Shuling Zhang, M.D., Ph.D.

Staff Scientist

Team Member of:

Dr. Shuling Zhang researches the plasmacytoma mouse model, a complex genetic process. His main goals include identifying tumor susceptibility/resistance genes and understanding how the individual allelic variants of these genes contribute, singly and in combination, to the susceptibility phenotype. Identification of the signaling pathways may contribute to the development of new strategies for preventing or treating human B cell tumors. Dr. Zhang is currently investigating the role of mTOR in B and T cell function, and the regulation of mTOR expression.

Areas of Expertise

plasmcytoma, knock-out/in mouse models, mTOR, transcriptional regulation, immune response

Contact Info

Shuling Zhang, M.D., Ph.D.
Center for Cancer Research
National Cancer Institute
Building 37, Room 3140
Bethesda, MD 20892
Ph: 301-594-6092

Our current research is focused on the functions of p16INK4a and mTOR in the development of plasma cell tumors. Mouse plasmacytoma susceptibility provides a model for the dissection of complex genetic traits associated with cancer. BALB/c mice are susceptible to the development of pristane-induced plasma cell tumors, while DBA/2 and C57BL/6 strains are genetically resistant to the plasmacytomagenic effects of pristane. Results from backcross and intercross experiments showed that several Pctr loci are involved in this model system of human B-cell neoplasia. Two of these genes (Pctr1 and 2) reside in noncontiguous, nonoverlapping segments of the distal half of mouse Chr 4. One of the BALB/c susceptibility and modifier loci, Pctr1, was mapped to a 1.5-centimorgan (cM) chromosomal region that includes Cdkn2a, which encodes p16INK4a and p19ARF, and was found to be polymorphic between BALB/c and DBA/2 in the promoter and coding regions. The knockout mice for the Cdkn2a locus develop accelerated plasmacytomagenesis. Both p16INK4a and p19ARF are tumor suppressors involved in regulating cell cycle checkpoints and apoptosis. When tested with wild-type (DBA/2) p16INK4a, the BALB/c-specific variant of p16INK4a was inefficient in its ability to inhibit the activity of cyclin D2/CDK4 in kinase assays, to induce growth arrest of mouse plasmacytoma cell lines in cell cycle analyses, and to prevent ras-induced transformation of NIH 3T3 cells in ras transformation assays. We also found that RREB, a ras-responsive transcriptional element with zinc-finger binding motifs, can repress p16INK4a expression, and the BALB/c promoter is more sensitive to regulation by RREB than DBA/2 promoter. Other of candidate genes, Pctr2, was identified by positional cloning, as the serine-threonine protein kinase FKBP-1-rapamycin associated protein (FRAP [FKBP12-rapamycin-associated protein], also called mTOR). mTOR promoter and coding regions were also found to be polymorphic between BALB/c and DBA/2 mice. mTOR is a key component of a signaling pathway that integrates inputs from nutrients and growth factors to regulate cell growth.

Our previous studies have shown that mTOR is a candidate tumor susceptibility gene for mouse plasmacytoma development; the kinase activity of tumor susceptible BALB/c mice was much lower than that of the tumor resistant DBA/2 mouse. Current projects: 1. Studying the contribution of p16INK4a and mTOR in development of plasma cell tumors in vivo by using conditional knock-in/out techniques. 2. Studying the transcriptional regulation of mTOR in mouse plasma cell tumors. 3. Studying the role of RREB on the transcriptional regulation of p16INK4a in mouse plasma cell tumors by using siRNA, lentivirus-shRNA, ChIP, and Gel Shift techniques. 4. Investigating the effect of methylation on the development of mouse plasma cell tumors.

Selected Publications

  1. Zhang S, Readinger JA, DuBois W, Janka-Junttila M, Robinson R, Pruitt M, Bliskovsky V, Wu JZ, Sakakibara K, Patel J, Parent CA, Tessarollo L, Schwartzberg PL, Mock BA.
    Blood. 117: 1228-38, 2011. [ Journal Article ]
  2. Simmons JK, Patel J, Michalowski A, Zhang S, Wei BR, Sullivan P, Gamache B, Felsenstein K, Kuehl WM, Simpson RM, Zingone A, Landgren O, Mock BA.
    Mol Oncol. 8: 261-72, 2014. [ Journal Article ]
  3. Smrž D, Bandara G, Zhang S, Mock BA, Beaven MA, Metcalfe DD, Gilfillan AM.
    J. Immunol. Methods. 390: 52-62, 2013. [ Journal Article ]
  4. Zhang S, Pruitt M, Tran D, Du Bois W, Zhang K, Patel R, Hoover S, Simpson RM, Simmons J, Gary J, Snapper CM, Casellas R, Mock BA.
    J. Immunol.. 191: 1692-703, 2013. [ Journal Article ]
  5. Wu JJ, Liu J, Chen EB, Wang JJ, Cao L, Narayan N, Fergusson MM, Rovira II, Allen M, Springer DA, Lago CU, Zhang S, DuBois W, Ward T, deCabo R, Gavrilova O, Mock B, Finkel T.
    Cell Rep. 4: 913-20, 2013. [ Journal Article ]

Dr. Shuling Zhang received his medical degree (Ningxia Medical College) and MS degree (Hebei Medical University) in China. From 1989 to 1993, Dr. Zhang was an assistant professor at the Department of Biochemistry of Ningxia Medical College. He obtained his Ph.D. degree from the National Laboratory of Medical Molecular Biology at Peking Union Medical School (PUMC) & Chinese Academy of Medical Science (CAMS) in 1996. Subsequently, he joined the National Cancer Institute in the laboratory of Dr. Beverly A. Mock as a visiting fellow. He moved to the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at the Uniformed Services University of Health Science (USUHS) as a senior research fellow in 2001, where his research focused on how interferon regulatory factors IRF-1, IRF-2, and ICSBP regulate interferon gamma-dependent Cox-2 expression and the role of Cox2 in mediating the effects of Toll receptors. Dr. Zhang came back to NCI as a staff scientist in 2003, and currently works in the Cancer Genetics section along with Dr. Beverly A. Mock at the Laboratory of Cancer Biology and Genetics.