Gustafsson Lab - University of Houston
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Gustafsson Lab

Jan-Åke Gustafsson, M.D., Ph.D.

Founding Director, Center for Nuclear Receptors and Cell Signaling 
Robert A. Welch Professor
Department of Biology and Biochemistry

Office: SERC, 3027
Contact: - 832-842-8803

Center founding director Jan-Åke Gustafsson joined the university in 2009 to establish the Center as a research hub with access to collaborators from as nearby as the Texas Medical Center, to as distant as the Third Military Medical University, Chongqing, China. Today, Gustafsson and his team continue to build on his initial discoveries and answer questions about how nuclear receptors regulate health functions within the human body.


Estrogen receptor-beta (ERβ) was first discovered by Gustafsson and his collaborators in 1996. The discovery led to a paradigm shift in the understanding of the mechanism of action of estrogens. The breakthrough proved that the estrogenic hormones could act by either one of two receptors, ER-alpha (ERα) or ERβ. While the receptor functions are completely different, the two receptors balance each other in an interdependent relationship.

One of the most significant differences between the two receptors is that ERα enhances cell division and cell proliferation, a recurring phenomenon in cancer cells. Studies have shown that ERα is involved in cancer in the uterus and breast, and that the receptor may cause many of the negative side effects seen in estrogen treatment for patients. ERβ, on the other hand, is anti-proliferative. To achieve this effect, the Gustafsson research team has developed mouse models, in which they are able to study ERα and ERβ actions separately.


  • Award of Merit, Princess Takamatsu Cancer Research Fund, 2009
  • The Grand Nordic Fernström Prize of the University of Lund, 2009
  • The Grand Silver Medal of the Karolinska Institutet, 2011
  • Honorary Doctor in Medicine, University of Turku, Turku, Finland, 2011
  • Honorary Doctor of Medicine, University of Athens, Athens, Greece, 2014
  • Honorary Fellow at South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute, Adelaide, 2014
  • Honorary Doctor in Medicine, University of Athens, Greece, 2015
  • Distinguished Professor of Dalian Medical University, China, 2015


Jan-Åke Gustafsson

Jan-Åke Gustafsson, M.D., Ph.D.
Founding Director, Center for Nuclear Receptors and Cell Signaling
Robert A. Welch Professor

Department of Biology and Biochemistry
University of Houston
Houston, Texas 77204-5001

