Zhijun J. Luo, MD, PhD

Associate Professor, Biochemistry

Zhijun Luo
75 E. Newton St Evans Building


Research Interests: Regulation of tumor cell growth and metabolism by protein phosphorylation

The overall research interest in my laboratory is to understand how protein phosphorylation regulates cell growth and metabolism, and how its alteration causes diseases such as cancer and metabolic disorders. Our ongoing research focuses on characterization of AMP-activated protein kinase and Raf kinase, both of which have been implicated in cancer and other disorders.

AMPK serves as a fuel-sensing enzyme that is activated by binding of 5’ AMP to the? gamma subunit and phosphorylation of the catalytic subunit at Thr 172 by upstream kinases such as LKB1 and CaMKK. The activation of AMPK has been shown to improve metabolic syndrome and to be implicated in control of cancer cell growth. One of our research interests is to test the hypothesis that AMPK functions as a metabolic tumor suppressor. Using microarray and proteomic approaches, we have identified several target molecules regulated by AMPK and are currently evaluating their functional relationship with AMPK and biological relevance.

Raf kinases, consisting of three isoforms, Raf-1, B-Raf and A-Raf, act as immediate downstream effectors of Ras. They are implicated in tumorigenesis, inasmuch as activating mutations of the ras genes have been found in 20-30% of overall human cancers and activated mutants of B-Raf frequently reported in human cancers. Although the linear relationship of the Ras/Raf/MEK/Erk signaling pathway has been delineated, the mechanism of Raf activation still remains elusive. We have a long standing interest in characterizing phosphorylation of Raf for its activation, and identifying kinases responsible for these phosphorylation events and downstream targets in addition to MEK1/2.

Other Positions

  • Graduate Faculty (Primary Mentor of Grad Students), Boston University School of Medicine, Division of Graduate Medical Sciences
  • Boston Medical Center


  • Jiangxi University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, MD
  • Albert Einstein College of Medicine, PhD
  • Sun Yat-sen University, MSc


  • Published on 8/25/2017

    Lin H, Ying Y, Wang YY, Wang G, Jiang SS, Huang D, Luo L, Chen YG, Gerstenfeld LC, Luo Z. AMPK downregulates ALK2 via increasing the interaction between Smurf1 and Smad6, leading to inhibition of osteogenic differentiation. Biochim Biophys Acta. 2017 12; 1864(12):2369-2377. PMID: 28847510.

    Read at: PubMed
  • Published on 3/16/2017

    Li J, Liu J, Liang Z, He F, Yang L, Li P, Jiang Y, Wang B, Zhou C, Wang Y, Ren Y, Yang J, Zhang J, Luo Z, Vaziri C, Liu P. Simvastatin and Atorvastatin inhibit DNA replication licensing factor MCM7 and effectively suppress RB-deficient tumors growth. Cell Death Dis. 2017 Mar 16; 8(3):e2673. PMID: 28300827.

    Read at: PubMed
  • Published on 2/2/2017

    Liang Z, Li W, Liu J, Li J, He F, Jiang Y, Yang L, Li P, Wang B, Wang Y, Ren Y, Yang J, Luo Z, Vaziri C, Liu P. Simvastatin suppresses the DNA replication licensing factor MCM7 and inhibits the growth of tamoxifen-resistant breast cancer cells. Sci Rep. 2017 Feb 02; 7:41776. PMID: 28150753.

    Read at: PubMed
  • Published on 9/13/2016

    He C, Yang Z, Cheng D, Xie C, Zhu Y, Ge Z, Luo Z, Lu N. Helicobacter pylori Infection Aggravates Diet-induced Insulin Resistance in Association With Gut Microbiota of Mice. EBioMedicine. 2016 Oct; 12:247-254. PMID: 27743904.

    Read at: PubMed
  • Published on 3/28/2016

    He H, Liu D, Lin H, Jiang S, Ying Y, Chun S, Deng H, Zaia J, Wen R, Luo Z. Phosphatidylethanolamine binding protein 4 (PEBP4) is a secreted protein and has multiple functions. Biochim Biophys Acta. 2016 Jul; 1863(7 Pt A):1682-9. PMID: 27033522.

    Read at: PubMed
  • Published on 2/2/2016

    Huang D, He X, Zou J, Guo P, Jiang S, Lv N, Alekseyev Y, Luo L, Luo Z. Negative regulation of Bmi-1 by AMPK and implication in cancer progression. Oncotarget. 2016 Feb 02; 7(5):6188-200. PMID: 26717043.

    Read at: PubMed
  • Published on 12/30/2015

    Li NS, Zou JR, Lin H, Ke R, He XL, Xiao L, Huang D, Luo L, Lv N, Luo Z. LKB1/AMPK inhibits TGF-ß1 production and the TGF-ß signaling pathway in breast cancer cells. Tumour Biol. 2016 Jun; 37(6):8249-58. PMID: 26718214.

    Read at: PubMed
  • Published on 10/13/2015

    Yang Z, Xie C, Xu W, Liu G, Cao X, Li W, Chen J, Zhu Y, Luo S, Luo Z, Lu N. Phosphorylation and inactivation of PTEN at residues Ser380/Thr382/383 induced by Helicobacter pylori promotes gastric epithelial cell survival through PI3K/Akt pathway. Oncotarget. 2015 Oct 13; 6(31):31916-26. PMID: 26376616.

    Read at: PubMed
  • Published on 9/30/2015

    Lin H, Li N, He H, Ying Y, Sunkara S, Luo L, Lv N, Huang D, Luo Z. AMPK Inhibits the Stimulatory Effects of TGF-ß on Smad2/3 Activity, Cell Migration, and Epithelial-to-Mesenchymal Transition. Mol Pharmacol. 2015 Dec; 88(6):1062-71. PMID: 26424816.

    Read at: PubMed
  • Published on 4/13/2015

    Luo L, Jiang S, Huang D, Lu N, Luo Z. MLK3 phophorylates AMPK independently of LKB1. PLoS One. 2015; 10(4):e0123927. PMID: 25874865.

    Read at: PubMed

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