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The ZHOU Lab @ Texas A&M University pioneers chemical and synthetic biology approaches to address challenges in health and disease. We work at the interfaces of medicine, biology and chemistry, with interests in synthetic immunology, optogeneticscalcium channels, chemical biologyand epigenetics research. 

We are fascinated about how ions travel across cellular membrane, how signals are sensed and transmitted across biological membranes, how the epigenetic landscape is sculptured, how therapeutic cells and biologics can be engineered to achieve tailored function, and how dysregulated ion homeostasis and epigenetic modifications cause human disorders. 

To translate the fundamental knowledge learned from mechanistic studies into biomedical applications, we are also developing innovative theranostic devices, photopharmacological agents, smart biologics, and intelligent cell-based therapies to intervene in cancer, immunoinflammatory disorders, metabolic syndrome, and neurodegenerative diseases. 

Research Areas

Calcium Channels in Health & Disease

Non-Opsin Optogenetics & Chemogenetics

Synthetic Immunology & Immunotherapy


CRAC channel (ORAI-STIM signaling)

NSMB 2010 (PMID: 20037597)

PNAS 2010 (PMID: 20194792)

NSMB 2013 (PMID: 23851458)

Nat Commun 2015 (PMID: 26184105)

Nat Commun 2018 (PMID: 30382093)

PLOS Biol 2018 (PMID: 30444880)

Cell Chem Biol 2018 (PMID: 30639261)

Nat Commun 2021 (PMID: 33431868)

Organellar membrane contact sites (MCS) 

Nat Cell Biol 2015 (PMID: 26322679)

Nat Cell Biol 2015 (PMID: 26419802)

PNAS 2015 (PMID: 26644574)

Chem Sci 2017 (PMID: 28959426)

Nat Commun 2020 (PMID: 32098964)


Synthetic Immunology, Chemo/Optogenetics

eLife 2015 (PMID: 26646180)

ACS Nano 2016 (PMID: 27077481)

Trends in Biotech 2017 (PMID: 27692897)

Angew Chem 2018 (PMID: 29569306)

Chem Sci 2018 (PMID: 30061986)

Nat Commun 2018 (PMID: 30382093)

JACS 2019 (PMID: 31450884)

Nat Commun 2020 (PMID: 32098964)

JACS 2020 (PMID: 32330031)

Adv Sci 2020 (PMID: 33552855)

Adv Sci 2021 (PMID: 34540558)

Nat Chem Biol 2021 (PMID: 33958793)

Nat Nano 2021 (PMID: 34697491)

Epigenetics, E3 ligases & Cancer  
Nat Cell Biol 2016 (PMID: 26751287)
Nat Cell Biol 2017 (PMID: 28218907 )
JACS 2017 (PMID: 28294608)
JCI 2017 (PMID: 28691982)
Nat Commun 2017 (PMID: 28695892)
Mol Cell 2018 (PMID: 30220516)
PLOS Biol 2018 (PMID: 30408026)
Nat Commun 2019 (PMID: 31541101)
Nat Commun 2020 (PMID: 32029739)
Sci Adv 2020 (PMID: 33067228)
Cancer Research 2021 (PMID: 33589517)
Cancer Discovery 2021 (PMID: 34429321)
Cancer Cell 2021 (PMID: 34678153)

Molecular tools from Zhou Lab

(available at Addgene or Kerafast or upon request)

Tools             Applications

Opto-CRAC:  Genetically-encoded Ca channel actuators

optoRGK:      Optical inhibition of CaV channel    

OptoPB:        Protein-phospholipid interaction

LiMETER:      Membrane contact sites assembly

cpRAPID:      Chemically-inducible dimerization system

Chessbody:   Drug-switchable split nanobodies

CaRROT:        Light or chemical inducible CRISPRa

MoTags:        Real-time protein assembly in live cells 

CiDER:          Epigemoe remodeling (5hmC production)

piCRAC:        Photoswitchable CRAC channel inhibitors

COSMO:        Caffeine-controllable synthetic module

LOCa:            Light-operated calcium channel

Photo-SMOCs:  Optical control of innate immunity

YZ129:          Potent HSP90-NFAT inhibitors 

Pharmabody: Drug switchable antibody mimetics 

optoSTING:   Optical control of STING activation          

Tools             Applications

Moonbody:      Monobody with light OFF-switches

Sunbody:          Photoactivatable nanobody


cpLOV2:            Modular domain for optoengineering

LiPOP:             Optical control immunogenic cell death

NanoLOGS:     Wireless optogenetics with NanoLuc 

LiCAR-T:          Light-switchable CAR-T cell therapy

pNUTs:             Photoinducible nucleolar targeting tools 

ChemoDeAct:  Actin cytoskeleton manipulation

SAMBA:           SA-mediated biomolecular association

Synphobody:   Synthetic photo-switchable intrabody

pClipper:         photon-controlled cleavable polypeptide linker

optoMT:          Optical cytoskeleton labeling and tracking

LiPAD:             Protein assembly & disassembly devices

LiSODA:           Light-dependent organelle control    

cAMPER:          cAMP-responsive engineered receptors

LiCAB:              Light-switchable calcium channel blocker

Research Sponsors

Cancer Preventions & Research Institute of Texas

Texas A&M University | American Cancer Society | John S. Dunn Foundation

National Institutes of Health | Robert A. Welch Foundation | Leukemia & Lymphoma Society