Office: SERC, 3027
Phone: 832-842-8803

Anders Ström

Anders Ström
Research Associate Professor

Office: SERC, 3024
Phone: 832-842-8835

Jessica Stevens

Jessica Stevens
Graduate Student

Xiaoyu Song

Xiaoyu Song
Postdoctoral Fellow

Top 10 Publications

  1. Wrange, O. and J.A. Gustafsson, Separation of the hormone- and DNA-binding sites of the hepatic glucocorticoid receptor by means of proteolysis. J Biol Chem, 1978. 253(3): p. 856-65.
  3. Wrange, O., J. Carlstedt-Duke, and J.A. Gustafsson, Purification of the glucocorticoid receptor from rat liver cytosol. J Biol Chem, 1979. 254(18): p. 9284-90.
  5. Payvar, F., O. Wrange, J. Carlstedt-Duke, S. Okret, J.A. Gustafsson, and K.R. Yamamoto, Purified glucocorticoid receptors bind selectively in vitro to a cloned DNA fragment whose transcription is regulated by glucocorticoids in vivo. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, 1981. 78(11): p. 6628-32.
  7. Miesfeld, R., S. Okret, A.C. Wikstrom, O. Wrange, J.A. Gustafsson, and K.R. Yamamoto, Characterization of a steroid hormone receptor gene and mRNA in wild-type and mutant cells. Nature, 1984. 312(5996): p. 779-81.
  9. Gottlicher, M., E. Widmark, Q. Li, and J.A. Gustafsson, Fatty acids activate a chimera of the clofibric acid-activated receptor and the glucocorticoid receptor. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, 1992. 89(10): p. 4653-7.
  11. Teboul, M., E. Enmark, Q. Li, A.C. Wikstrom, M. Pelto-Huikko, and J.A. Gustafsson, OR-1, a member of the nuclear receptor superfamily that interacts with the 9-cis-retinoic acid receptor. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, 1995. 92(6): p. 2096-100.
  13. Kuiper, G.G., E. Enmark, M. Pelto-Huikko, S. Nilsson, and J.A. Gustafsson, Cloning of a novel receptor expressed in rat prostate and ovary. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, 1996. 93(12): p. 5925-30.
  15. Brzozowski, A.M., A.C. Pike, Z. Dauter, R.E. Hubbard, T. Bonn, O. Engstrom, L. Ohman, G.L. Greene, J.A. Gustafsson, and M. Carlquist, Molecular basis of agonism and antagonism in the oestrogen receptor. Nature, 1997. 389(6652): p. 753-8.
  17. Weihua, Z., S. Makela, L.C. Andersson, S. Salmi, S. Saji, J.I. Webster, E.V. Jensen, S. Nilsson, M. Warner, and J.A. Gustafsson, A role for estrogen receptor beta in the regulation of growth of the ventral prostate. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, 2001. 98(11): p. 6330-5.
  19. Kim, H.J., X. Fan, C. Gabbi, K. Yakimchuk, P. Parini, M. Warner, and J.A. Gustafsson, Liver X receptor beta (LXRbeta): a link between beta-sitosterol and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis-Parkinson's dementia. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, 2008. 105(6): p. 2094-9.


  1. Alonso-Magdalena, P., A. B. Ropero, M. Garcia-Arevalo, S. Soriano, I. Quesada, S. J. Muhammed, A. Salehi, J-Å. Gustafsson and A. Nadal, Antidiabetic actions of an ERβ selective agonist. Diabetes, 2013 Jun. 62(6): p. 2015-25.
  2. Archer, A., E. Stolarczyk, M. L. Doria, L. Helguero, R. Domingues, J. K. Howard, A. Mode, M. Korach-André and J.-Å. Gustafsson, LXR activation by GW3965 alters fat tissue distribution and adipose tissue inflammation in ob/ob female mice. J Lipid Research, 2013. 54(5): p. 1300-11.
