Yan Laboratory
Exercise Physiology

Center for Skeletal Muscle Research
Robert M. Berne Cardiovascular Research Center
University of Virginia School of Medicine
409 Lane Road, MR4 - 6041A
Charlottesville, VA 22908
Phone: 434-982-4477
Fax: 434-982-3139

Current Lab Members





Rebecca J. Wilson, PhD Student (AHA Fellowship)

Di Cui, PhD Student (CSC Fellowship)

Di Cui, PhD Student (CSC Fellowship)

Josh Drake, PhD(NIH Fellowship)

Josh Drake, PhD(NIH Fellowship)





Mei Zhang, B.S.Med


I graduated from Virginia Tech in 2011 with a degree in biochemistry and have been working at the NIH for the past year in the Laboratory of Population Genetics. I am a first year graduate students in Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics and have joined the Yan Laboratory for my first rotation. I am interested in the role of mitochondria in cell function specifically in disease occurrence and progression. I am looking forward to an enlightening and productive Ph.D. training in the Yan Lab.

Rebecca Wilson
Ph.D. Student

Phone: (434)982-4473, Fax: (434)982-3139, e-mail: rjw7jc@virginia.edu

I am a second year undergraduate student at UVA from Northern Virginia. Currently, I am studying biology and government with the hopes of one day attending a medical school. At UVA, I am a member of the Zeta Tau Alpha sorority and the Virginia Dance Company. My goal in life is to become a cardiovascular surgeon and to travel the world!

Carleigh Fisher
Undergraduate Volunteer

Phone: (434)982-4473, Fax: (434)982-3139, e-mail: ccf2vj@virginia.edu

I am a 3rd-year PhD student from East China Normal University (ECNU) in Shanghai, China. My major is kinesology, and my research interest is exercise-induced adaption and mitochondrial regulation. Thanks to the sponsorship of China Scholarship Council (CSC), I joined in the Yan Lab in September of 2015 to condut my PhD research on molecular mechanisms of exercise-induced adaptation in skeletal muscle for 2 years. I appreciate this research opportunity and will enjoy my stay here in Charlottesville.

Di Cui, PhD Student

Phone: (434)982-4473, Fax: (434)982-3139, e-mail: dc5hh@virginia.edu


I completed my PhD in Human Bioenergetics at Colorado State University.  My research was focused on potential mechanism(s) responsible for slowed aging.  It is theorized that an accumulation in damaged proteins, particularly of mitochondrial proteins, disrupts cellular proteostasis and propagates the development of the aging phenotype. Using novel stable isotope techniques, a major goal of my doctoral work was determining that an increase in proteostatic mechanisms across multiple tissues was a shared characteristic of multiple rodent models of slowed aging.

Exercise may help promote mitochondrial proteostasis in skeletal muscle through regulation of both protein biogenesis and degradation (i.e. mitophagy).  How mitochondria locally sense and subsequently propagate the appropriate response to exercise is not well understood.  My projects explore these potential mechanisms and how chronic metabolic diseases may alter proteostatic outcomes in skeletal muscle.   

Joshua C. Drake, Ph.D.
Post-doctoral Fellow

Phone: (434)982-4473, Fax: (434)982-3139, e-mail: jcd6g@virginia.edu

Drake, J.C., Alway, S.E., Hollander, J.M., Williamson, D.L. 2010.  AICAR normalizes obesity-induced dysregulation of TORC1 signaling and translational capacity in fasted skeletal muscle.  Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol.  299: R1546-R1554.

Drake, J.C., Benninger, L., Williamson, D.L. 2011. 8-weeks of b-GPA treatment reduces body mass while positively altering translation initiation in obese skeletal muscle.  J Obes Weig los Ther. 1: e101.

Miller, B.F., Robinson M.M., Reuland, D.J., Drake, J.C., Peelor F.F., Bruss, M.D., Hellerstein, M.K., Hamilton, K.L.  2013. Calorie restriction does not increase short-term or long-term protein synthesis.  J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 68: 530-538. 

