Education & Certifications

  • M.S., Stanford University School of Medicine, Biomedical Informatics (2018)
  • B.S., Stanford University, Biology, with Honors (2017)

Current Research and Scholarly Interests

Molecular and cellular basis of lung development, renewal and disease;
Single cell analysis of SARS-CoV-2 lung infection;
Vascular inflammation and immune dysregulation in pulmonary hypertension.

All Publications

  • The Unfolded Protein Response as a Compensatory Mechanism and Potential Therapeutic Target in PLN R14del Cardiomyopathy. Circulation Feyen, D. A., Perea-Gil, I., Maas, R. G., Harakalova, M., Gavidia, A. A., Arthur Ataam, J., Wu, T., Vink, A., Pei, J., Vadgama, N., Suurmeijer, A. J., Te Rijdt, W. P., Vu, M., Amatya, P. L., Prado, M., Zhang, Y., Dunkenberger, L., Sluijter, J. P., Sallam, K., Asselbergs, F. W., Mercola, M., Karakikes, I. 2021


    Background: Phospholamban (PLN) is a critical regulator of calcium cycling and contractility in the heart. The loss of arginine at position 14 in PLN (R14del) is associated with dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) with a high prevalence of ventricular arrhythmias. How the R14 deletion causes DCM is poorly understood and there are no disease-specific therapies. Methods: We used single-cell RNA sequencing to uncover PLN R14del disease-mechanisms in human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSC-CMs). We utilized both 2D and 3D functional contractility assays to evaluate the impact of modulating disease relevant pathways in PLN R14del hiPSC-CMs. Results: Modeling of the PLN R14del cardiomyopathy with isogenic pairs of hiPSC-CMs recapitulated the contractile deficit associated with the disease in vitro. Single-cell RNA sequencing revealed the induction of the unfolded protein response pathway (UPR) in PLN R14del compared to isogenic control hiPSC-CMs. The activation of UPR was also evident in the hearts from PLN R14del patients. Silencing of each of the three main UPR signaling branches (IRE1, ATF6, or PERK) by siRNA exacerbated the contractile dysfunction of PLN R14del hiPSC-CMs. We explored the therapeutic potential of activating the UPR with a small molecule activator, BiP protein Inducer X (BiX). PLN R14del hiPSC-CMs treated with BiX showed a dose-dependent amelioration of the contractility deficit of in both 2D cultures and 3D engineered heart tissues without affecting calcium homeostasis. Conclusions: Together, these findings suggest that the UPR exerts a protective effect in the setting of PLN R14del cardiomyopathy and that modulation of the UPR might be exploited therapeutically.

    View details for DOI 10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.120.049844

    View details for PubMedID 33928785

  • Further studies of ion channels in the electroreceptor of the skate through deep sequencing, cloning and cross species comparisons. Gene Clusin, W. T., Wu, T., Shi, L., Kao, P. N. 2019: 143989