  3. Cheng, G., R. Butler, M. Warner, J.A. Gustafsson, B. Wilczek and B.M. Landgren, Effects of short-term estradiol and norethindrone acetate treatment on the breasts of normal postmenopausal women. Menopause, 2013. 20(5): p.496-503.
  4. Dey, P., A. Ström and J.-Å. Gustafsson, Estrogen receptor β upregulates FOXO3a and causes induction of apoptosis through PUMA in prostate cancer. Oncogene, 2013 Sep 30. doi: 10.1038/onc.2013.384. [Epub ahead of print]
  5. Edvardsson, K., N.-V. Trang, S. Kalasekar, F. Pontén, J.-Å. Gustafsson and C. Williams, Estrogen receptor beta expression induces changes in the microRNA pool in human colon cancer cells. Carcinogenesis, 2013 Jul. 34(7): p. 1431-41.
  6. Hao, R., M. Bondesson, A.V. Singh, A. Riu, C.W. McCollum, T.B. Knudsen, D.A. Gorelick and J.-Å. Gustafsson, Identification of estrogen target genes during zebrafish embryonic development through transcriptomic analysis. PLos ONE, in press, 2013.
  7. Matic, M., G. Bryzgalova, H. Gao, P. Antonson, P. Humire, Y. Omoto, N. Portwood, C. Pramfalk, S. Efendic, P.-O. Berggren, J.-Å. Gustafsson, K. Dahlman-Wright, Estrogen signaling and the metabolic syndrome: Targeting the hepatic ERalpha action. PLoS ONE, 2013. 8 (2): e57458.
  8. Nguyen-Vu, T., L.-L. Vedin, K. Liu, P. Jonsson, J.Z. Lin, N.R. Candelaria, L.P. Candelaria, S. Addanki, C. Williams, J.-Å. Gustafsson, K.R. Steffensen and C.-Y. Lin, Liver X receptor ligands disrupt breast cancer cell proliferation through an E2F-mediated mechanism. Breast Cancer Res., in press, 2013.
  9. Raccosta, L., R. Fontana, D. Maggioni, C. Lanterna, E. J. Villablanca, A. Paniccia, A. Musumeci, E. Chiricozzi, M. L. Trincavelli, S. Daniele, C. Martini, J.-Å. Gustafsson, C. Doglioni, S. G. Feo, A. Leiva, M. G. Ciampa, L. Mauri, C. Sensi, A. Prinetti, I. Eberini, J. R. Mora, C. Brodignon, K. R. Steffensen, S. Sonnimo, S. Sozzani, C. Traversari, and V. Russo, The oxysterol-CXCR2 axis plays a key role in the recruitment of tumor promoting neutrophils. J. Exp. Med., in press, 2013.
  10. Robertson Remen, K. M., U. H. Lerner, J.A. Gustafsson, and G. Andersson, Activation of the liver X receptor-β potently inhibits osteoclastogenesis from lipopolysaccharide-exposed bone marrow-derived macrophages. J Leukoc Biol, 2013. 93(1): p. 71-82.
  11. Tang, L., Y. Wang, A. Strom, J.-Å. Gustafsson and X. Guan, Lapatinib induces p27Kip1-dependent G1 arrest through both transcriptional and post-translational mechanisms. Cell Cycle, in press, 2013.
  12. Windahl, S.H., A.E. Börjesson, H.H. Farman, C. Engdahl, S. Movérare-Skrtic, K. Sjögren, M.K. Lagerquist, J.M. Kindblom, A. Koskela, J. Tuukkanen, P. Divieti Pajevic, J. Feng, K. Dahlman- Wright, P. Antonson, J.-Å. Gustafsson and C. Ohlsson, Estrogen receptor a in osteocytes is important for trabecular bone formation in male mice. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci, 2013. 28(2): p. 2294-2299.
  13. Wu, J., S. Li, W. Wang, J. Li, Y. Chi, H. Yang, X. Kong, Y. Zhou, J. Yang, J.-Å. Gustafsson and Y. Guan, Thrsp promotes hepatic lipogenesis, and its expression LXRα through an SREBP1c-dependent mechanism. Hepatology, 2013 Aug. 58(2): p. 617-28.
  14. Wu, W.-F., X.-J. Tan, Y.-B. Dai, Venkatesh Krishnan, M. Warner, and J.-Å. Gustafsson, Targeting ERbeta in microglia and T cells to treat experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci., 2013. 110(9): p. 3543-3548.