Drake, J.C., Peelor, F.F., Biela, L.M., Watkins, M.K., Miller, R.A., Hamilton, K.L., Miller, B.F.  2013. Assessment of mitochondrial biogenesis and mTORC1 signaling during chronic rapamycin feeding in male and female mice.  J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 68: 1493-501.   

Williamson, D.L., Drake, J.C. 2011.  Normalizing a hyperactive mTOR initiates muscle growth during obesity. Aging (Albany NY). 3, 83-84.

I received my MD degree from China Medical Univeristy in 1996. From 1999 to 2003, I worked in Cardiovascular Surgery Department of the First Affiliated Hospital of China Medical University as a cardiac surgeon. I received my PhD degree in 2006, and since then I have worked as an Assistant Professor in the Pathophysiology Department of Dalian Medical University, engaging in research on microRNA expressions/function in grading, chemo-resistance and biological diagnosis of ovarian cancer. I am deeply interested in the molecular mechanisms of cardiovascular diseases, including heart failure and cardiac arrhythmias. Supported by the University of Virginia (UVA) - Dalian Medical University (DMU) Basic Research and Clinical Alliances, I joined the Yan Laboratory to conduct research for prevention and treatment of mitochondrial cardiomyopathy and chronic heart failure.

Henan Zhao, M.D., Ph.D.

Phone: (434)982-4473, Fax: (434)982-3139, e-mail: hz4p@virginia.edu

1. Zhao H, Liu S, Wang G, Wu X, Ding Y, Guo G, Jiang J, Cui S. Expression of miR-136 is associated with the primary cisplatin resistance of human epithelial ovarian cancer. Oncol Rep. 2015 Feb;33(2):591-8.
2. Zhao H, Bi T, Qu Z, Jiang J, Cui S3, Wang Y. Expression of miR-224-5p is associated with the original cisplatin resistance of ovarian papillary serous carcinoma. Oncol Rep. 2014 Sep;32(3):1003-12.
3. Wang Y, Li L, Qu Z, Li R, Bi T, Jiang J, Zhao H. The expression of miR-30a* and miR-30e* is associated with a dualistic model for grading ovarian papillary serious carcinoma. Int J Oncol. 2014 Jun;44(6):1904-14.
4. Zhao H, Ding Y, Tie B, Sun ZF, Jiang JY, Zhao J, Lin X, Cui S. miRNA expression pattern associated with prognosis in elderly patients with advanced OPSC and OCC. Int J Oncol. 2013 Sep;43(3):839-49.
5. Zhao JY, Liu CQ, Zhao HN, Ding YF, Bi T, Wang B, Lin XC, Guo G, Cui SY. Synchronous detection of miRNAs, their targets and downstream proteins in transferred FFPE sections: applications in clinical and basic research. Methods. 2012 Oct;58(2):156-63.
6. Wang Y, Wang Q, Zhao Y, Gong D, Wang D, Li C, Zhao H. Protective effects of estrogen against reperfusion arrhythmias following severe myocardial ischemia in rats. Circ J. 2010 Apr;74(4):634-43.
7. He-nan Z, Yan W, Miao-na J, Cai-hua Z, Shen L, Yu-jie J. Relation of Cardiotrophin-1 (CT-1) and cardiac transcription factor GATA4 expression in rat's cardiac myocytes hypertrophy and apoptosis. Pathol Res Pract. 2009;205(9):615-25.

Dr. Zhang, Lab Manager, has more than 18 years of experience in molecular biology studies ranging from cultured cells to whole animal models, particularly in transgenic and knockout mice. Her expertise in biochemical and genetic analyses in small animal research is an asset to the team.

