasis map in fission yeast. Science 322: 405-410 [pubMed Abstract]

K Zhang, K Mosch, W Fischle and SI Grewal. 2008. Roles of the Clr4 methyltransferase complex in nucleation, spreading and maintenance of heterochromatin. Nature Structural and Molecular Biology 15:381-388 [pubMed Abstract]

ES Chen, K Zhang, ENicolas, HP Cam, M Zofall, SI Grewal. 2008. Cell cycle control of centromeric repeat transcription and heterochromatin assembly. Nature 451:734-737 [pubMed Abstract]

YE Leem, TL Ripmaster, FD Kelly, H Ebina, ME Heincelman, K Zhang, SI Grewal. CS Hoffman,  HL Levin. 2008. Retrotransposon Tf1 is targeted to Pol II promoters by transcription activators. Molecular Cell30:98-107 [pubMed Abstract]

K Zhang, W Lin, JA Latham, GM Riefler, JM Schumacher, C Chan, T Tatchell, D Hawke, R Kobayashi, and SYR Dent. 2005. The Set1 methyltransferase opposes Ipl1 Aurora kinase functions in chromosome segregation. Cell 122: 723-734 [pubMed Abstract]

K Zhang, SYRDent. 2005. Histone modifying enzymes and cancer: going beyond histones. Journal of Cell Biochemistry. 96:1137-1148.

Pombe web: