Skip to main content

Profile: Yang Zhang

Yang Zhang
Yang Zhang, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Pharmacology

Health 2
University of Houston College of Pharmacy
4849 Calhoun Road, Room 5025
Houston, TX 77204-5037

Office: 713-743-7710
Fax: 713-743-1884


Postdoctoral Fellowship in Molecular Biology, University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany

Ph.D. in Pharmacology, Medical College of Wisconsin

B.S. in Applied Chemistry, Peking University, China

Research Interests

My major goal of research is to investigate the molecular and immunological mechanisms implicating in the initiation of chronic cardiovascular diseases such as atherosclerosis. Currently, my lab has two independent research programs. The main focuses of these research programs are: 1) the molecular mechanisms regulating lysosome trafficking and autophagy associated with ceramide and redox signaling as well as the control of cell differentiation and dedifferentiation during atherogenesis; 2) the pathogenic role of inflammasomes in vascular injury and fibrosis including the recruitment and activation of immune or inflammatory cells, the uncanonical roles in tissue injury and repair, and the signaling of intracellular RNA receptors in determining the susceptibility to degenerative vascular injury during repeated viral infections such as cold, flu or herpes attacks.

We use different physiological, biochemical and molecular approaches including high-speed wavelength switching fluorescence imaging, confocal microscopy, fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET), electron spin resonance (ESR) spectrometry, HPLC, LC/MS/MS, in vivo ultrasound Doppler imaging, electron microscopy, ultrasound-microbubble in vivo plasmid delivery for local tissue-specific silencing and rescuing of knockout gene, ex vivo video microscopy of small artery, and tissue-specific gene knockout animal models.

Honors and Awards

  • Harry Goldblatt Award from AHA Council of Hypertension Finalist, 2014
  • Endowment Award from Center for Clinical and Translational Research (CCTR), 2013
  • Forschungstag Medizinischen Fakultät Essen gestiftete Posterpreis Award, 2008
  • American Heart Association (AHA) Pre-doctoral Fellowship, 2004
  • Graduate Student Travel Award from ASPET, 2004
  • Graduate Student Travel Award from Medical College of Wisconsin, 2003
  • International Engineering Technology Award from Peking University, 1998
  • Award for Outstanding Undergraduate Student, Peking University, 1997
  • Recommended Admission to Peking University (Ranked No.1 in China), 1996
  • First Prize Award in National Olympic Chemistry Contest, China, 1996

Research Support

Active Grants

Title: Endothelial Inflammasome in Microcirculation: Beyond Inflammation
Source: NIH/NHLBI (R01HL122769)
Role: Principal Investigator (PI)
Dates: 09/22/2014-06/30/2019
Total Costs: $1,906,250

Title: Lysosome Trafficking Dysregulation of Arterial Myocytes in Atherogenesis
Source: NIH/NHLBI (R01HL122937)
Role: PI (MPI: Pin-Lan Li)
Dates: 04/01/2014-01/31/2018
Total Costs: $1,525,000

Previous Grants

Title: Inflammasome Activation in Obesity-induced Coronary Endothelial Dysfunction Source: Center for Clinical and Translational Research at VCU (UL1TR000058)
Source: Center for Clinical and Translational Research at VCU
Role: PI
Dates: 10/01/2013-03/31/2015
Direct Costs: $49,933

Title: Mechanisms of Endostatin-induced Endothelial Dysfunction in Coronary Arteries
Source: American Heart Association (AHA) Predoctoral Fellowship (AHA0410061Z)
Role: PI
Dates: 01/01/2004-12/31/2005
Direct Costs: $49,000


Journal Articles

Guan Y, Li X, Umetani M, Boini KM, Li PL, Zhang Y. Tricyclic antidepressant amitriptyline inhibits autophagic flux and prevents tube formation in vascular endothelial cells. Basic Clin Pharmacol Toxicol. 2019 Apr;124(4):370-384.

