Chengji Zhou

Chengji Zhou

Position Title

Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Medicine, School of Medicine
Institute for Pediatric Regenerative Medicine

2425 Stockton Blvd, Sacramento, CA 95817, 602B Shriners Hospitals for Children

Profile Introduction

We Study Birth Defects and Regeneration

Research Interests

Birth defects are physical abnormalities present at birth, affecting millions of newborns each year. They are the leading cause of death in the first year of life. Currently we are investigating the mechanism and prevention of several common birth defects related to defective tissue closure processes, such as neural tube closure defects and cleft lip and/or cleft palate, using Wnt signaling and epigenetic mutant mice as the animal models. We also study the role of Wnt signaling and epigenetics in tissue/organ-specific stem cells and related regeneration processes.

Grad Group Affiliations

  • Biochemistry, Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology
  • Comparative Pathology
  • Integrative Genetics and Genomics
  • Neuroscience

Specialties / Focus

  • Cell Biology
  • Cell Division and the Cytoskeleton
  • Developmental Biology
  • Developmental Genetics
  • Differentiation, Morphogenesis and Wound Healing
  • Integrated Genetics and Genomics
  • Model Organism Genetics
  • Molecular Genetics
  • Molecular Medicine
  • Neurobiology
  • Signal Transduction
  • Stem Cell Biology


  • 199 (undergraduate research/internship)
  • 299 (graduate research/lab rotation)
  • CHA 403 Neuroanatomy (medical students)
  • MCB 215 Critical Reading (BMCDB graduate students, 2011 Spring)
  • MCB 220L BMCDB graduate rotation research and seminar

Honors and Awards

  • Japanese Government Monbusho Scholarship, 1999-2001
  • UC Davis Health System Research Award, 2008-2010

    Professional Societies

    • Society for Neuroscience
    • Society for Developmental Biology
    • American Society for Cell Biology


    • 2001 PhD (Biophysics) Waseda University
    • 1998 BS (Biology) Waseda University


    2008. Wang YZ, Molotkov A, Song L, Li Y, Pleasure DE, Zhou CJ. Activation of the Wnt/beta-catenin signaling reporter in developing mouse olfactory nerve layer marks a specialized subgroup of olfactory ensheathing cells. Developmental Dynamics 237:3157-3168.

    2008. Zhou CJ, Molotkov A, Song L, Li Y, Pleasure DE, Pleasure SJ, Wang YZ. Ocular coloboma and dorsoventral neuroretinal patterning defects in Lrp6 mutant eyes. Developmental Dynamics 237:3681-3689.

    2009. Song L, Li Y, Wang K, Wang YZ, Molotkov A, Gao L, Zhao T, Yamagami T, Wang Y, Gan Q, Pleasure DE, Zhou CJ. Lrp6-mediated canonical Wnt signaling is required for lip formation and fusion. Development 136:3161-3171. (Featured Article)

    2009. Yamagami T, Molotkov A, Zhou CJ. Canonical Wnt signaling activity during synovial joint development. Journal of Molecular Histology 40:311-316.

    2010. Song L, Li Y, Wang K, Zhou CJ. Cardiac neural crest and outflow tract defects in Lrp6 mutant mice. Developmental Dynamics 239:200-210.

    2010. Zhou CJ, Wang YZ, Yamagami T, Zhao T, Song L, Wang K. Generation of Lrp6 conditional gene-targeting mouse line for modeling and dissecting multiple birth defects/congenital diseases. Developmental Dynamics 239:318-326.

    2011. Wang Y, Song L, Zhou CJ. The canonical Wnt/beta-catenin signaling pathway regulates Fgf signaling for early facial development. Developmental Biology 349:250-260.

    2011. He F, Xiong W, Wang Y, Li L, Liu C, Yamagami T, Taketo MM, Zhou CJ, Chen Y. Epithelial Wnt/ß-catenin signaling regulates palatal shelf fusion through regulation of Tgfß3 expression. Developmental Biology 350:511-519.

    2011. Wang YZ, Yamagami T, Gan Q, Wang Y, Zhao T, Hamad S, Lott P, Schnittke N, Schwob JE, Zhou CJ. Canonical Wnt signaling promotes proliferation and neurogenesis of peripheral olfactory stem cells during postnatal development and adult regeneration. Journal of Cell Science 124:1553-1563 (Journal Cover).

