Zhenhua Liu

Associate Professor and Graduate Program Director
210C Chenoweth


B.S., Hunan Agricultural University, Hunan, P.R.C.; M.S., China Agricultural University, Beijing, P.R.C.; M.S., Auburn University; Ph.D., Auburn University; Postdoctoral, Tufts-New England Medical Center and Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University

Area(s) of Specialization: 

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

Research Description: 

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.

Key Publications: 

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.

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.