  1. Anthoni, H., L.E. Sucheston, B.A. Lewis, I. Tapia-Paez, X. Fan, M. Zucchelli, M. Taipale, C.M. Stein, M.E. Hokkanen, E. Castren, B.F. Pennington, S.D. Smith, R.K. Olson, J.B. Tomblin, G. Schulte-Korne, M. Nothen, J. Schumacher, B. Muller-Myhsok, P. Hoffmann, J.W. Gilger, G.W. Hynd, J. Nopola-Hemmi, P.H. Leppanen, H. Lyytinen, J. Schoumans, M. Nordenskjold, J. Spencer, D. Stanic, W.C. Boon, E. Simpson, S. Makela, J.A. Gustafsson, M. Peyrard-Janvid, S. Iyengar, and J. Kere, The aromatase gene CYP19A1: several genetic and functional lines of evidence supporting a role in reading, speech and language. Behav Genet, 2012. 42(4): p. 509-27.
  2. Antonson, P., Y. Omoto, P. Humire, and J.A. Gustafsson, Generation of ERalpha-floxed and knockout mice using the Cre/LoxP system. Biochem Biophys Res Commun, 2012. 424(4): p. 710-6.
  3. Archer, A., N. Venteclef, A. Mode, M. Pedrelli, C. Gabbi, K. Clément, P. Parini, J.A. Gustafsson and M. Korach-André: Fasting-induced FGF21 is repressed by LXR activation via recruitment of an HDAC3 co-repressor complex in mice. Molecular Endocrinology me.2012-1151.
  4. Archer, A., S. S. Kitambi, S. L. Hallgren, M. Pedrelli, K. H. Olsén, A. Mode and J.A. Gustafsson, The liver X receptor (LXR) governs lipid homeostasis in zebrafish during development. Open Journal of Endocrine and Metabolic Diseases, 2012. In press.
  5. Bentinger, M., M. Tekle, G. Dallner, K. Brismar, J.A. Gustafsson, K.R. Steffensen, and S.B. Catrina, Influence of liver-X-receptor on tissue cholesterol, coenzyme Q and dolichol content. Mol Membr Biol, 2012.
  6. Boergesen, M., T.A. Pedersen, B. Gross, S.J. van Heeringen, D. Hagenbeek, C. Bindesboll, S. Caron, F. Lalloyer, K.R. Steffensen, H.I. Nebb, J.A. Gustafsson, H.G. Stunnenberg, B. Staels, and S. Mandrup, Genome-wide profiling of liver X receptor, retinoid X receptor, and peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor alpha in mouse liver reveals extensive sharing of binding sites. Mol Cell Biol, 2012. 32(4): p. 852-67.
  7. Bogie, J.F.J., S. Timmermans, V. Anh Huynh-Thu, A. Irrthum, H.J.M. Smeets, J.A. Gustafsson, K.R. Steffensen, M. Mulder, P. Stinissen, N. Hellings and J.J.A. Hendriks, Myelin-derived lipids modulate macrophage activity by Liver X Receptor activation. PLoS ONE, 2012. 7(9): e44998.
  8. Brunnberg, S., Swedenborg, E., Gustafsson, J.Å. Functional Interactions of AhR with Other Receptors. In: Pohjanvirta, R. (Ed.), The AH Receptor in Biology and Toxicology, Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley and Sons Ltd, 2012, pp 127-141.
  9. Butler, R., J. Inzunza, H. Suzuki, Y. Fujii-Kuriyama, M. Warner, and J.A. Gustafsson, Uric acid stones in the urinary bladder of aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR) knockout mice. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, 2012. 109(4): p. 1122-6.
  10. Cheng, G., R. Butler, M. Warner, J.A. Gustafsson, B. Wilczek and B.M. Landgren, Effects of short-term estradiol and norethindrone acetate treatment on the breasts of normal postmenopausal women. Menopause, 2012. In press.
  11. Cotrim, C.Z., V. Fabris, M.L. Doria, K. Lindberg, J.A. Gustafsson, F. Amado, C. Lanari, and L.A. Helguero, Estrogen receptor beta growth-inhibitory effects are repressed through activation of MAPK and PI3K signaling in mammary epithelial and breast cancer cells. Oncogene, 2012.
  12. Dahlman-Wright, K., Y. Qiao, P. Jonsson, J.A. Gustafsson, C. Williams, and C. Zhao, Interplay between AP-1 and estrogen receptor alpha in regulating gene expression and proliferation networks in breast cancer cells. Carcinogenesis, 2012.
