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Search Program Faculty/Research

Mengwei Zang, M.D., Ph.D.



Dr. Mengwei Zang is a faculty member in the Sam and Ann Barshop Institute for Longevity and Aging as well as the Department of Molecular Medicine The Zang lab focuses on the molecular mechanisms underlying diabetes and fatty liver disease.

We seek to develop new therapeutic strategies for obesity, diabetes, and fatty liver disease by building a better understanding of molecular mechanisms of nutrient sensing network. Recent studies from our laboratory have identified several nutrient sensors, such as AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK), the NAD-dependent deacetylase (SIRT1), mechanistic target of rapamycin (mTOR), the hepatocyte-derived hormone FGF21, and retinoic acid receptor in studies published in Cell Metabolism, Diabetes, Gastroenterology, and Hepatology. Dysregulation of AMPK or SIRT1 appears to be involved in the pathogenesis of fatty liver disease and white adipose tissue fibrosis in obesity and type 2 diabetes. 

We have also elucidated AMPK-dependent inhibition of de novo lipogenesis as a molecular mechanism for the beneficial effects of metformin, the most widely prescribed type 2 diabetes drugs, and polyphenols, on hepatic steatosis, hyperlipidemia, and atherogenesis in type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Further studies demonstrated that SIRT1 is functionally linked to FGF21 and the regulation of fatty acid metabolism, providing major therapeutic targets for the treatment of fatty liver disease. Our research will combine a variety of biochemical, cellular biology, metabolic and screening approaches both in cell culture and whole animals to identify the molecular mechanisms by which mammalian cells sense, communicate, and respond to nutrients. The ultimate goal is to provide new insight into the pathological mechanisms of diabetes and obesity as well as to identify potential therapeutic interventions of metabolic disease and age-associated metabolic diseases.

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Selective Publications

Luo T, Nocon A, Fry J, Sherban A, Rui X, Jiang B, Xu XJ, Han J, Yan Y, Yang Q,Li Q, Zang MAMPK activation by metformin suppresses abnormal adipose tissue extracellular matrix remodeling and ameliorates insulin resistance in obesity. Diabetes,2016; 65:2295-2310.

Gong Q, Hu Z, Zhang F, Cui A, Chen X, Jiang H, Gao J, Chen X, Han Y, Liang Q, Ye D, Shi L, Eugene Chin Y, Wang Y, Xiao H, Guo F, Liu Y, Zang M, Xu A, Li Y. Fibroblast Growth Factor 21 Improves hepatic insulin sensitivity by inhibiting mammalian target of rapamycin complex 1. Hepatology, 2016; 64:425-438.

Li XY, Kover K, Heruth D, Watkins DJ, Moore WV, Zang M, Clements M, and Yun Yan. New insight into metformin action: regulation of ChREBP and FoXO1 activities in endothelial cells. Molecular Endocrinology, 2015; 29:1184-94.

Li Y, Wong K, Giles A, Lee JW, Jiang J, Adams AC, Kharitonenkov A, Yang Q, Gao B, Guarente L, Zang MHepatic SIRT1 attenuates hepatic steatosis and controls energy balance in mice by inducing fibroblast growth factor 21. Gastroenterology, 2014; 146: 539-549.

Li Y, Xu S, Jiang B, Cohen RA, Zang MActivation of sterol regulatory element binding protein and NLRP3 inflammasome in atherosclerotic lesion development in diabetic pigs: Implications for human atherosclerosis progression. 2013; 8:e67532. doi:10.1371.

Li Y, Wong K, Walsh K, Gao B, Zang MRetinoic acid receptor β stimulates hepatic induction of fibroblast growth factor 21 to promote fatty acid oxidation and control whole-body energy homeostasis in mice.Journal of Biological Chemistry, 2013; 288: 10490-10540.

Li Y, Xu S, Mihaylova M, Zheng B, Hou X, Jiang B, Park O, Luo Z, Lefai E, Shyy JY, Gao B, Wierzbicki M, Verbeuren TJ, Shaw RJ, Cohen RA, Zang MAMPK phosphorylates and inhibits SREBP activity to attenuate hepatic steatosis and atherosclerosis in diet-induced insulin resistant mice. Cell Metabolism, 2011; 13: 376-388.Selected as the most cited article in Cell Metabolism

Li Y, Xu S, Giles A, Nakamura K, Lee JW, Hou X, Donmez G, Li J, Luo Z, Walsh K, Guarente L, Zang M. Hepatic overexpression of SIRT1 in mice attenuates endoplasmic reticulum stress and insulin resistance in the liver. FASEB Journal, 2011; 25: 1664-1679. 

Associate Professor

The Ewing Halsell Distinguished Chair in Aging Research


Ph.D., Pharmacology, Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences & Peking Union Medical College, 1998 

M.S., Pathophysiology, Henan Medical University, China, 1987 

M.D., Wannan Medical College, China, 1984


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Phone: (210) 562-4213