Baohong Zhang

Baohong Zhang

Title: Associate Professor
Area of Study: Molecular Genetics, Toxicology, and Biotechnology
Phone:Office - 252-328-2021, Lab - 252-737-4767
Fax: 252-328-4718
Website: Dr. Zhang Lab Website
Office: 562 Science and Technology Building
Lab: 535 Science and Technology Building
Address: Department of Biology
East Carolina University
Greenville, NC 27858


Ph.D., Environmental Toxicology, Texas Tech University, 2006

B.A., Plant Genetics and Breeding, Beijing Agricultural University, 1991

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The research in Dr. Zhang's lab focuses on three related fields: molecular genetics, toxicology, and biotechnology.

1. Molecular Genetics: Dr. Zhang's lab will use model species [Zebrafish (Danio rerio), Caenorhabditis elegans, and Arabidopsis] and important crops (cotton, soybean, maize) to study the microRNA-mediated gene regulation and its function in organism growth, development, and response to stressors.Multiple computational and experimental approaches, including genetic, genomic, and biochemical methods will be employed. Recent studies have demonstrated that more than 30% of protein-coding genes are targeted by microRNAs (miRNAs), signal-strand small RNAs with 20-25 nucleotides. miRNAs regulate multiple biological and metabolic processes, including development and growth, cell signaling, diseases, and cancers. Currently, miRNAs have become one of the most important gene regulators.

2. Toxicology: Environmental pollution is a global issue, which can cause numerous diseases in humans and wildlife, including cancers. Dr. Zhang's lab will focus on the toxicity and effects of several groups of traditional and emerging pollutants, such as nanomaterials, pharmaceuticals and personal care products, explosives, and pesticides. The development of novel biomarkers for rapidly assessing the exposure and health effects of these environmental pollutants would be an important outcome of toxicological study. Dr. Zhang's lab is also interested in investigating the molecular mechanisms of toxicant/toxin-induced cancers and their chemoprevention.

3. Biotechnology: Dr. Zhang's lab also focuses on creating new transgenic organisms for producing drugs, biofuels, modifying resistance to abiotic and biotic stressors, and improving crop yield and quality. Dr. Zhang's lab also interest in the biosafety and risk assessment of genetically modified foods.

Prospective Students

Dr. Zhang's lab is now accepting graduate students (M.S. and Ph.D.) who have an interest in molecular genetics, molecular toxicology, and/or biotechnology. The Department of Biology has a Master of Science degree program and an Interdisciplinary Ph.D. degree program (IDPBS). Currently, graduate students in Dr. Zhang's lab have the freedom to choose their study organism(s) and system. If you are interested in working with me, you should contact Dr. Zhang directly to discuss the details and possibilities. You may stop by Dr. Zhang'soffice at Science and Technology Building 562(office) or 535 (Lab) or email Dr. Zhang at Dr. Zhang's lab is keen on accepting students who are enthusiastic, hard working, and interested in facing challenges and solving questions related to molecular genetics, molecular toxicology, and/or biotechnology. Many graduate students in Dr. Zhang's lab have won national and international awards and had at least two publications when they graduated.

Undergraduate students, particularly freshman and junior,are also welcome and encouraged to join Dr. Zhang's lab to gain research experience. If interested, you may also directly stop by Dr. Zhang's office or email him to discuss possible research opportunities. Many undergraduate students have generated publications as co-authors in Dr. Zhang's lab.

Funding Agents

NIH_1   NSF   USDA   DoD

NIH                      NSF               USDA                 DoD


NCBC   Cotton-Inc    DuPont

                 NCBC                                             Cotton Inc.                                       Dupont


(since joinging ECU; *, graduate students; #, undergraduate students)

1. Zhang YQ*, Chen DL*, Ennis AC#, Polli JR#, Xiao P, Zhang, Baohong, Stellwag EJ, Overton A, & Pan XP (2012) Chemical dispersant potentiates crude oil impacts on growth, reproduction, and gene expression in Caenorhabditis elegans. Achieves of Toxicology (In press).

2. Comai L & Zhang, Baohong (2012) MicroRNAs: key gene regulators with versatile functions. Plant Molecular Biology, 80(1): 1, DOI: 10.1007/s11103-012-9947-5

3. Xie FL*, Xiao P, Chen DL*, Xu L* & Zhang, Baohong(2012) miRDeepFinder: a miRNA analysis tool for deep sequencing of plant small RNAs. Plant Molecular Biology, 80 (1): 75-84. DOI: 10.1007/s11103-012-9885-2

4. Burklew CE*, Ashlock J#, Winfrey WB# & Zhang, Baohong(2012) Effects of aluminum oxide nanoparticles on the growth, development, and microRNA expression of tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum). PLOS One, PLoS ONE 7(5): e34783. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0034783.