  13. Dai, Y.B., X.J. Tan, W.F. Wu, M. Warner, and J.A. Gustafsson, Liver X receptor beta protects dopaminergic neurons in a mouse model of Parkinson disease. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, 2012. 109(32): p. 13112-7.
  14. Dey, P., Jonsson, P., Hartman, J., Williams, C., Ström, A., Gustafsson, J.A. Estrogen receptors B1 and B2 play opposing roles in regulating proliferation and bone metastasis genes in the prostate cancer cell line PC3. Prostate Cancer: Biology, Carcinogenesis and Prevention. Ed. T. Shirai, M.C. Bosland, Y. Sugimura, T. Tsukamoto, H. Nakagama and K. Wakabayashi, 138-143, 2012.
  15. Dey, P., P. Jonsson, J. Hartman, C. Williams, A. Ström and J.A. Gustafsson, Estrogen Receptors β1 and β2 Have Opposing Roles in Regulating Proliferation and Bone Metastasis Genes in the Prostate Cancer Cell Line PC3. Mol Endocrinol. 2012 Oct 1.
  16. Ehrlund, A., P. Jonsson, L.L. Vedin, C. Williams, J.A. Gustafsson, and E. Treuter, Knockdown of SF-1 and RNF31 affects components of steroidogenesis, TGFbeta, and Wnt/beta-catenin signaling in adrenocortical carcinoma cells. PLoS One, 2012. 7(3): p. e32080.
  17. Faulds, M.H., C. Zhao, K. Dahlman-Wright, and J.A. Gustafsson, The diversity of sex steroid action: regulation of metabolism by estrogen signaling. J Endocrinol, 2012. 212(1): p. 3-12.
  18. Gabbi, C. and J.A. Gustafsson, Bile acids in Non-Alcoholic Steato-Hepatitis: inserting nuclear receptors into the circle. Hepatology, 2012.
  19. Gabbi, C., X. Kong, H. Suzuki, H.J. Kim, M. Gao, X. Jia, H. Ohnishi, Y. Ueta, M. Warner, Y. Guan, and J.A. Gustafsson, Central diabetes insipidus associated with impaired renal aquaporin-1 expression in mice lacking liver X receptor beta. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, 2012. 109(8): p. 3030-4.
  20. Gonzalez-Granillo, M., K.R. Steffensen, O. Granados, N. Torres, M. Korach-Andre, V. Ortiz, C. Aguilar-Salinas, T. Jakobsson, A. Diaz-Villasenor, A. Loza-Valdes, R. Hernandez-Pando, J.A. Gustafsson, and A.R. Tovar, Soy protein isoflavones differentially regulate liver X receptor isoforms to modulate lipid metabolism and cholesterol transport in the liver and intestine in mice. Diabetologia, 2012. 55(9): p. 2469-78.
  21. Hartman, J., A. Strom, and J.A. Gustafsson, Current concepts and significance of estrogen receptor beta in prostate cancer. Steroids, 2012.
  22. Hu, X., K.R. Steffensen, Z.Y. Jiang, P. Parini, J.A. Gustafsson, M. Gafvels, and G. Eggertsen, LXRbeta activation increases intestinal cholesterol absorption, leading to an atherogenic lipoprotein profile. J Intern Med, 2012.
  23. Jakobsson, T., E. Treuter, J.A. Gustafsson, and K.R. Steffensen, Liver X receptor biology and pharmacology: new pathways, challenges and opportunities. Trends Pharmacol Sci, 2012. 33(7): p. 394-404.
  24. Kavaliers, M., A. Clipperton-Allen, C.L. Cragg, J.A. Gustafsson, K.S. Korach, L. Muglia, and E. Choleris, Male risk taking, female odors, and the role of estrogen receptors. Physiol Behav, 2012.
  25. Lin, J.Z.. A.J. Martagon, W.A. Hsueh, J.D. Baxter, J.A. Gustafsson, P. Webb, K.J. Philips, Thyroid Hormone Receptor Agonists Reduce Serum Cholesterol Independent of the LDL Receptor. Endocrinology, 2012 Oct 19.
  26. Putnik, M., C. Zhao, J.A. Gustafsson and K. Dahlman-Wright, Global identification of genes regulated by estrogen signaling and demethylation in MCF-7 breast cancer cells. Biochem Biophys Res Commun, 2012. 426: p. 26-32.
  27. Robertson Remen, K. M., U. H. Lerner, J.A. Gustafsson, and G. Andersson, Activation of the liver X receptor-β potently inhibits osteoclastogenesis from lipopolysaccharide-exposed bone marrow-derived macrophages. J Leukoc Biol. 2012 Oct 25.