Mei Zhang, B.S.Med
Lab Manager

Phone: (434)982-4473, Fax: (434)982-3139, e-mail: mei.zhang@virginia.edu

1. Staab, J. F., Fosmire, S., Zhang, M., Varley, A.W., and Munford, R. S. Distinctive structural features are shared by human, lapine, and murine acyloxyacyl hydrolases. J. Endotoxin Res. 1999, 5, 205-208.
2. M. Lu, M. Zhang, R. L. Kitchens, S. Fosmire, A. Takashima, and R. S. Munford. Stimulusdependent deacylation of bacterial lipopolysaccharide by dendritic cells. J Exp Med. 2003, 197(12): 1745-54.
3. Yan, Z., S. Choi, X. Liu, M. Zhang, J. Schageman, S. Y. Lee, R. Hart, L. Lin, F. A. Thurmond, and R. S. Williams. Highly coordinated gene regulation in mouse skeletal muscle regeneration. J. Biol. Chem., 2003, 278(10):8826-36.
4. Feulner JA, Lu M, Shelton JM, Zhang M, Richardson JA, Munford RS. Identification of acyloxyacyl hydrolase, a lipopolysaccharide detoxifying enzyme, in the murine urinary tract. Infect Immun. 2004, 72(6):3171-8.
5. Akimoto T, Pohnert SC, Li P, Zhang M, Gumbs C, Rosenberg PB, Williams RS, Yan Z. Exercise stimulates PGC-1α transcription in skeletal muscle through activation of the p38 MAPK pathway. J. Biol. Chem. 2005; 280(20):19587-93.
6. Lu M, Zhang M, Takashima A, Weiss J, Apicella MA, Li XH, Yuan D, Munford RS. Lipopolysaccharide deacylation by an endogenous lipase controls innate antibody responses to Gram-negative bacteria. Nat. Immunol. 2005, 6(10):989-94.
7. Choi S, Liu X, Li P, Akimoto T, Lee SY, Gumbs C, Zhang M, Yan Z. Transcriptional profiling in mouse skeletal muscle following a single bout of voluntary running: evidence of increased cell proliferation. J. Appl. Physiol. 99(6):2406-15, 2005.
8. Li P, Akimoto T, Zhang M, Williams RS, Yan Z. Resident stem cells are not required for exerciseinduced fiber type-switching and angiogenesis, but required for activity-dependent muscle growth. Am. J. Physiol. 2006; 290(6):C1461-8.
9. Waldrop S. Chan CC, Cagatay T, Zhang S, Rousset R, Mack J, Zeng W, Zhang M, Amanai M, Wharton KA, Jr. An unconventional nuclear localization motif is crucial for function of the Drosophila Wnt/wingless antagonist Naked cuticle. Genetics. 2006 Sep; 174(1):331-48.
10. Li P, Waters RE, Redfern SI, Zhang M, Mao L, Annex BH, Yan Z. Oxidative phenotype protects myofibers from pathological insults induced by chronic heart failure in mice. Am. J. Pathol. 2007; 170(2):599-608
11. Shu Zhang, Toiga Cagatay, Mananai Amanai, Mei Zhang, Janine Kline, Diego H. Castrillon, Raheela Ashfag, Orhan K.Oz, and Keith A. Wharton, Jr. Viable mice with compound mutations in the Wnt/Dvl pathway antagonists nkd1 and nkd2. Mol Cell Biol. 2007 Jun;27(12):4454-64.
12. Yu Z, Li P, Zhang M, Hannink M, Stamler JS, Yan Z. Fiber type-specific nitric oxide protects
oxidative myofibers against cachectic stimuli. PLoS ONE. 2008 May 7;3(5):e2086.

I obtained my undergraduate degree in biology at the University of Virginia Class of 2014. At the University I am a member of both the ballroom and salsa dance clubs. I am primarily interested in chronic disease prevention both in the application of novel treatment methods and in updating public policy to support healthy lifestyle practices. I would like continue my studies into the potential benefits that exercise confers to disease prevention.