5. Zhang YQ*, Chen DL*, Smith MA*, Zhang, Baohong, & Pan XP (2012) Selection of reliable reference genes in Caenorhabditis elegans for analysis of nanotoxicity. PLoS One. 2012;7(3):e31849.

6. Xie FL*, Burklew CE*, Yang YF, Liu M, Xiao P, Zhang, Baohong & Qiu DY (2012) Denovo sequencing and a comprehensive analysis of purple sweetpotato (Impomoea batatas L.) transcriptome. Planta, 236(1):101-13.

7. Sun GL, Stewart CN, Xiao P & Zhang, Baohong (2012) MicroRNA expression analysis in the cellulosic biofuel crop switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) under abiotic stress. PLOS One, 7:e32017 doi:10.1371/journal.pone.003201.

8. Xie FL*, Sun GL, Stiller JW & Zhang, Baohong (2011) Genome-wide functional analysis of the cotton transcriptome by creating an integrated EST database. PLOS One, 6(11):e26980 doi:


9. Sun GL, Xie FL* & Zhang, Baohong (2011) Transcriptome-wide identification and stress properties of the 14-3-3 gene family in cotton (Gossypium hirsutum L.). Functional & Integrative Genomics, 11(4): 627-636.

10. Frazier TP*, Sun G, Burklew CE & Zhang, Baohong (2011) Salt and drought stresses induce the aberrant expression of microRNA genes in tobacco Molecular Biotechnology, 49(2):159-165.

11. Chen DL*, Pan XP, Xiao P, Farwell MA & Zhang, Baohong. (2011) Evaluation and identification of reliable reference genes for pharmogenomics, toxicogenomics and small RNA expression analysis. Journal of Cellular Physiology, 226(10): 2469-2477. (Highlight by the journal)

12. Shah MY*, Pan XP, Fix LN*, Farwell MA & Zhang, Baohong (2011) 5-fluorouracil drug alters the microRNA expression profiles in MCF-7 breast cancer cells. Journal of Cellular Physiology, 226(7): 1868-1878.

13. Xie FL*, Frazier TP* & Zhang, BaohongSolanum tuberosum). Gene,473(1):8-22.

14. Xie FL* & Zhang, Baohong (2010). Target-align: a tool for plant microRNA target identification. Bioinformatics, 26(23): 3002-3003.

15. Fix LN*, Shah M*, Efferth T, Farwell MA & Zhang, Baohong (2010) MicroRNA expression profile of MCF-7 human breast cancer cells and the effect of green tea Polyphenon-60. Cancer Genomics & Proteomic , 7(5):261-277.

16. Frazier TP*, Xie FL*, Freistaedter A#, Burklew CE# & Zhang, Baohong (2010) Identification and characterization of microRNAs and their target genes in tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum). Planta, 232(6): 1289-1308.

17. Xie FL*, Frazier TP* & Zhang, Baohong (2010) Identification and characterization of microRNAs and their targets in the bioenergy plant switchgrass (Panicum virgatum . Planta, 232(2):417-434.

18. Chen DL*, Farwell M & Zhang, Baohong (2010) MicroRNA as a new player in the cell cycle. Journal of Cellular Physiology 225(2): 296-301. (Highlight by the journal)

19. Zhao CZ, Xia H, Frazier TP*, Yao YY, Bi YB, Li AQ, Li MJ, Li CS, Zhang, Baohong & Wang XJ (2010) Deep sequencing identifies novel and conserved microRNAs in peanut (Arachis hypogaea L.). BMC Plant Biology, 10: 3. (Highly accessed article)

20. Pan XP, Redding JE, Wiley PA, Wen L, McConnell JS, & Zhang, Baohong (2010) Mutagenicity evaluation of metal oxide nanoparticles by the bacterial reverse mutation assay. Chemosphere, 79(1):113-116.

21. Zhang, Baohong & Pan XP (2009) Expression of microRNAs in cotton. Molecular Biotechnology 42 (3): 269-274

22. Zhang, Baohong, Wang QL, Liu F, Wang KB & Frazier TP* (2009) Highly efficient plant regeneration through somatic embryogenesis in 20 elite commercial cotton (Gossypium hirsutum L.) cultivars. Plant Omics, 2(6): 259-268

23. Zhang, Baohong & Pan XP (2009) RDX induces aberrant expression of microRNAs in mouse brain and liver. Environmental Health Perspectives 117(2): 231-240. HIGHLY CITED PAPERS based on ISI Web of Knowledge Essential Science Indicators (Highlight by the journal)

24. Zhang, Baohong, Stellwag EJ, & Pan XP (2009) Large-scale genome analysis reveals unique features of microRNAs Gene 443 (1-2): 100-109. ("TOP25 Hottest Articles" downloaded during April to June, July to September, 2009)

