Department of Medicine
Faculty Profiles by Division

Department of Medicine

Faculty Profiles

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photo Bokai Zhu, PhD

Endocrinology and Metabolism

Assistant Professor of Medicine


Phone: 412-383-0447

Office: 565 Bridgeside Point I
100 Technology Drive
Pittsburgh, PA 15219
Phone: 412-383-0447
Fax: 412-383-9055
Administrative Assistant:
Kathy Brickett
Address: Bridgeside Point I, Room 571.1
100 Technology Drive
Pittsburgh, PA 15219
Phone: 412-383-4416
Fax: 412-383-9055
Education and Training
BS, Peking University, 2006
PhD, Pennsylvania State University, 2012
Post-Doctoral Fellow, Baylor College of Medicine, 2017
Research Interest
By utilizing a state-of-the-art algorithm that can identify all superimposed oscillations in an unbiased manner, Dr Zhu's lab discovered a cell-autonomous mammalian 12h-clock that runs independently from the circadian clock to regulate 12h oscillations of gene expression and metabolism (Zhu et al., Cell Metabolism, 2017, Antoulas et al., PloS One, 2018, Zhu et al., JES, 2018). Genes under strong 12h-clock regulation in the liver are enriched in the whole central dogma information flow process (ranging from pre-mRNA splicing, polyadenylation, RNA decay, protein translation, translocation across ER membrane, protein folding and processing in the ER and protein transport from ER to Golgi) in an XBP1s-dependent manner. Cell-autonomous 12h rhythms of gene expression can be entrained by ER and metabolic stress cues in vitro. Intriguingly, the mammalian 12h transcriptome is also highly conserved in marine animals possessing a circatidal clock, therefore implying that mammalian 12h-clock may evolve from the ancient circatidal clock. Dr. Zhu's lab is currently investigating the regulation as well as the physiological/pathological functions of the 12h-clock, with an emphasis on its roles in maintaining hepatic metabolic homeostasis and preventing aging-associated diseases. A combination of state-of-the-art computational, biochemical, genetic, cellular, imaging and genomic approaches is currently utilized in the lab. For a detailed description of the research performed in Zhu lab, please visit
For my complete bibliography, Click Here.
Selected Publications:
Meng, H., Gonzalez, N., Lonard, D., Putluri N., Zhu, B., Dacso, C. C., York, B., O'Malley, B. W. XBP1 links the 12-hour clock to NAFLD and regulation of membrane fluidity and lipid homeostasis. Nature Communications. 2020.
Zhu, B. Decoding the function and regulation of the mammalian 12h-clock. Journal of Molecular Cell Biology. 2020; Epub Ahead of Print.
Pan, Y., Balance, H., Meng, H., Gonzalez, N., Kim, SM., Abdurehman, L., York, B., Chen, X., Schnytzer, Y., Levy, O., Dacso, C. C., McClung, C. A., O'Malley, B. W., Liu, S., Zhu, B. 12-h clock regulation of genetic information flow by XBP1s. PLoS Biology. 2020; 18(1).
Gao, Y., Chen, L., Han, Y., Wu F., Yang, W., Zhang, Z., Huo, T., Zhu, Y., Yu, C., Kim H., Lee M., Tang, Z., Philips, K., He, B., Jung, S.Y., Song, Y., Zhu, B., Xu, R., Feng, Q. Acetylation of histone H3K27 signals the transcriptional elongation for estrogen receptor alpha. Communications Biology. Communications Biology. 2020; 3(165).
Dasgupta S, Rajapakshe K, Zhu B, Nikolai BC, Yi P, Putluri N, Choi JM, Jung SY, Coarfa C, Westbrook TF, Zhang XH, Foulds CE, Tsai SY, Tsai MJ, O'Malley BW. Glycolytic enzyme PFKFB4 activates oncogenic coactivator SRC-3 to drive breast tumorigenesis and metastasis. Nature. 2018.
Zhu B, Zhang Q, Pan Y, Mace EM, York B, Antoulas AC, Dacso CC, O'Malley BW. A cell-autonomous mammalian 12 hr clock coordinates metabolic and stress rhythms. Cell Metabolism. 2017; 25(6): 1305-1319.e9.
Romere C, Duerrschmid C, Bournat J, Constable P, Jain M, Xia F, Saha PK, Del Solar M, Zhu B, York B, Sarkar P, Rendon DA, Gaber MW, LeMaire SA, Coselli JS, Milewicz DM, Sutton R, Butte NF, Moore DD, Chopra AR. Asprosin, a fasting-induced glucogenic protein hormone. Cell. 2016; 165(3): 566-79.
Zhu B, Gates LA, Stashi E, Dagupta S, Gonzalez N, Dean A, Dacso CC, York B, O'Malley BW. Co-activator-dependent oscillation of chromatin accessibility dictates circadian gene amplitude via REV-ERB loading. Molecular Cell. 2015; 60(5): 769-783.
Fleet T, Zheng B, Lin F, Zhu B, Dagupta S, Stashi E, Tackett B, Thevananther S, Rajapkshe K, Gonzalez N, Dean A, Mao J, Malonvannaya A, Qin J, Coarfa C, Demayo F, Dacso CC, Foulds CE, O'Malley BW, York B. SRC-2 orchestrates polygenic inputs for fine-tuning glucose homeostasis. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 2015; 112(44): E6068-77.
Stashi E, Lanz RB, Mao J, Michailidis G, Zhu B, Kettner N, Putluri N, Reineke EL, Reineke LC, Dasgupta S, Dean A, Stevenson CR, Sivasubramanian N, Sreekumar A, DeMayo F, York B, Loning F, O'Malley BW. SRC-2 is an essential co-activator for orchestrating metabolism and circadian rhythm. Cell Reports. 2014; 6(4): 633-45.
Sponsored Research/Activities
Title: Decoding the regulation and functions of mammalian 12h-clock
Role: Principal Investigator
Funding Agency: National Institute of Health
Grant Number: DP2 GM140924
Start Year: 2020
End Year: 2025
Title: Bolstering the hepatic 12h clock to protect against non-alcoholic fatty liver disease
Role: Principal Investigator
Funding Agency: American Diabetes Association
Start Year: 2018
End Year: 2021
Role: Co-Investigator
Funding Agency: National Institute of Diabetes, Digestive, & Kidney Disease
Grant Number: P30 DK120531
Start Year: 2019
End Year: 2024
Notable Achievements
NIH Director's New Innovator Award, 2020-2025
Pittsburgh Liver Research Center Pilot Research Award, 2020-2021
UPMC Competitive Medical Research Fund (CMRF) Research Award, 2019-2021
American Diabetes Association Junior Faculty Development Award, 2018-2022