Zhi-Ming Zheng, M.D., Ph.D.

HIV Dynamics and Replication Program
HIV virion image
HIV Dynamics and Replication Program
HIV DRP staff photo September 2019
HIV Dynamics and Replication Program
Melissa Fernandez work-in-progress seminar August 2018
HIV Dynamics and Replication Program
DRP Conference, October 13, 2021
HIV Dynamics and Replication Program
HIV DRP Think Tank Meeting 2017
HIV Dynamics and Replication Program
Sean Patro's poster presentation at CROI 2019
HIV Dynamics and Replication Program
John Coffin and Stephen Hughes participating in This Week in Virology podcast at 2018 Cold Spring Harbor Retroviruses Meeting
HIV Dynamics and Replication Program
Students and postbac fellows in the HIV Dynamics and Replication Program July 2019

Zhi-Ming Zheng, M.D., Ph.D.

Zhi-Ming Zheng, M.D., Ph.D.
Senior Investigator
Head, Tumor Virus RNA Biology Section

Dr. Zheng first identified RNA cis-elements in regulation of alternative RNA splicing in papillomavirus in 1996 and has been studying protein-RNA interactions and their consequences in various infections with tumor viruses, including high-risk human papillomaviruses and Kaposi’s sarcoma-associated herpesvirus. This study aims to understand how RNA splicing and small regulatory RNAs regulate the expression of viral and host genes in viral carcinogenesis. The long-term goal is to develop a series of therapeutic approaches to control viral or cellular gene expression for cancer or AIDS treatments and to identify biomarkers for clinical diagnosis and prognosis.

Areas of Expertise

1) RNA processing, 2) RNA-protein interactions, 3) regulatory RNAs, 4) tumor viruses

Gene Expression and Post-Transcriptional Regulation of DNA Tumor Viruses

1) Papillomavirus infection and viral and host gene expression. Human papillomavirus type 16 (HPV16) or 18 (HPV18) infection, acquired primarily via sexual transmission, is widely recognized as a leading cause of cervical and anal cancer as well as oropharyngeal cancer.  Persistent infection with these oncogenic or high-risk HPVs leads to HPV genome integration randomly into the host genome, which plays a critical role in the progression of cervical dysplasia and ultimately the development of cervical cancers.  Mouse papillomavirus type 1 and cotton-tail rabbit papillomavirus infection models are two gold-standard preclinical animal models for studying HPV-associated infections and tumors.  Two viral oncogenes, E6 and E7, are responsible for papillomaviral carcinogenesis and are highly expressed from the integrated viral genome.  Oncogenic HPV E6 and E7 destabilize cellular tumor suppressor proteins and induce aberrant expression of a subset of oncogenic and tumor-suppressive microRNAs (miRNAs) and long noncoding RNAs (lncRNAs).  In HPV16 and HPV18, E6 and E7 are transcribed as a single bicistronic E6E7 RNA bearing 3 exons and 2 introns, with the intron 1 in the E6 coding region.  Splicing of the intron 1 in E6E7 pre-mRNA disrupts the E6 open reading frame (ORF) but is required to reinitiate translation of the E7 ORF downstream.  Thus, RNA splicing regulates the production of viral E6 and E7 and this splicing is controlled by a branch point adenosine at nt 385 in the E6 intron of HPV16 and by two alternative branch point adenosines either at nt 384 or at nt 388 in the E6 intron of HPV18.  We found that cellular RNA-splicing factors, including SRSF3 (SRp20), also control RNA splicing of the viral early transcripts and viral early-to-late switch through binding to viral RNA cis-elements.  We demonstrated that SRp20 is a proto-oncogene essential for cell proliferation by regulating genome-wide RNA splicing of several hundred host genes.  When overexpressed, SRp20 induces cell transformation and tumor formation.  Together, the HPV infection-induced degradation of host tumor suppressive proteins, aberrant expression of oncogenic and tumor-suppressive miRNAs and lncRNAs, and enhancement of SRp20 expression could be the major distinguishable mechanisms leading to the development of cervical cancer.

2) Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV) gene expression and post-transcriptional regulation.  KSHV is a lymphotropic DNA tumor virus that induces Kaposi’s sarcoma (KS), primary effusion lymphoma (PEL) or body cavity-based B-cell lymphoma, and multicentric Castleman disease (MCD).  Among these malignancies, KS occurs frequently in patients who are infected with HIV.  PEL and MCD feature increased levels of cytokines (IL6 and IL10).  Latent KSHV infection in KS lesions and PEL-derived B cells can be reactivated as lytic KSHV infection by various stress conditions or inflammation. In KSHV lytic infection, the viral lytic gene ORF57 encodes a multifunctional, caspase-7-sensitive protein to regulate the expression of a subset of viral lytic genes at the post-transcriptional level.  We solved the ORF57 crystal structure both as a dimer at 3.5 angstroms and as a monomer at 3 angstroms.  We demonstrated that ORF57 functions as a dimer in the cells and carries out its functions by binding to RNA and interacting with cellular RNA-binding proteins.  As a viral splicing factor first identified by us in the virology field, ORF57 promotes RNA splicing by interacting with the spliceosomal machinery and by attenuating SRSF3 activities.  ORF57 binds to and stabilizes viral RNAs by interacting with host RNA capping, export, and polyadenylation factors.  ORF57 also promotes protein translation by interrupting miRNA-mediated RNA instability and translational repression.  Our recent findings indicate that ORF57 inhibits host innate immunity against lytic KSHV infection by interacting with PACT, PKR, Ago2, and GW182, leading to blocked formation of stress granules and P-bodies.

Our lab has extensive collaborations on various projects with many investigators.  Our current collaborators are Craig Meyers, Pennsylvania State University School of Medicine; Louise Chow, University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Medicine; Paul Lambert,  University of Wisconsin School of Medicine; Thomas Tuschl, Rockefeller University; Neil Christensen, Pennsylvania State University School of Medicine; Renske Steenbergen, VUMC Amsterdam; Xin Xie, Zhengjiang University School of Medicine Women's Hospital; Ke Lan, State Key Laboratory of Virology, Wuhan University; Lifang Zhang, Wenzhou Medical University; and Michael Kruhlak, Chuxia Deng, Jun Zhu, Yun-Xing Wang, and Maggie Cam, NIH.

NIH Scientific Focus Areas:
Cancer Biology, Cell Biology, Molecular Biology and Biochemistry, RNA Biology, Virology
  1. Liu H, Xu J, Yang Y, Wang X, Wu E, Majerciak V, Zhang T, Steenbergen RDM, Wang H-K, Banerjee NS, Li Y, Lu W, Meyers C, Zhu J, Xie X, Chow LT, Zheng Z-M
    Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 118: e2014195118, 2021. [ Journal Article ]
  2. Wu Y, Ho W, Huang Y, Jin DY, Li S, Liu SL, Liu X, Qiu J, Sang Y, Wang Q, Yuen KY, Zheng ZM
    Lancet. 395: 949-950, 2020. [ Journal Article ]
  3. Wang W, Uberoi A, Spurgeon M, Gronski E, Majerciak V, Lobanov A, Hayes M, Loke A, Zheng ZM, Lambert PF
    PLoS Pathog. 16: e1008206, 2020. [ Journal Article ]
  4. Zhu S, Chen J, Xiong Y, Kamara S, Gu M, Tang W, Chen S, Dong H, Xue X, Zheng ZM, Zhang L
    PLoS Pathog. 16: e1008223, 2020. [ Journal Article ]
  5. BeltCappellino A, Majerciak V, Lobanov A, Lack J, Cam M, Zheng ZM
    J. Virol. 93: pii: e00628-19, 2019. [ Journal Article ]

Dr. Zheng received his medical and virological training at Wuhan University in China (1981) and was a Yale-China Exchange Scholar in clinical virology at Yale University (1981-1984). He served as Associate Professor, Chief of the Clinical Virology Laboratory, and Deputy/Acting Director of the Virus Research Institute, Wuhan University School of Medicine, China (1985-1990). Dr. Zheng was Vice-President of the Chinese Society of Medical Virology (1988-1990). He first isolated enterovirus type 71 (EV71, ATCC VR-1432) in China from the vesicle fluid of a hand, foot, and mouth disease patient and identified a new poxvirus named epidemic erythromelagia-related poxvirus (ERPV, ATCC VR-1431). He and John Huggins at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases led the first double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial of intravenous ribavirin therapy for hemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome (HFRS) caused by hantavirus infection in China (1985-1989). This successful trial led to both the China FDA and the U.S. Army to officially approve the ribavirin therapy for hantavirus infection in 1990. Dr. Zheng received his Ph.D. from the University of South Florida School of Medicine (1994). He was an IRTA fellow and later a senior staff member in the National Cancer Institute (NCI) Laboratory of Tumor Virus Biology. He accepted the offer in 1999 from then the NCI Division of Clinical Sciences to head the Tumor Virus RNA Biology Section and has remained in this position to date at now the NCI Center for Cancer Research. His research interests center on the RNA processing, RNA-protein interactions, and tumorigenesis of tumor viruses including papillomaviruses and Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus.  He organized the 24th International Papillomavirus Conference and Clinical Workshop, Beijing, China, in 2007 and was a recipient of the 2009 NCI Director's Award, 2010 NIH Award of Merit, 2016 NCI Outstanding Mentor Award, and 2016 NIH Asian and Pacific Islander American Organization (APAO) Outstanding Scientific Achievement Award. He was elected as a member of the American Academy of Microbiology in 2014.

