Faculty Profile

Dr. Fajun Yang, Ph.D.

Fajun Yang, Ph.D.

Associate Professor, Department of Medicine (Endocrinology)

Associate Professor, Department of Developmental & Molecular Biology

Areas of Research: Regulation of gene transcription, lipid and glucose metabolism, hepatocyte and adipocyte biology, metabolic diseases

Professional Interests

        Dysregulation of lipid homeostasis is common in major human diseases, including type 2 diabetes, obesity, fatty liver diseases, atherosclerosis and some types of cancer. Our laboratory is interested in the transcriptional control of lipid metabolism. In addition to DNA-binding transcription factors, gene expression in eukaryotic cells often requires a series of transcriptional cofactors. We use biochemical and genetic approaches to study the physiological and pathophysiological functions and regulation of the network of transcription factors and their cofactors in the liver (hepatocytes) and adipose tissues (white, brown and beige adipocytes). A focus of our work is the multi-subunit Mediator complex, which is a highly conserved transcriptional cofactor. The mammalian Mediator is one of the cofactors for the sterol regulatory element -binding proteins (SREBP), the master regulators of both fatty acid/triglyceride and cholesterol biosynthesis. SREBP proteins are synthesized as inactive precursors that are tethered to the endoplasmic reticulum membrane. When lipid biosynthesis is demanded, SREBP precursors are proteolytically processed to mature forms of transcription factors that migrate into the nucleus, interact with cofactors including the Mediator complex, and activate transcription of target genes, which encode the rate-limiting enzymes in synthesizing fatty acids/triglycerides and cholesterol. Through the protein-protein interactions of different subunits with SREBP as well as other transcription factors, the Mediator complex critically regulates lipid metabolism. Moreover, dynamic remodeling of the Mediator complex conveys the metabolic signals to transcriptional outputs, providing another layer of regulation of gene expression. With the ultimate goal of identifying novel targets for preventing or treating metabolic syndrome (including type 2 diabetes, obesity, fatty liver disease, hyperlipidemia and hypertension), our research will advance our understanding of how lipid homeostasis is regulated at the molecular level.

Selected Publications

  1. Feng D, Youn DY, Zhao X, Gao Y, Quinn WJ 3rd, Xiaoli AM, Sun Y, Birnbaum MJ, Pessin JE, Yang F. mTORC1 Down-Regulates Cyclin-Dependent Kinase 8 (CDK8) and Cyclin C (CycC). PLoS One. 2015,10(6): e0126240
  2. Abdulla A, Zhang Y, Hsu FN, Xiaoli AM, Zhao X, Yang ES, Ji JY, Yang F. Regulation of lipogenic gene expression by lysine-specific histone demethylase-1 (LSD1). J Biol Chem. 2014, 289(43): 29937-47.
  3. Zhao X*, Xiaoli*, Zong H, Abdulla A, Yang ES, Wang Q, Ji JY, Pessin JE, Das BC, Yang F. Inhibition of SREBP transcriptional activity by a boron-containing compound improves lipid homeostasis in diet-induced obesity. Diabetes. 2014, 63(7): 2464-73.
  4. Zhao X*, Feng D*, Wang Q*, Abdulla A, Xie XJ, Zhou J, Sun Y, Yang ES, Liu LP, Vaitheesvaran B, Bridges L, Kurland IJ, Strich R, Ni JQ, Wang C, Ericsson J, Pessin JE, Ji JY@, Yang F@. Regulation of lipogenesis by cyclin-dependent kinase 8-mediated control of SREBP-1. J Clin Invest. 2012, 122(7): 2417-27.
  5. Mulligan P, Yang F, Di Stefano L, Ji JY, Ouyang J, Nishikawa JL, Toiber D, Kulkarni M, Wang Q, Najafi-Shoushtari SH, Mostoslavsky R, Gygi SP, Gill G, Dyson NJ, Näär AM. A SIRT1-LSD1 Corepressor Complex Regulates Notch Target Gene Expression and Development. Mol Cell. 2011, 42(5): 689-699.
  6. Walker AK, Yang F, Jiang K, Ji JY, Watts JL, Purushotham A, Boss O, Hirsch ML, Ribich S, Smith JJ, Israelian K, Westphal CH, Rodgers JT, Shioda T, Elson SL, Mulligan P, Najafi-Shoushtari H, Black JC, Thakur JK, Kadyk LC, Whetstine JR, Mostoslavsky R, Puigserver P, Li X, Dyson NJ, Hart AC, Näär AM. Conserved role of SIRT1 orthologs in fasting-dependent inhibition of the lipid/cholesterol regulator SREBP. Genes & Development, 2010, 24(13): 1403-1417.
  7. Morris EJ*, Ji JY*, Yang F, Di Stefano L, Herr A, Moon N, Kwon E, Haigis KM, Näär AM, Dyson NJ. E2F1 represses b-catenin transcription and is antagonized by both pRB and CDK8. Nature, 2008, 455(7212): 552-556.
  8. Thakur JK*, Arthanari H*, Yang F*, Pan SJ, Fan X, Breger J, Frueh DP, Gulshan K, Li DK, Mylonalis E, Struhl K, Moye-Rowley WS, Cormack BP, Wagner G, Näär AM. A nuclear receptor-like pathway regulating multidrug resistance in fungi. Nature (Article), 2008, 452(7187): 604-609.
  9. Yang F*, Vought BW*, Satterlee JS, Walker AK, Sun ZY, Watts JL, DeBeaumont R, Saito RM, Hyberts SG, Yang S, Macol C, Lyer L, Tjian R, van den Heuvel S, Hart AC, Wagner G, Näär AM. An ARC/Mediator subunit required for SREBP control of cholesterol and lipid homeostasis. Nature, 2006, 442(7103): 700-7004.

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Research Information