Photo of Beiyan  Zhou, Ph.D.

Beiyan Zhou, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Immunology
Academic Office Location:
UConn Health
263 Farmington Avenue
Farmington, CT 06030-1319
Phone: 860-679-7030

Department of Immunology

Zhou Lab

Dr. Beiyan Zhou is an associate professor of immunology whose interests are in diabetes, metabolism, and hematology. She holds a Ph.D. in biochemistry/molecular biology from Northwestern University, Master of Science in molecular biology from Peking University, and a Bachelor of Science in biochemistry from Wuhan University, and completed a postdoctoral fellowship in cell and molecular biology at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

M.Sc.College of Life Sciences, Peking UniversityProtein Chemistry and Genetic Engineering
Ph.D.Northwestern UniversityBiological Sciences

Post-Graduate Training
PostdoctoralMassachusetts Institute of TechnologyPostdoctoral Fellow, Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research

Name of Award/HonorAwarding Organization
Junior Faculty AwardAmerican Diabetes Association
Outstanding Scientific Achievement AwardCollege of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University
Genzyme Fellowship for Postdoctoral ResearchGenzyme
Travel award, NIH/NIDDK Workshop on microRNA in cellular development and hematopoiesis, Annapolis, Md.NIH/NIDDK
Travel AwardAmerican Endocrine Society
Research Travel Award, the Graduate School and the Office of the Vice President GrantNorthwestern University
Research Travel Award, the Graduate School and Office of the Vice President GrantNorthwestern University

While compelling evidences have indicated the crucial roles played by epigenetic regulators in both normal developmental control and pathogenesis of diseases, our understanding of the full picture is still in its infancy. The long-term goal of my research is to understand the systemic regulatory networks governed by epigenetic factors in controlling immune cell formation and their functions in various tissue niches. My current research efforts are devoted to unveil the roles of epigenetic regulators, including non-coding RNAs, in modulating immune cell function and their cross-talks with other cells in various metabolic tissue niches in responding to obesity stress.

A. microRNA regulated adipose tissue macrophage and B cell activation under obese stress

Among infiltrated immune cells, adipose tissue macrophages (ATMs) are crucial regulators controlling adipose tissue inflammation and systemic insulin resistance. Distinct from classical inflammatory responses, chronic nutrient excess induces ATMs to undergo a unique phenotypic switch M2 –M1 states in obese tissues. To realize the potential of developing new preventive and therapeutic strategies for insulin resistance associated diseases by controlling the properties of ATMs, the molecular mechanism underlying ATM function in the context of obesity induced adipose tissue inflammation needs to be understood. In the post-genomic era, it is becoming clear that non-coding RNAs play critical roles in regulating many diverse cellular processes. A class of non-coding RNAs, termed microRNAs, represents a set of intracellular regulators that impact all aspects of macrophage formation and activation. We recently demonstrated that miR-223 is a potent regulator of chronic nutrient excess induced adipose tissue inflammation by modulating ATM polarization. This was the first identified microRNA that exert potent regulatory effects on macrophage polarized activation and obesity-induced adipose tissue inflammation and insulin resistance.

In addition, we interrogated the other immune cells in the adipose tissue for their potential contribution to maintenance of metabolic homeostasis. Among various immune cell subtypes, adipose tissue B cells (ATBs) is one of the most dramatically increased cell type in obese visceral fat pad. However, the function of ATBs and the mechanism of action are poorly elucidated. We have identified several novel microRNA regulators that exert profound effects on ATB function and their interaction with other immune cells and adipocytes in the obese adipose tissue niche.

B. Obesity induced histone/chromatin landscape alternation and genetic-epigenetic interplays

Compelling evidence, including ours, demonstrated the crucial contribution of non-coding RNAs and other genes in regulating adipose tissue function, including adipogenesis, adipose tissue immune cell function, as well as cell-cell crosstalks followed by subsequent systemic metabolic functions. However, the overall impacts of the obesity on insulin resistance and inflammation development at epigenetic level have not well depicted. We have incorporated large datasets generated by RNA-seq and ChIP-seq methods to investigate how chronic obesity stress change the genome-wide landscape at both epigenetic and transcriptome levels.



Accepting Lab Rotation Students: Summer '19, Fall '19, Spring '20

We are accepting highly motivated rotation students in the area of immunology/hematopoiesis/ obesity.  Our research projects incorporate epigenetic and genomic approaches to understand the crosswalks between immune compartment and host tissue cells under chronic stress conditions, such as obesity. 

Journal Articles

Book Chapters

  • Roles of arginine in cell-mediated and humoral immunity
    Wenkai Ren, Yulong Yin, Beiyan Zhou, Fuller W Bazer, Guoyao Wu Nutrition, Immunity & Infection 2017 Oct;
  • NR4A Orphan Receptors as Drug Targets
    Stephen Safe, Syng-Ook Lee, Cong Meng, Beiyan Zhou Targeted Therapy of Acute Myeloid Leukemia 2015 Jan;
  • MicroRNA-regulated immune cell function in obese adipose tissue
    Wei Ying, Chuan Li, Anthony T Vella, Beiyan Zhou Handbook of Nutrition, Diet, and Epigenetics



Title or AbstractTypeSponsor/EventDate/YearLocation
Non-coding RNA regulated macrophage function in obesity. Exercise Physiological SeminarTalkDepartment of Health & Kinesiology, Texas A&M University2015Texas A&M University
microRNA and adipose tissue inflammation. EB 2015 APS President’s Symposium Series, Boston, MA, March 2015TalkExperimental Biology 2015 / American Physiological Society2015Boston, MA
Immune cell function in obese adipose tissuesTalkGateway to Nitrigenomics (NGN) Retreat2015Lincoln, Nebraska
Non-coding RNA regulated immune cell function in obesityTalkNutrition Obesity Research Mini-Symposium, Texas A&M University2014Texas A&M University
Uteroferrin enhances fetal erythropoiesis at terminal stagesTalkSSR - Society for the Study of Reproduction2014Michigan, USA
Macrophage polarization and insulin resistanceTalk19th Annual Dr. Raymond O Berry Mem. Lecture and 7th Annual IFRB Retreat2013
Macrophage management of microRNAs in hematopoiesis and diseases, Immunology Consortium, Texas A&M University, May 2013TalkImmunology Consortium, Texas A&M University2013Texas A&M University
A novel paradigm of microRNA regulated B cell functions on insulin resistance: miR-150 regulates insulin sensitivity through controlling antibody productionTalkAmerican Diabetes Association Conference2013Chicago, IL
MicroRNA Regulated Lymphocyte Function in Insulin ResistanceTalkThe 5th Scientific Meeting of Chinese American Diabetes Association (CADA)2013Chicago, IL
Macromanagement of microRNAs in macrophagesTalkThe Cardiovascular Research Institute (CVRI)2013