Dr. Hugo ZHENG
[visit the Zheng Lab Website]

Dr Zheng completed his Ph.D. in Plant Cell Biology under the supervision of Drs Chris Hawes at Oxford Brookes University and Ian Moore at the University of Oxford.  Following his doctoral study, Dr Zheng continued to work with Dr Moore at the University of Oxford for about a year as a post-doctoral research fellow in 2001.  At Oxford, Dr Zheng developed an innovative, GFP-based, in vivo imaging assay system for qualitative and quantitative membrane trafficking analysis in plant cells.  In 2001, Dr Zheng moved to the University of British Columbia to continue his post-doctoral research with Dr. Ljerka Kunst studying various aspects of lipid biosynthesis, lipid transport and lipid function in Arabidopsis.  Dr Zheng joined the Biology Department at McGill University in January 2007 as an assistant professor.

Research in the Zheng laboratory

Plant cells, like other eukaryotic cells, are characterized by an elaborated endomembrane system consisting of several biochemically distinct membrane-bound organelles including the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) and Golgi.  In plants, this system is responsible for the biogenesis of the cell wall, the plasma membrane (PM) and diverse vacuoles that are among the most commercially important and biologically interesting structures. The integrity of the plant endomembrane system is maintained by precisely regulated membrane trafficking that links the organelles of the system. Membrane trafficking - beyond its role in the delivery of proteins, lipids and polysaccharides, is central to many aspects of plant developmental processes and stress adaptation.

The overall goal of Dr Zheng’s research is to understand how plant intracellular membrane trafficking is regulated as cell morphology changes during plant development and in response to environmental stresses.  His approach is to use reverse genetics to exploit the regulatory role of Rab-A and Rab-E GTPases and forward genetics to identify novel genes that are involved in plant-specific membrane trafficking.

Another research we are interested is to study the molecular regulation and function of very-long-chain fatty acid (VLCFA) biosynthesis and secretion in the production of waxes, seed oils, and sphingolipids. Dr. Zheng was involved in characterization of CER5, an ATP-binding cassette (ABC) transporter important for the cuticular wax export. He also cloned the CER10 gene that encodes an enoyl-CoA reductase, where identified VLCFAs as important players in endocytosis and directional cell expansion. The Zheng lab is currently using the cloned CER10 to screen for additional fatty acid elongase (FAE) components, we are also taking advantage of the cer10 mutant to further elucidate cellular functions of VLCFAs and to study the regulation of VLCFA biosynthesis.  

Selected Publications

Hooker, T.S., Lam, P., Zheng, H., Kunst, L. (2007) A Core Subunit of the RNA-Processing/Degrading Exosome Specifically Influences Cuticular Wax Biosynthesis in Arabidopsis. The Plant Cell, 19: 904-913.

Rowland, O., Zheng, H., Hepworth, S.R., Lam, P., Jetter, R., and Kunst, L. (2006). CER4 Encodes an Alcohol-Forming Fatty Acyl-CoA Reductase Involved in Cuticular Wax Production in Arabidopsis. Plant Physiol. 142: 866-877.

Zheng, H., Camacho, L., Batoko, H., Wee, E., Legen, J., Leaver, C., Malho, R., Hussey, P. and Moore, I. (2005). A Rab-E GTPase mutant acts downstream of the Rab-D subclass in biosynthetic membrane traffic to the plasma membrane in tobacco leaf epidermis. Plant Cell, 17: 2020-2036

Zheng, H., Rowland, O. and Kunst, L. (2005). Disruptions of the Arabidopsis enoyl-CoA reductase gene reveal an essential role for very-long-chain fatty acid synthesis in cell expansion during plant morphogenesis. Plant Cell, 17: 1467-1481

Pighin, J.*, Zheng, H.*, Balakshin L.J., Goodman, I.P., Western, T.L., Jetter, R., Kunst, L., and Samuels L.A. (2004). Plant cuticular lipid export requires an ABC transporter. Science 306: 702-704 *- co-first author

Zheng, H., Kunst, L., Hawes, C. and Moore, I. (2004). A GFP-based assay reveals a role for RHD3 in transport between the endoplasmic reticulum and Golgi apparatus. Plant J. 37: 398-414

Batoko, H., Zheng, H., Hawes, C. and Moore, I. (2000). A rab1 GTPase is required for transport between the endoplasmic reticulum and Golgi apparatus and for normal Golgi movement in plant cells. Plant Cell 12: 2201-2218

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