Yuan X, Bhat OM, Lohner H, Li N, Zhang Y, Li PL. Inhibitory effects of growth differentiation factor 11 on autophagy deficiency-induced dedifferentiation of arterial smooth muscle cells. Am J Physiol Heart Circ Physiol. 2019 Feb 1;316(2):H345-H356.

Lian D, Lai J, Wu Y, Wang L, Chen Y, Zhang Y, Boini KM, Huang Y, Chen Y. Cathepsin B-Mediated NLRP3 Inflammasome Formation and Activation in Angiotensin II -Induced Hypertensive Mice: Role of Macrophage Digestion Dysfunction. L Cell Physiol Biochem. 2018;50(4):1585-1600.

Bao JX, Zhang QF, Wang M, Xia M, Boini KM, Gulbins E, Zhang Y, Li PL. Implication of CD38 gene in autophagic degradation of collagen I in mouse coronary arterial myocytes. Frontiers in Biosci 2017; 22:558-569.

Chen Y, Wang L, Pitzer AL, Li X, Li PL, Zhang Y. Contribution of redox-dependent activation of endothelial Nlrp3 inflammasomes to hyperglycemia-induced endothelial dysfunction. J Mol Med 2016;94:1335-1347 PMID: 27783111 (Highlighted in Editorial Commentary "Could licorice lick inflammasomes?" J Mol Med. 2016;94:1309-1311)

Wang L, Chen Y, Li X, Zhang YZ, Gulbins E, Zhang Y. Enhancement of endothelial permeability by free fatty acid through lysosomal cathepsin B-mediated Nlrp3 inflammasome activation. Oncotarget. 2016 (doi: 10.18632/oncotarget.12302)

Xu M, Zhang Q, Li PL, Nguyen T, Li X, Zhang Y. Regulation of dynein-mediated autophagosomes trafficking by ASM in CASMCs. Frontiers in Biosci. 2016: 21(4): 696-706.

Chen Y, Yuan M, Xia M, Wang L, Zhang Y, Li PL. Instant membrane resealing in nlrp3 inflammmasome activation of endothelial cells. Front Biosci (Landmark Ed). 2016 Jan 1;21:635-50.

Chen Y, Pitzer AL, Li X, Li PL, Wang L, Zhang Y. Instigation of Endothelial Nlrp3 Inflammasome by Adipokine Visfatin Promotes Interendothelial Junction Disruption: Role of HMGB1. J Cell Mol Med 2015 Dec;19(12):2715-27.

Li X, Xu M, Pitzer AL, Xia M, Boini KM, Li PL, Zhang Y. Control of Autophagy Maturation by Acid Sphingomyelinase in Mouse Coronary Arterial Smooth Muscle Cells: Protective Role in Atherosclerosis. J Mol Med 2014; 92: 473-485. PMCID: PMC4211081. (Highlighted in Editorial Commentary "Acid sphingomyelinase, autophagy, and atherosclerosis". J Mol Med. 2014; 92: 429-431)

Wei YM, Li X, Xu M, Abais JM, Chen Y, Riebling CR, Boini KM, Li PL, Zhang Y. Enhancement of Autophagy by Simvastatin through Inhibition of Rac1-mTOR Signaling Pathway in Coronary Arterial Myocytes Statin autophagy. Cell Physiol Biochem. 2013; 31:925-937.

Li PL, Zhang Y. Cross-talk between ceramide and redox signaling: implications for endothelial dysfunction and renal disease. Handb Exp Pharmacol. 2013; 216: 171-197. PMCID: PMC3732373

Li, X, Gulbins E, Zhang Y. Role of kinase suppressor of ras-1 in lipopolysaccharide-induced acute lung injury. Cell Physiol Biochem. 2012; 30: 905-914.