25. Qiu DY, Pan XP, Wilson IW, Li F, Liu M, Teng W, Zhang, Baohong. (2009). High throughput sequencing technology reveals that the taxoid elicitor methyl jasmonate regulates microRNA expression in Chinese yew (Taxus chinensis). Gene 436(1-2): 37-44. ("TOP25 Hottest Articles" downloaded during April to June, 2009)

26. Zhang YQ*, Chen DL*, Tian HF, Zhang, Baohong, Wen JF (2009) Genome-wide computational identification of microRNAs and their targets in the deep-branching eukaryote Giardia lamblia. Computational Biology and Chemistry 33 (5): 391-396.

27. Rainwater TR, Sauther ML, Rainwater KAE, Mills RE, Cuozzo FP, Zhang, Baohong, McDaniel LN, Abel MT, Marsland EJ, Weber MA, Jacky IAY, Platt SG, Cobb GP, Anderson TA (2009) Assessment of organochlorine pesticides and metals in ring-tailed lemurs (Lemur catta) at Beza Mahafaly Special Reserve, Madagascar. American Journal of Primatolog 71(12): 998-1010.

28. Karnjanapiboonwong A, Zhang, Baohong, Freitag CM, Dobrovolny M, Salice CJ, Smith PN, Kendall RJ, & Anderson TA (2009) Reproductive toxicity of nitroaromatics to the cricket, Acheta domesticus. The Science of the Total Environment 407(18): 5046-5049.

29. Zhang, Baohong, Pan XP, Cobb GP & Anderson TA (2009) Uptake, bioaccumulation and biodegradation of hexahydro-1,3,5-trinitro-1,3,5-triazine (RDX) and its reduced metabolites (MNX and TNX) by the earthworm (Eisenia fetida). Chemosphere 76(1): 76-82.

30. Zhang, Baohong, Pan XP (2009) RDX and microRNA expression in B6C3F1 mice. Environmental Health Perspectives 117(3): A98-A99.

31. Zhang, Baohong, Pan XP, & Stellwag EJ (2008) Identification of soybean microRNAs and their targets. Planta 229(1): 161-82. HIGHLY CITED PAPERS based on ISI Web of Knowledge Essential Science Indicators

32. Zhang, Baohong, Farwell MA. (2008) microRNAs: a new emerging class of players for disease diagnostics and gene therapy. Journal of Cellular and Molecular Medicine12(1): 3-21.

33. Zhang, Baohong, Pan XP, Venn L, Dunnum S, McMurry ST, Cobb GP & Anderson TA (2008) Development of a method for the determination of 9 currently used cotton pesticides by gas chromatography with electron capture detection. Talanta 75(4): 1055-1060.

34. Zhang, Baohong, Cox SB, McMurry ST, Jackson WA, Cobb GP & Anderson TA (2008) Reproduction toxicity of RDX metabolites N-nitroso compounds in earthworms. Environmental Pollution 153(3): 658-667.

35. Venne LS, Anderson T, Zhang, Baohong, Smith LM, McMurry ST (2008) Organochlorine pesticide concentrations in sediment and amphibian tissue in playa wetlands in the Southern High Plains, USA. Bulletin of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology 80(6): 497-501.

36. Zhang, Baohong, Wang QL, Wang KB, Pan XP, Liu F, Guo TL, Cobb GP & Anderson TA. (2007) Identification of cotton microRNAs and their targets. Gene 397(1-2): 26-37. (The 2nd HOTTEST article during July to September, 2007; "TOP25 Hottest Articles" downloaded during October to December, 2007, January to March, 2008, April to June, 2008, and July to September, 2008)

Courses Taught

BIOL 5900, 5901. Biotechniques and Lab (For Spring Semester).

BIOL 3820, Plant Biotechnology (For Fall Semester).

Laboratory Personnel

Visiting Scientists
Dr. Hongmei Wu

Dr. Hongmei Wu (co-hosted with Dr. Pan)

Dr Zhimin Yin

Dr. Zhimin Yin

Ph.D. Students
Dongliang Chen

Dongliang Chen

Fuliang Xie

Fuliang Xie

Master Students
Faten Taki

Faten Taki

William Winfrey

William Winfrey

Undergraduate students

Nicole Leane Rogerson

Matthew K Troskey

Zayer Thway

Former graduate students

Lindsey Nicole Fix (M.S., 2010), now MD students at ECU Brody School of Medicine

Taylor Price Frazier (M.S., 2010), now Ph. D. student at Virginia Tech

Maitri Yogen Shah (M.S., 2010), now Ph.D. student at MD Anderson Cancer Center

Caitlin E. Burklew (M.S., 2012), now research technician at Virginia Tech