Assistant Professor Department of Biology
Dr. Zhao received her bachelor’s and Ph.D. degree from Peking University Health Science Center, followed by postdoctoral research at the Institute of Biophysics, Chinese Academy of Sciences and UMass Medical School. She joined SUSTech as an assistant professor in 2020. Dr. Zhao mainly focuses on studying the molecular mechanism and physiological function of metazoan-specific autophagy genes. Previous research outputs have been published in high-impact international journals, including Molecular Cell, Current Biology, JCB, Autophagy, Cell reports etc.
Autophagy is an evolutionarily conserved cell surveillance system that removes toxic protein aggregates and damaged organelles to maintain cellular homeostasis, especially in postmitotic cells like neurons. Dysregulation of autophagy has been linked with various human diseases, such as neurodegenerative diseases, cancer and diabetes. Our team has particular interest in understanding the molecular role and in vivo function of metazoan-specific autophagy proteins, by integrating techniques in cell biology, biochemistry, CRISPR gene editing and mouse genetics. Our main research areas include:
1.Studying how autophagy proteins collaborate with each other to regulate the ER contacts with preautophagosomal structures for autophagosome formation
2.Exploring the specific requirement of autophagy machinery to protect neural homeostasis and finding potential druggable targets for treating neurodegenerative diseases
Elucidating the molecular constituents, regulation and physiological function of ER contacts with other intracellular organelles