Ruifeng (Ray) Cao, MD, PhD

Assistant Professor, Medical School, Duluth Campus

Ruifeng (Ray) Cao

Contact Info

rcao@umn.edu

Office Phone 218-726-7691

Fax 218-726-8014

Lab Phone 218-726-6896

Office Address:
Department of Biomedical Sciences
249 SMed
1035 University Drive
Duluth, MN 55812

Assistant Professor, Medical School, Duluth Campus

Department of Biomedical Sciences


MD, Fourth Military Medical University, China

PhD, Neuroscience, Ohio State University

Postdoc, McGill University, Canada

Summary

Professional Associations

Research

Research Summary/Interests

Circadian (~24 h) rhythmicity is a fundamental property of nearly all living beings on this planet. In mammals, the master pace maker is located in the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) of the hypothalamus. The SCN relays photic information from the retina to the brain to synchronize endogenous rhythms to ambient light/dark cycles. Desynchronization of the endogenous rhythms can lead to fatigue, insomnia and memory loss as seen in jet lag.

Circadian clocks also exist in a variety of extra-SCN regions throughout the brain. The rhythms in these regions modulate brain activities on a daily basis. A variety of neurophysiological processes are rhythmically regulated by the circadian clock, which accounts for the time-of-day variations in our sensory, motor, memory and social functions. Conversely, disruption of circadian rhythms has been reported in patients with neurological disorders such as Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson’s disease.

My lab is interested in molecular signaling mechanisms that orchestrate daily rhythms in our brain and how their dysregulation contributes to various neurological and psychiatric diseases. We are particularly interested in the role of mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) signaling and mechanisms that control mRNA translation in the circadian clock.

We constantly look for talented and motivated undergraduate, graduate students and postdoctoral researchers to join our lab.

Research Methods/Techniques

Our lab utilizes a combination of molecular, cellular and behavioral technologies, including polysome profiling, RNA sequencing, qRT-PCR, Western blotting, immunocytochemistry, electrophysiology, confocal microscopy, viral-mediated gene silencing and animal behavioral analysis (e.g., circadian, social and memory tests, EEG). A variety of model systems, including cell culture, organotypic slice culture, and whole animals (transgenic and knockout mice) are employed.

Publications

Aguilar-Valles, A, Haji, N, De Gregorio, D, Matta-Camacho, E, Eslamizade, MJ, Popic, J, Sharma, V, Cao, R, Rummel, C, Tanti, A, Wiebe, S, Nuñez, N, Comai, S, Nadon, R, Luheshi, G, Mechawar, N, Turecki, G, Lacaille, JC, Gobbi, G & Sonenberg, N 2018, 'Translational control of depression-like behavior via phosphorylation of eukaryotic translation initiation factor 4E' Nature communications, vol. 9, no. 1, 2459. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-018-04883-5

Cao, R 2018, 'mTOR signaling, translational control, and the circadian clock' Frontiers in Genetics, vol. 9, no. SEP, 367. https://doi.org/10.3389/fgene.2018.00367

Ramanathan, C, Kathale, ND, Liu, D, Lee, C, Freeman, DA, Hogenesch, JB, Cao, R & Liu, AC 2018, 'mTOR signaling regulates central and peripheral circadian clock function' PLoS Genetics, vol. 14, no. 5, e1007369. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pgen.1007369

Liu, D, Stowie, A, de Zavalia, N, Leise, T, Pathak, SS, Drewes, LR, Davidson, AJ, Amir, S, Sonenberg, N & Cao, R 2018, 'mTOR signaling in VIP neurons regulates circadian clock synchrony and olfaction' Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, vol. 115, no. 14, pp. E3296-E3304. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1721578115

Gantois, I, Khoutorsky, A, Popic, J, Aguilar-Valles, A, Freemantle, E, Cao, R, Sharma, V, Pooters, T, Nagpal, A, Skalecka, A, Truong, VT, Wiebe, S, Groves, IA, Jafarnejad, SM, Chapat, C, McCullagh, EA, Gamache, K, Nader, K, Lacaille, JC, Gkogkas, CG & Sonenberg, N 2017, 'Metformin ameliorates core deficits in a mouse model of fragile X syndrome' Nature Medicine, vol. 23, no. 6, pp. 674-677. https://doi.org/10.1038/nm.4335

Cao, R, Gkogkas, CG, De Zavalia, N, Blum, ID, Yanagiya, A, Tsukumo, Y, Xu, H, Lee, C, Storch, KF, Liu, AC, Amir, S & Sonenberg, N 2015, 'Light-regulated translational control of circadian behavior by eIF4E phosphorylation' Nature Neuroscience, vol. 18, no. 6, pp. 855-862. https://doi.org/10.1038/nn.4010

Gkogkas, CG, Khoutorsky, A, Cao, R, Jafarnejad, SM, Prager-Khoutorsky, M, Giannakas, N, Kaminari, A, Fragkouli, A, Nader, K, Price, TJ, Konicek, BW, Graff, JR, Tzinia, AK, Lacaille, JC & Sonenberg, N 2014, 'Pharmacogenetic Inhibition of eIF4E-Dependent Mmp9 mRNA Translation Reverses Fragile X Syndrome-like Phenotypes' Cell Reports, vol. 9, no. 5, pp. 1742-1755. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.celrep.2014.10.064

Cao, R, Robinson, B, Xu, H, Gkogkas, C, Khoutorsky, A, Alain, T, Yanagiya, A, Nevarko, T, Liu, AC, Amir, S & Sonenberg, N 2013, 'Translational control of entrainment and synchrony of the suprachiasmatic circadian clock by mTOR/4E-BP1 signaling' Neuron, vol. 79, no. 4, pp. 712-724. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuron.2013.06.026

Khoutorsky, A, Yanagiya, A, Gkogkas, CG, Fabian, MR, Prager-Khoutorsky, M, Cao, R, Gamache, K, Bouthiette, F, Parsyan, A, Sorge, RE, Mogil, JS, Nader, K, Lacaille, JC & Sonenberg, N 2013, 'Control of synaptic plasticity and memory via suppression of poly(A)-Binding protein' Neuron, vol. 78, no. 2, pp. 298-311. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuron.2013.02.025

Cao, R, Butcher, GQ, Karelina, K, Arthur, JS & Obrietan, K 2013, 'Mitogen- and stress-activated protein kinase 1 modulates photic entrainment of the suprachiasmatic circadian clock' European Journal of Neuroscience, vol. 37, no. 1, pp. 130-140. https://doi.org/10.1111/ejn.12028

Teaching

Teaching Areas

Neurological Medicine

Mentoring/Advising: undergraduate, graduate and post-doctoral fellows.