Li, X, Gulbins E, Zhang Y. Oxidative stress triggers Ca2+-dependent lysosome trafficking and activation of acid sphingomyelinase. Cell Physiol Biochem. 2012; 30: 815-826. PMCID: PMC3777434

Li X, Hong S, Li PL, Zhang Y. Docosahexanoic acid-induced coronary arterial dilation: Actions of 17S-hydroxy docosahexanoic acid on K+ channel activity. J Pharmacol Exp Ther. 2011; 336: 891-899.

Li X, Becker KA, Zhang Y. Ceramide in redox signaling and cardiovascular diseases. Cell. Physiol. Biochem. 2010; 26: 41-48.

Zhang Y, Li X, Pitzer AL, Chen Y, Wang L, Li PL. Coronary Endothelial Dysfunction Induced by Nlrp3 Inflammasome Activation During Hypercholesterolemia: Beyond Inflammation. Antioxid Redox Signal. 2015; 22:1084-1096.

Zhang Y, Xu M, Xia M, Li X, Boini KM, Wang M, Gulbins E, Ratz PH, Li PL. Defective autophagosome trafficking contributes to impaired autophagic flux in coronary arterial myocytes lacking CD38 gene. Cardiovasc Res. 2014; 102:68-78.

Zhang Y, Li X, Carpinteiro A, Jeremy AG, Soddemann M, Gulbins E. Kinase suppressor of ras-1 protects against pulmonary Pseudomonas aeruginosa infections. Nat Med. 2011; 17: 341-346.

Zhang Y, Li X, Grassmé H, Döring G, Gulbins E. Alterations in ceramide concentration and pH determine the release of reactive oxygen species by Cftr-deficient macrophages upon infection. J. Immunol. 2010; 184: 5104-5111.

Zhang Y, Li X, Becker KA, Gulbins E. Ceramide-enriched membrane domains-structure and function. Biochim Biophys Acta 2009; 1788: 178-183.

Zhang Y, Li X, Carpinteiro A, Gulbins E. Acid sphingomyelinase amplifies redox signaling in Pseudomonas aeruginosa–induced macrophage apoptosis. J Immunol. 2008 181:4247-4254.

Invited Presentations

College of Pharmacy, Guangzhou University of Chinese Medicine, China, 2016

Diabetes and Obesity Center, School of Medicine, University of Louisville, Louisville, KY, 2015

Department of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics, School of Medicine, University of Florida, Gainsville, FL, 2015

Pharmacology, Weill Cornell Medical College, Cornell University, New York City, NY, 2014

Council of Hypertension Meeting, American Heart Association, San Francisco, CA, 2014

Pharmacological and Pharmaceutical Sciences, College of Pharmacy, University of Houston, Houston, TX, 2014

Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, School of Medicine, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA, 2014

Symposium, Experimental Biology Meeting, San Diego, CA, 2012

College of Biotechnology, Huazhong University of Science and Technology, China, 2011

German Science Foundation (DFG) Biophysical symposium, Gormadingen, Germany, 2010

Sphingolipid Signaling in Diseases meeting, Essen, Germany, 2009

German Science Foundation (DFG) annual retreat meeting, Domagen, Germany, 2008

Tongji Medical School, Huazhong University of Science and Technology, Wuhan, China, 2006

Experimental Biology Meeting, San Francisco, CA, 2006

Memberships and Editorial Appointments


  • American Society of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics (ASPET)
  • American Heart Association (AHA), Fellow of AHA (FAHA)

Editorial Appointments

Journal Reviewer for AJP: Heart and Circulation Physiology/Cell Physiology, Autophagy, Basic and Clinical Pharmacology, Biochemical Pharmacology, Calcium signaling, Cellular Physiology and Biochemistry, Clinical and Experimental Allergy, European Journal of Pharmacology, Frontiers in Physiology, Hypertension, Journal of Cellular and Molecular Medicine, Journal of Cystic Fibrosis, Journal of Molecular Medicine, Journal of Vascular Research, Nature Communication, Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity, Toxicology Letters