    Our comparative studies seek to understand the structure and function of ion channels in cartilaginous fish that can detect very low voltage gradients in seawater. The principal channels of the electroreceptor include a calcium activated K channel whose alpha subunit is Kcnma1, and a voltage-dependent calcium channel, Cacna1d. It has also been suggested based on physiological and pharmacological evidence that a voltage-gated K channel is present in the basal membranes of the receptor cells which modulates synaptic transmitter release. Large conductance calcium-activated K channels (BK) are comprised of four alpha subunits, encoded by Kcnma1 and modulatory beta subunits of the Kcnmb class. We recently cloned and published the skate Kcnma1 gene and most of Kcnmb4 using purified mRNA of homogenized electroreceptors. Bellono et al. have recently performed RNA sequencing (RNA-seq) on purified mRNA from skate electroreceptors and found several ion channels including Kcnma1. We searched the Bellono et al. RNA-seq repository for additional channels and subunits. Our most significant findings are the presence of two Shaker type voltage dependent K channel sequences which are grouped together as isoforms in the data repository. The larger of these is a skate ortholog of the voltage dependent fast potassium channel Kv1.1, which is expressed at appreciable levels. The second ortholog is similar to Kv1.5 but has fewer N-terminal amino acids than other species. The sequence for Kv1.5 in the skate is very strongly aligned with the recently reported sequence for potassium channels in the electroreceptors of the cat shark, S. retifer, which also modulate synaptic transmission. The latter channel was designated as Kv1.3 in the initial report, but we suggest that these channels are actually orthologs of each other, and that Kv1.5 is the prevailing designation. We also found a beta subunit sequence (Kcnab2) which may co-assemble with one or both of the voltage gated channels. The new channels and subunits were verified by RT-PCR and the Kv1.1 sequence was confirmed by cloning. We also searched the RNA-seq repository for accessory subunits of Kcnma1, and found a computer-generated assembly that contained a complete sequence of its beta subunit, Kcnmb2. Skate Kcnmb2 has a total of 279 amino acids, with 51 novel amino acids at the N-terminus which may play a specific physiological role. This sequence was confirmed by PCR and cloning. However, skate Kcnmb2 is expressed at low levels in the electroreceptor compared to Kcnma1 and skate Kcnmb1 is absent. The evolutionary origin of the newly described K channels and their subunits was studied by alignments with mammalian sequences, including human, and also those in related fish: the whale shark (R. typus), the ghost shark (C.milii), and (S. retifer). There are also orthologous K channels of the lamprey, which has electroreceptors. Tree building and bootstrap programs were used to confirm phylogenetic inferences. Further research should focus on the subcellular locations of these channels, their gating behavior, and the effects of accessory subunits on gating.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.gene.2019.143989

    View details for PubMedID 31326551

  • Inducible expression of immediate early genes is regulated through dynamic chromatin association by NF45/ILF2 and NF90/NF110/ILF3. PloS one Wu, T. H., Shi, L. n., Lowe, A. W., Nicolls, M. R., Kao, P. N. 2019; 14 (4): e0216042


    Immediate early gene (IEG) transcription is rapidly activated by diverse stimuli. This transcriptional regulation is assumed to involve constitutively expressed nuclear factors that are targets of signaling cascades initiated at the cell membrane. NF45 (encoded by ILF2) and its heterodimeric partner NF90/NF110 (encoded by ILF3) are chromatin-interacting proteins that are constitutively expressed and localized predominantly in the nucleus. Previously, NF90/NF110 chromatin immunoprecipitation followed by deep sequencing (ChIP-seq) in K562 erythroleukemia cells revealed its enriched association with chromatin at active promoters and strong enhancers. NF90/NF110 specifically occupied the promoters of IEGs. Here, ChIP in serum-starved HEK293 cells demonstrated that NF45 and NF90/NF110 pre-exist and specifically occupy the promoters of IEG transcription factors EGR1, FOS and JUN. Cellular stimulation with phorbol myristyl acetate increased NF90/NF110 chromatin association, while decreasing NF45 chromatin association at promoters of EGR1, FOS and JUN. In HEK293 cells stably transfected with doxycycline-inducible shRNA vectors targeting NF90/NF110 or NF45, doxycycline-mediated knockdown of NF90/NF110 or NF45 attenuated the inducible expression of EGR1, FOS, and JUN at the levels of transcription, RNA and protein. Dynamic chromatin association of NF45 and NF90/NF110 at IEG promoters are observed upon stimulation, and NF45 and NF90/NF110 contribute to inducible transcription of IEGs. NF45 and NF90/NF110 operate as chromatin regulators of the immediate early response.

    View details for PubMedID 31022259

  • Phenotypically-Silent Bone Morphogenetic Protein Receptor 2 (Bmpr2) Mutations Predispose Rats to Inflammation-Induced Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension by Enhancing The Risk for Neointimal Transformation. Circulation Tian, W. n., Jiang, X. n., Sung, Y. K., Shuffle, E. n., Wu, T. H., Kao, P. N., Tu, A. B., Dorfmüller, P. n., Cao, A. n., Wang, L. n., Peng, G. n., Kim, Y. n., Zhang, P. n., Chappell, J. n., Pasupneti, S. n., Dahms, P. n., Maguire, P. n., Chaib, H. n., Zamanian, R. n., Peters-Golden, M. n., Snyder, M. P., Voelkel, N. F., Humbert, M. n., Rabinovitch, M. n., Nicolls, M. R. 2019