Name Position
Beatriz Alvarado Hernandez Ph.D. Postdoctoral Fellow (CRTA)
Ayslan Brant Ph.D. Postdoctoral Fellow (Visiting)
Deanna Gotte Research Biologist
Haibin Liu Ph.D. Postdoctoral Fellow (Visiting)
Vladimir Majerciak, Ph.D. Associate Scientist
Lulu Yu Ph.D. Postdoctoral Fellow (Visiting)
Photo of Lifang Zhang
Dr. Lifang Zhang 2002

Professor and Chair
Department of Microbiology, Wenzhou Medical University, China

Photo of Xuefeng Liu
Dr. Xuefeng Liu 2000-2002

Department of Pathology, Georgetown University

Photo of Mingfang Tao
Dr. Mingfang Tao 2002-2005

Research Associate
Case Western Reserve University

Photo of Sohrab Bodaghi
Dr. Sohrab Bodaghi 2001-2005

Research Associate
University of California, Riverside

Photo of Koji Yamanegi
Dr. Koji Yamanegi 2002-2005

Associate Professor
Department of Pathology, Hyogo College of Medicine, Japan


Photo of Shuang Tang
Dr. Shuang Tang 2000-2006

Senior Staff
U.S. Food and Drug Administration

Photo of Rong Jia
Dr. Rong Jia 2005-2010

Professor and Deputy Director
Wuhan University School of Stomatology, China

Photo of Natalia Pripuzova
Dr. Natalia Pripuzova 2006-2007

International Regulatory Group, R-Pharm, Moscow

Photo of Jeogn-Gu Kung
Dr. Jeogn-Gu Kung 2007-2010

Executive Director
JK BioPharma Solution, Inc., Maryland

Photo of Maria Julia Massimelli
Dr. Maria Julia Massimelli 2008-2011

Associate Professor
Maastricht University, The Netherlands

Photo of Yang Li
Dr. Yang Li 2011-2012

Associate Professor
Zhejiang University Women's Hospital, China

Photo of Xiaofan Li
Dr. Xiaofan Li 2012-2013

Research Fellow
National Cancer Institute, NIH

Photo of Xiaohong Wang
Dr. Xiaohong Wang 2006-2015

Senior Advisor
General Dynamics Information Technology USA

Photo of Junfen Xu
Dr. Junfen Xu 2014-2015

Associate Professor
Zhejiang University University Women's Hospital, China

Photo of Yanping Ma
Dr. Yanping Ma 2014-2015

Virology Laboratory, China Medical University, Shengyang, China

Photo of Masihiko Ajiro
Dr. Masihiko Ajiro 2010-2016

Assistant Professor
Kyoto University, Japan

Photo of Xiang-Yang Xue
Dr. Xiang-Yang Xue 2015-2016

Professor and Associate Dean
Wenzhou Medical University, China

Photo of Nisha Sharma
Dr. Nisha Sharma 2012-2017

Assistant Professor
Jamia Hamdard University, Delhi, India

Photo of Tingting Zhang
Dr. Tingting Zhang 2016-2017

Associate Professor
Tianjin Medical University Dental School, China

Photo of Pengfei Jiang
Dr. Pengfei Jiang 2017-2018

Associate Professor
Wenzhou Medical University, China

Photo of Andrew Beltcappellino
Mr. Andrew Beltcappellino 2016-2018

Graduate Student Candidate


Photo of Mina Griffoen
Ms. Mina Griffoen 2018-2000

Ph.D. Student
University of Colorado

Congratulations to our 2020 ASV Travel Award recipents: Dr. Haibin Liu, Dr. Lulu Yu and Dr. Beatriz Alvarado Hernandez

Congratulations to our 2020 Travel Award recipient

Beatriz Alvarado Hernandez, Postdoctoral Fellow

Beatriz Alvarado Hernandez CRTA - Best Oral Presentation at the HIV & Cancer Virology Think Tank Meeting

Congratulations to our FARE2019 Winner – Fellows Award for Research Excellence

Lulu Yu Lulu Yu

Congratulations to our FARE2018 Winner – Fellows Award for Research Excellence

Picture of Haibin Liu Haibin Liu

Congratulations to our 2018 Travel Award recipient

Picture of Andrew Beltcappellino

Andrew Beltcappellino CRTA - Best Poster Presentation at the HIV & Cancer Virology Think Tank Meeting       & 2017 NIH Postbac Poster Day Award

Recent News

News about Dr. Zheng’s discovery on HPV oncogenes and host miRNAs