  28. Soriano, S., P. Alonso-Magdalena, M. Garcia-Arevalo, A. Novials, S.J. Muhammed, A. Salehi, J.A. Gustafsson, I. Quesada, and A. Nadal, Rapid insulinotropic action of low doses of bisphenol-A on mouse and human islets of Langerhans: role of estrogen receptor beta. PLoS One, 2012. 7(2): p. e31109.
  29. Sotoca, A.M., Vervoort, J., Rietjens, I.M.C.M., and Gustafsson, J.A. Human ERβ, and ERβsplice variants: Understanding Their Domain Structure in Relation to Their Biological Roles in Breast Cancer Cell Proliferation. In: Ekinci, D. (Ed.) Biochemistry, Rijeka, Croatia: InTech, 2012, pp 141-160.
  30. Suzuki, H., R.P. Barros, N. Sugiyama, V. Krishnan, B.C. Yaden, H.J. Kim, M. Warner, and J.A. Gustafsson, Involvement of estrogen receptor beta in maintenance of serotonergic neurons of the dorsal raphe. Mol Psychiatry, 2012.
  31. Tammimies, K., I. Tapia-Paez, J. Ruegg, G. Rosin, J. Kere, J.A. Gustafsson, and I. Nalvarte, The rs3743205 SNP is important for the regulation of the dyslexia candidate gene DYX1C1 by estrogen receptor beta and DNA methylation. Mol Endocrinol, 2012. 26(4): p. 619-29.
  32. Tan, X.J., Y.B. Dai, W.F. Wu, H.J. Kim, R.P. Barros, T.I. Richardson, B.C. Yaden, M. Warner, D.L. McKinzie, V. Krishnan, and J.A. Gustafsson, Reduction of dendritic spines and elevation of GABAergic signaling in the brains of mice treated with an estrogen receptor beta ligand. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, 2012. 109(5): p. 1708-12.
  33. Tan, X.J., Y.B. Dai, W.F. Wu, M. Warner, and J.A. Gustafsson, Anxiety in liver X receptor beta knockout female mice with loss of glutamic acid decarboxylase in ventromedial prefrontal cortex. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, 2012. 109(19): p. 7493-8.
  34. Thomas, C., G. Rajapaksa, F. Nikolos, R. Hao, A. Katchy, C. W. McCollum, M. Bondesson, P. Quinlan, A. Thompson, S. Krishnamurthy, F. J. Esteva and J.A. Gustafsson, ERbeta1 represses basal breast cancer epithelial to mesenchylmal transition by destabilizing EGFR. Breast Cancer Research, 2012. In press.
  35. Thomas, C. and J.A. Gustafsson, Targeting PES1 for restoring the ERalpha/ERbeta ratio in breast cancer. J Clin Invest, 2012. 122(8): p. 2771-3.
  36. Vedin, L.L., J.A. Gustafsson, and K.R. Steffensen, The oxysterol receptors LXRalpha and LXRbeta suppress proliferation in the colon. Mol Carcinog, 2012.
  37. Warner, M., Gustafsson, J.A. Three Nuclear Receptors Involved in Gender-related Proliferative Diseases. In: Schenck-Gustafsson K., DeCola P.R., Pfaff D.W., Pisetsky D.S. (Eds.), Handbook of Clinical Gender Medicine. Basel, Switzerland: Karger, 2012, pp 252–265.
  38. Xia, X., D. Jung, P. Webb, A. Zhang, B. Zhang, L. Li, S.D. Ayers, C. Gabbi, Y. Ueno, J.A. Gustafsson, G. Alpini, D.D. Moore, and G.D. Lesage, Liver X receptor beta and peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor delta regulate cholesterol transport in cholangiocytes. Hepatology, 2012.
  39. Yakimchuk, K., S. Norin, E. Kimby, H. Hagglund, M. Warner, and J.A. Gustafsson, Up-regulated estrogen receptor beta2 in chronic lymphocytic leukemia. Leuk Lymphoma, 2012. 53(1): p. 139-44.
  40. Yi, T., X. Wang, L. M. Kelly, J. An, Y. Xu, A. W. Sailer, J.A. Gustafsson, D. W. Russell and J. G. Cyster, Oxysterol gradient generation by lymphoid stromal cells guides activated B cell movement during humoral responses. Immunity, 2012. 37: p. 535-548.
  41. Zacharia, E., M. Bondesson, J.A. Gustafsson and I.A. Kakadiaris, Segmentation of zebrafish embryonic images using a geometric atlas deformation. EMBS, 3998-4001, 2012.