    Bmpr2 mutations are critical risk factors for hereditary pulmonary arterial hypertension (hPAH) with approximately 20% of carriers developing disease. There is an unmet medical need to understand how environmental factors, such as inflammation, render Bmpr2 mutants susceptible to PAH. Overexpressing 5-lipoxygenase (5-LO) provokes lung inflammation and transient PAH in Bmpr2+/- mice. Accordingly, 5-LO and its metabolite, leukotriene B4 (LTB4), are candidates for the 'second hit'. The purpose of this study was to determine how 5-LO-mediated pulmonary inflammation synergized with phenotypically-silent Bmpr2 defects to elicit significant pulmonary vascular disease in rats.Monoallelic Bmpr2 mutant rats were generated and found phenotypically normal for up to one year of observation. To evaluate whether a second hit would elicit disease, animals were exposed to 5-LO-expressing adenovirus (AdAlox5), monocrotaline, SU5416, SU5416 with chronic hypoxia or chronic hypoxia alone. Bmpr2-mutant hPAH patient samples were assessed for neointimal 5-LO expression. Pulmonary artery endothelial cells (PAECs) with impaired BMPR2 signaling were exposed to increased 5-LO-mediated inflammation and were assessed for phenotypic and transcriptomic changes.Lung inflammation, induced by intratracheal delivery of AdAlox5, elicited severe PAH with intimal remodeling in Bmpr2+/- rats but not in their wild-type littermates. Neointimal lesions in the diseased Bmpr2+/- rats gained endogenous 5-LO expression associated with elevated LTB4 biosynthesis. Bmpr2-mutant hPAH patients similarly expressed 5-LO in the neointimal cells. In vitro, BMPR2 deficiency, compounded by 5-LO-mediated inflammation, generated apoptosis-resistant, and proliferative PAECs with mesenchymal characteristics. These transformed cells expressed nuclear envelope-localized 5-LO consistent with induced LTB4 production, as well as a transcriptomic signature similar to clinical disease, including upregulated NF-κB, IL-6, and TGF-β signaling pathways. The reversal of PAH and vasculopathy in Bmpr2 mutants by TGF-β antagonism suggests that TGF-β is critical for neointimal transformation.In a new 'two-hit' model of disease, lung inflammation induced severe PAH pathology in Bmpr2+/- rats. Endothelial transformation required the activation of canonical and noncanonical TGF-β signaling pathways and was characterized by 5-LO nuclear envelope translocation with enhanced LTB4 production. This study offers one explanation of how an environmental injury unleashes the destructive potential of an otherwise-silent genetic mutation.

    View details for DOI 10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.119.040629

    View details for PubMedID 31462075

  • NF90/ILF3 is a transcription factor that promotes proliferation over differentiation by hierarchical regulation in K562 erythroleukemia cells PLOS ONE Wu, T., Shi, L., Adrian, J., Shi, M., Nair, R. V., Snyder, M. P., Kao, P. N. 2018; 13 (3): e0193126


    NF90 and splice variant NF110 are DNA- and RNA-binding proteins encoded by the Interleukin enhancer-binding factor 3 (ILF3) gene that have been established to regulate RNA splicing, stabilization and export. The roles of NF90 and NF110 in regulating transcription as chromatin-interacting proteins have not been comprehensively characterized. Here, chromatin immunoprecipitation followed by deep sequencing (ChIP-seq) identified 9,081 genomic sites specifically occupied by NF90/NF110 in K562 cells. One third of NF90/NF110 peaks occurred at promoters of annotated genes. NF90/NF110 occupancy colocalized with chromatin marks associated with active promoters and strong enhancers. Comparison with 150 ENCODE ChIP-seq experiments revealed that NF90/NF110 clustered with transcription factors exhibiting preference for promoters over enhancers (POLR2A, MYC, YY1). Differential gene expression analysis following shRNA knockdown of NF90/NF110 in K562 cells revealed that NF90/NF110 activates transcription factors that drive growth and proliferation (EGR1, MYC), while attenuating differentiation along the erythroid lineage (KLF1). NF90/NF110 associates with chromatin to hierarchically regulate transcription factors that promote proliferation and suppress differentiation.

    View details for PubMedID 29590119