Bevan Lewellen
Undergraduate Volunteer

Phone: (434)982-4473, Fax: (434)982-3139, e-mail:bml4dv@virginia.edu

Former lab members

X Liu, MD, PhD Post-doc 2000-2002 Associate Director, GSK Pharmaceutics
SC Pohnert, PhD Post-doc 2002-2004 Regional Administrator, US Patent and Trademark Office
RE Waters, MD Fellow 2002-2004 Cardiologist, Stockton Cardiology Medical Group
S Rotevatn, MD Visiting Professor 2002-2003 Professor, Haukeland University
T Akimoto, PhD Post-doc 2003-2005 Research Associate Professor, the University of Tokyo
P Li, MD, PhD Post-doc (AHA Post-doc fellowship) 2003-2007 Staff Scientist, NIH/NHLBI
OA Ajijola, BS Medical Student (HHMI Scholarship) 2004-2005 Cardiology Fellow, UCLA
Z Yu, PhD Post-doc 2005-2007 Associate Professor, Henan University
W Kam, Summer Student 2005-2005 Medical Student, Drexel University
AR Pogozelski, BS Medical Student (HHMI Scholarship) 2006-2007 Cardiol Fellow, University of Pittsburgh
Y Li, MD, PhD Post-doc 2006-2008 Research Fellow, Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School, Singapore
KH Chow, MS Student 2006-2006 Manager, Singapore Institute for Clinical Sciences, Singapore
M Koh, Summer Student 2007-2007 Undergraduate Student, Duke University
Y Guan, PhD Visiting Scientist 2007-2008 Research Assistant, Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School, Singapore
Y He, BS Student 2007-2008 Med Student, Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School, Singapore
J Lee, Summer Student 2008-2008 Undergraduate Student, Duke University
NNSM Isa, BS PhD Student 2008-2008 Nursing School Student, Canada
SG Ayyar, Medical Student 2008-2008 Med Student, University of Cambridge
JM McClung, PhD Post-doc 2008-2008 Assistant Professor, East Carolina Univ
C Zhang, PhD Post-doc 2008-2009 Post-doc, University of North Carolina
T Geng, PhD Post-doc 2009-2010 Associate Professor, Yangzhou Univ
H Choi, BS Student 2009-2009 Undergraduate Student, University of Virginia
L Myers, Summer Student 2010-2010 Ph.D. Student, University of Virginia
Y Kamel, BS Student 2010-2011 MS student, Georgetown University
YN Akhtar, MD Post-doc (NIH Post-doc fellowship) 2009-2011 Cardiology Fellow, University of Virginia
J Eaton, BS PhD Student 2011-2011 PhD Student, University of Virginia
K Moody, Summer Student 2011-2011 High school student, Tandem Friends School                                                                
X Liu, MS PhD student 2011-2011 PhD Student, University of Virginia
M Okutsu, PhD Post-doc 2008-2012 Ass Professor, Wasada University
J Donet, MD Post-doc 2011-2012 Resident, University of Miami School of Medicine
J Cai, MD Visiting Prof 2012-2012 Chief, Infectious Disease, Affiliated Hospital of Nanjing Med Univ. sjcai163@163.com
H Ishaq, BS Student 2011-2012 N/A
E Pettiford, BS Student 2013-2013 Undergraduate Student at Winston Salem State University
NP Greene, PhD, Post-doc (NIH Post-doc fellowship) 2010-2013 Assist Prof, Univ of Arkansas
VA Lira, PhD, Post-doc (APS Post-doc fellowship) 2009-2013 Assist Prof, Univ of Iowa
M Mahoney, PhD student  2013-2013 PhD Student, UVA
M Bastakoti, BS Student 2012-2014, Graduated from UVA
P Xu, PhD, Post-doc 2012-2014, Post-doc, UVA
K Chain, BS, MS student 2011-2014, Science Teacher, Peabody School
JA Call, PhD, Post-doc (NIH and AHA Post-doc fellowships) 2011-2014, Assist Prof, Univ of Georgia
A Tang, High Sch Student 2014, Rice University
D Lee, BS Student 2015 Summer, Wake Foreast University
X Chen, Post-doc 2014, Xiangya Hospital, Central South University, China, chenxiaobinxy@163.com
RC Laker, Post-doc 2011-2015, Post-doc, University of Copenhagen, Denmark
J Zhang, Post-doc 2015-2016, Dalian Medical Univeristy 1st Affliate Hospital, China, zhjzh9@aliyun.com