Zhenhua Liu

Assistant Professor

Research includes B-vitamins, Folate Metabolism, Nutritional Epigenetics, Obesity and Inflammation, Cancer Prevention

Current Research

Diet and lifestyle are modifiable factors that play a critical role in public health.  My laboratory investigates how those factors and their metabolically-related gene variants interact to influence the development of chronic diseases. My research experiences have been, for a long period, concentrating on a) Nutritional Epigenetics and b) Obesity and Inflammation in the context of Cancer Prevention. Specifically, my laboratory focuses on nutritional regulation of Wnt pathway as it tightly relates to the development of many cancers including colorectal and breast cancer. We utilize cell culture, animal models and human biospecimens, biochemical and molecular techniques, as well as nutritional informatics and functional genomic approaches to understand the etiology of cancer. We explore the health benefits of nutrients and natural medicinal components (including traditional Chinese medicine) with epigenetic and/or anti-inflammatory properties. The ultimate goal of my research is to integrate our biological findings with dietary strategies to diminish the burden of chronic diseases in our society.

Learn more at www.umass.edu/sphhs/person/faculty/zhenhua-liu

Academic Background

  • PhD Nutritional Biochemistry, Auburn University
  • Postdoctoral Training: Tufts University Nutrition and Cancer Prevention, Tufts-New England Medical Center and Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University
Li J, Frederick AM, Jin Y, Guo C, Xiao H, Wood RJ, Liu Z. 2019. The prevention of a high dose of vitamin D or its combination with sulforaphane on intestinal inflammation and tumorigenesis in Apc1638N mice fed a high-fat diet. Molecular Nutrition and Food Research. 63(4):e1800824. doi: 10.1002/mnfr.201800824. PMID: 30447137.
Pfalzer AC, Leung K, Crott JW, Kim SJ, Tai AK, Parnell LD, Kamanu FK, Liu Z, Rogers G, Shea MK, Garcia PE, Mason JB. 2018. Incremental elevations of TNF-α and IL-6 in the human colon and pro-cancerous changes in the mucosal transcriptome accompany adiposity. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 27(12):1416-1423. doi: 10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-18-0121. PMID: 30291114
Kadappan AS, Chi Guo C, Gumus CE, Bessey A, Wood RJ, McClements DJ, Liu Z. 2018. The efficacy of nanoemulsion-based delivery to improve vitamin D absorption: comparison of in vitro and in vivo studies. Molecular Nutrition and Food Research. Molecular Nutrition and Food Research. 62(4). 62(4). doi: 10.1002/mnfr.201700836. PMID: 2+266712
Wang W, Yang J, Zhang J, Wang Y, Hwang SH, Qi W, Wan D, Kim D, Sun J, Sanidad KZ, Yang H, Park Y, Liu JY, Zhao X, Zheng X, Liu Z, Hammock BD, Zhang G. 2018. Lipidomic profiling reveals soluble epoxide hydrolase as a therapeutic target of obesity-induced colonic inflammation. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 115:5283-5288.
Bird JK, Ronnenberg, AG, Choi, SW, Du, F, Mason, JB, Liu Z. 2015. Obesity is associated with an increased red blood cell folate despite lower dietary intakes and serum concentrations. Journal of Nutrition. 145:79-86. PMID: 25527662.
Llanos AA, Marian C, Brasky TM, Dumitrescu RG, Liu Z, Mason JB, Makambi KH, Spear SL, Kallakury BV, Freudenheim JL, Shields PG. 2015. Associations between genetic variation in one-carbon metabolism and LINE-1 DNA methylation in histologically normal breast tissues. Epigenetics. 10: 727-735
Liu Z, Brooks RS, Ciappio ED, Kim SJ, Crott JW, Bennett G, Greenberg AS, Mason JB. 2012. Diet-induced obesity elevates colonic TNF-α in mice and is accompanied by an activation of Wnt signaling: a mechanism for obesity-associated colorectal cancer. Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry. 23: 1207-13. PMID: 22209007 PMCID: PMC4142203
Flood, A., Mason, J. B., Liu, Z., Cash, B. D., Schatzkin, A., Schoenfeld, P. S., Cross, A. J. 2011. Concentration of folate in colorectal tissue biopsies predicts prevalence of adenomatous polyps. Gut, 60:66-72.
Liu, Z, Ciappio, E. D., Crott, J. W., Brook, R. S., Mason, J. B. 2011. Mild inadequacy in multiple one-carbon vitamins elevates Wnt-signaling and promotes intestinal tumorigenesis in the BAT-LacZ×Apc1638N mouse
Liu Z, Choi SW, Crott JW, Keyes MK, Jang H, Smith DE, Kim M, Laird PW, Bronson R, Mason JB. 2007. Mild depletion of dietary folate combined with other B-vitamins alters multiple components of the Wnt pathway in the mouse colon. Journal of Nutrition. 137: 2701-2708.
Contact Info

Department of Nutrition
School of Public Health and Health Sciences
210C Chenoweth
100 Holdsworth Way
Amherst, MA 01003

(413) 545-1075