    2011. Wang YZ, Plane JM, Jiang P, Zhou CJ, Deng W. Concise Review: Quiescent and active states of endogenous adult neural stem cells: identification and characterization. Stem Cells 29:907-912.

    2014. Gan Q, Lee A, Suzuki R, Yamagami T, Stokes A, Nguyen B, Pleasure D, Wang J, Chen HW, Zhou CJ. Pax6 mediates ß-catenin signaling for self-renewal and neurogenesis by neocortical radial glial stem cells. Stem Cells 32:45-58.

    2014. Zhao T, Gan Q, Stokes A, Lassiter RN, Wang YP, Chan J, Han J, Pleasure DE, Epstein JA, Zhou CJ. Beta-catenin regulates Pax3 and Cdx2 for caudal neural tube closure and elongation. Development 141:148-157.

    2016. Wang Y, Stokes A, Duan Z, Hui J, Xu Y, Chen YP, Chen HW, Lam K, Zhou CJ. Lrp6 modulates Ret signaling in renal development and cystic dysplasia. Journal of the American Society of Nephrology 27:417-427.

    2016. Dong Z, Huang M, Liu Z, Xie P, Dong Y, Wu X, Qu Z, Shen B, Huang X, Zhang T, Li J, Liu J, Yanase T, Zhou C, Xu Y. Focused screening of mitochondrial metabolism reveals a crucial role for a tumor suppressor Hbp1 in ovarian reserve. Cell Death and Differentiation 23:1602-1614. 

    2017. Huang C, Chen Y, Liu H, Jing Yang, Song X, Zhao J, Na He N, Zhou CJ, Wang Y, Huang C, Dong Q. Celecoxib targets breast cancer stem cells by inhibiting the synthesis of prostaglandin E2 and down-regulating the Wnt pathway activity. Oncotarget 8:115254-115269.

    2018. Wang Y, Zhou CJ, Liu Y. Wnt signaling in kidney development and disease. Progress in Molecular Biology and Translational Science 153:181-207.

    2018. Yamagami T, Pleasure DE, Lam KS, Zhou CJ. Transient activation of Wnt/β-catenin signaling reporter in fibrotic scar formation after compression spinal cord injury in adult mice. Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications 496:1302-1307.

    2019. Reynolds K, Kumari P, Rincon L, Gu R, Ji Y, Kumar S, Zhou CJ. Wnt signaling in orofacial clefts: crosstalk, pathogenesis and models. Disease Models & Mechanisms 12:1-24.

    2019. Kumar S, Reynolds K, Ji Y, Gu R, Rai S, Zhou CJ. Impaired neurodevelopmental pathways in autism spectrum disorder: a review of signaling mechanisms and crosstalk. Journal of Neurodevelopmental Disorders 11:10 (p1-14)

    2019. Ji Y, Hao H, Reynolds K, McMahon M, Zhou CJ. Wnt signaling in neural crest ontogenesis and oncogenesis. Cells 8:1173 (p1-40).

    2019. Wang YZ, Fan H, Ji Y, Reynolds K, Gu R, Gan Q, Yamagami T, Zhao T, Hamad S, Bizen N, Takebayashi H, Chen Y, Wu S, Pleasure D, Lam K, Zhou CJ. Olig2 regulates terminal differentiation and maturation of peripheral olfactory sensory neurons. Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences (p1-13).

    2020. Zhou CJ, Ji Y, Reynolds K, McMahon M, Garland MA, Zhang S, Sun B, Gu R, Islam M, Liu Y, Zhao T, Hsu G, Iwasa J. Non-neural surface ectodermal rosette formation and F-actin dynamics drive mammalian neural tube closure. Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications 3:647-653.

    2020. Reynolds K, Zhang S, Sun B, Garland MA, Ji Y, Zhou CJ. Genetics and signaling mechanisms of orofacial clefts. Birth Defects Research pp1-47.

    2020. Ji Y, Garland MA, Sun B, Zhang S, Reynolds K, McMahon M, Rajakumar R, Islam MS, Liu Y, Chen Y, Zhou CJ. Cellular and developmental basis of orofacial clefts. Birth Defects Research pp1-30.

    2020. Garland MA, Sun B, Zhang S, Reynolds K, Ji Y, Zhou CJ. The role of epigenetics and miRNAs in orofacial clefts. Birth Defects Research (in press)