Our laboratory uses Drosophila to study genetic diseases, with a focus on congenital heart disease, glomerular renal diseases, and leukemia. The laboratory led by Zhe Han, PhD, discovered that the Drosophila cardiac nephrocyte functions as the primary kidney in flies, and developed the first Drosophila glomerular kidney disease model. We also identified many essential genes for Drosophila heart development and kidney function. Other contributions include the identification of a novel microRNA (miR-92b) in Drosophila heart and muscle development, the establishment of the first renal functional genetic screen and the identification of over 80 novel renal genes. We discovered that the Drosophila cardiac nephrocyte uses molecular mechanism similar to humans for protein reabsorption, and the identification of novel human nephrotic syndrome disease genes and their underlying mechanism. The Han laboratory also generated a series of Drosophila models of human congenital heart disease, glomerular kidney disease and leukemia. Genetic screens using these Drosophila disease models are being carried out to identify new therapeutic targets. A drug screen system using Drosophila leukemia and kidney disease models is being explored as a high-throughput, low-lost, whole-organism drug discovery platform.

Representative publications: 

Gee, H.Y. *, Zhang F. *, Ashraf, S., Kohl, S., Sadowski C., Vega-Warner, V., Zhou, W., Fang H., Lovric, S., Hoefele, J., Weber, L., Podracka, L., Boor, A., Innis, J., Washburn, J., Salviati L., William, D.S., Levy, S., Otto, E., Han, Z. #,and Hildebrandt, F. # (2015) KANK deficiency leads to defective podocyte function and nephrotic syndrome. Journal of Clinical Investigation 125, 2375-2384. (*Co-first author, #co-corresponding author).

Zhang, F., Zhao, Y., Chao, Y., Muir, K., and Han, Z. (2013). Cubilin and Amnionless mediate protein reabsorption in Drosophila nephrocytes. Journal of the American Society of Nephrology 24, 209-216. This paper was featured in a Commentary: “The Drosophila nephrocyte: Back on stage”, Na, J. and Cagan, R., Journal of the American Society of Nephrology 24, 161-163, 2013.

Zhang, F., Zhao, Y., and Han, Z. (2013). An in vivo functional analysis system for renal gene discovery in Drosophila pericardial nephrocytes. Journal of the American Society of Nephrology 24, 191-197. This paper was featured as “This Month’s Highlights” in JASN: “Drosophila facilitate study of podocytes”, by JASN editors.

Chen, Z., Liang, S., Zhao, Y., and Han, Z. (2012). MiR-92b regulates Mef2 levels through a negative feedback circuit during Drosophila muscle development. Development 139 (19): 3543-3552.

Yi, P.*, Han, Z.*,#, Li, X., Olson, E. N#. (2006). The Mevalonate Pathway Controls Heart Formation in Drosophila by Isoprenylation of G{gamma}1. Science 313: 1301 – 1303. (*Co-first author and #co-corresponding author).

Han, Z., Olson, E.N. (2005). Hand is a direct target of Tinman and GATA factors during Drosophila cardiogenesis and hematopoiesis. Development 132, 3525-3536.

Kwon, C.*, Han, Z.*, Olson, E.N., Srivastava, D. (2005). Drosophila microRNA1 regulates Notch signaling during cardiac lineage determination and differentiation. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 102, 18987-18991 (*Co-first author).

Han, Z., Li, X., Wu, J. and Olson, E.N. (2004). A myocardin-related transcription factor regulates activity of serum response factor in Drosophila. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 101, 12567-12572.

Han, Z., Bodmer, R. (2003). Myogenic cells fates are antagonized by Notch only in asymmetric lineages of the Drosophila heart, with or without cell division. Development 130, 3039-3051.

Comprehensive List of Published Work