Hongzhen Hu, Ph.D.

Associate Professor

Neurosciences Program
Immunology Program
Molecular Cell Biology Program

  • 314 747-4317

  • 314 362-8571

  • hhu24@wustl.edu

  • Neuroimmune mechanisms of sensory processing at barrier surfaces

Research Abstract:

Emerging evidence suggests that many cell types at barrier surfaces including the skin, lung, and gastrointestinal (GI) tract selectively express ion channels that serve as molecular sensors of chemical and physical stimuli. Activation of these ion channels under conditions of tissue damage and inflammation can initiate complex signaling pathways in both primary sensory neurons and numerous tissue resident cells and subsequently produce pain and itch sensations in the skin, coughing from the lung, and cramps in the GI tract. These sensory reflexes facilitate our detection of noxious environment and trigger rapid removal of harmful stimuli. I am interested in understanding the cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying somatic and visceral hypersensitivity in the skin and gut. We use electrophysiological, pharmacological, optogenetic, and chemogenetic approaches in combination to molecular biology and behavioral methods to gain fundamental insights into the roles of membrane receptors and ion channels, especially transient receptor potential (TRP) channels and mechanosensitive Piezo channels expressed by epithelial cells, immune cells, and primary sensory neurons.

Selected Publications:

Hibberd TJ, Feng J, Luo J, Yang P, Samineni VK, Gereau RW 4th, Kelley N, Hu H, Spencer NJ. (2018). Optogenetic Induction of Colonic Motility in Mice. Gastroenterology 155(2): 514-528.

Luo J, Qian A, Oetjen LK, Yu W, Yang P, Feng J, Xie Z, Liu S, Yin S, Dryn D, Cheng J, Riehl TE, Zholos AV, Stenson WF, Kim BS, Hu H. (2018). TRPV4 Channel Signaling in Macrophages Promotes Gastrointestinal Motility via Direct Effects on Smooth Muscle Cells. Immunity 49(1): 107-119.

Feng J, Luo J, Yang P, Du J, Kim BS, Hu H. (2018). Piezo2 channel-Merkel cell signaling modulates the conversion of touch to itch. Science 360(6388): 530-533.

Luo, J., Feng, J., Yu, G., Yang, P., Mack, M.R., Du, J., Yu, W., Qian, A., Zhang, Y., Liu, S., Yin, S., Xu, A., Cheng, J., Liu, Q., O`Neil, R.G., Xia, Y., Ma, L., Carlton, S.M., Kim, B.S., Renner, K., Liu, Q., Hu, H. (2018). Transient receptor potential vanilloid 4-expressing macrophages and keratinocytes contribute differentially to allergic and nonallergic chronic itch. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology 141(2): 608-619.

Luo, J., Bavencoffe, A., Yang, P., Feng, J., Yin, S., Qian, A., Yu, W., Liu, S., Gong, X., Cai, T., Walters, E.T., Dessauer, C.W., Hu, H. (2018). Zinc inhibits TRPV1 to alleviate chemotherapy-induced neuropathic pain. Journal of Neuroscience 38(2): 474-483.

Feng, J., Yang, P., Mack, M.R., Dryn, D., Luo, J., Gong, X., Liu, S., Oetjen, L., Zholos, A.V., Mei, Z., Yin, S., Kim, B.S., and Hu, H. (2017). Sensory TRP channels contribute differentially to skin inflammation and persistent itch. Nature Communications 8(1): 980.

Oetjen, L.K., Mack, M.R., Feng, J., Whelan, T.M., Niu, H., Guo, C.J., Chen, S., Trier, A.M., Xu, A.Z., Tripathi, S.V., Luo, J., Gao, X., Yang, L., Hamilton, S.L., Wang, P.L., Brestoff, J.R., Council, M.L., Brasington, R., Schaffer, A., Brombacher, F., Hsieh, C.S., Gereau, R.W4th, Miller, M.J., Chen, Z.F., Hu, H., Davidson, S., Liu, Q., Kim, B.S. (2017). Sensory Neurons Co-opt Classical Immune Signaling Pathways to Mediate Chronic Itch. Cell 171(1): 217-228.

Feng, J., Luo, J., Mack, M.R., Yang, P., Zhang, F., Wang, G., Gong, X., Cai, T., Mei, Z., Kim, B., Yin, S., Hu, H. (2017). The antimicrobial peptide hBD2 promotes itch through Toll-like receptor 4 signaling in mice. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology 140(3): 885-888.

Zhou, Y., Wong, C.O., Cho, K.J., van der Hoeven, D., Liang, H., Thakur, D.P., Luo, J., Babic, M., Zinsmaier, K.E., Zhu, M.X., Hu, H., Venkatachalam, K., Hancock, J.F. (2015). Membrane potential modulates plasma membrane phospholipid dynamics and K-Ras signaling. Science 349(6250): 873-876.

Yin, S., Luo, J., Qian, A., Du, J., Yang, Q., Zhou, S., Yu, W., Du, G., Clark, R.B., Walters, E.T., Carlton, S.M., Hu, H. (2013). Retinoids activate the irritant receptor TRPV1 and produce sensory hypersensitivity. Journal of Clinical Investigation 123(9): 3941-3951.

Last Updated: 10/22/2018 8:05:59 AM

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