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Soonkyu Chung

Associate Professor

My research interests center on lipid metabolism and signaling pathways in brown and white adipocytes, in search of novel metabolic targets to prevent and/or treat obesity and insulin resistance. We are investigating the molecular mechanism by which dietary bioactive molecules (e.g., omega-3 fatty acids, tocotrienol, red raspberry polyphenols and there gut metabolites) suppress adipose tissue inflammation and promote brown thermogenesis. The ultimate goal of her research is to establish safe and effective dietary intervention strategies for attenuating the metabolic diseases, including obesity, type 2 diabetes, atherosclerosis and cancer. 

Current Research
Currently, our main research projects are to understand the relationship between brown fat development and diet, which alters the prevalence of obesity and cancer survival. Our NICHD funded project is to investigate the impact of maternal fish oil intake on fetal brown adipose tissue development and metabolic imprinting. In this project, we examine the role of maternal nutrition on prenatal brown fat development by regulating microRNAs and histone acetylation. Our USDA-NIFA funded project to investigate the role of red raspberry polyphenols and their gut metabolites on regulating adipose tissue inflammation and insulin sensitivity. By using the diet-induced obese animal models and germ-free mice, we are currently investigating the role of red raspberry polyphenols and their gut metabolites in controlling the innate immunity such as NLRP3 inflammasome activation and adipocyte stemness. As a extension of brown fat study, our EPSCoR grant allows us to investigate the underlying mechanism of cachectic fat loss in the advanced cancer patients. We are trying to understand the cancer cachexia as the transcriptional and metabolic reprogramming of adipose tissue by activin A.

Academic Background

B.S. Seoul National University, Korea, 1992
Ph.D. Univeristy of North Carolina, 2006 
Postdoctoral training. Wake Forest Medical Center (2006-2010)

Toney A, Fan R, Xian Y, Chaidez V, Ramer-Tait AE, and Chung S. 2019. Urolithin A, a gut metabolite of ellagic acid, improves insulin sensitivity through augmentation of mitochondrial function and biogenesis. Obesity. 27:612-620
Fan R, Toney AM, Jang Y, Ro S, and Chung S. 2018. Maternal n-3 PUFA supplementation promotes fetal brown adipose tissue development through epigenetic modifications in C57BL/6 mice. Biochemi Biophys Acta-Molecular and Cell Biology of Lipids. 1863:1488-1497.
Kim Y, Natarajan SK, and Chung S. 2018. Gamma-tocotrienol attenuates the hepatic inflammation and fibrosis in the mouse models of nonalcoholic fatty liver diseases. Mol Nutr Food Res. 62: e1899519
Kim J, Okla M, Erickson A, Carr T, Nartarajan SK, and Chung S. 2016. EPA potentiates brown thermogenesis through FFAR4-dependent upregulation of miR-30b and miR-378. J of Biol. Chem. 291:20551-62.
Okla M, Kim J, Koehler K, and Chung S. 2017. Dietary factors promoting brown and beige fat development and thermogenesis. Adv in Nutr, 8:473-83.
Contact Info


Chenoweth Lab

100 Holdsworth Way
Amherst, MA 01003-9292
Email: soonkyuchung@umass.edu