School of Medicine

Wayne State University School of Medicine


Assistant Professor

Department of Pathology,Integrated Biosciences Bldg., Room 417

6135 Woodward Avenue

Detroit MI 48202


Tel: 313-577-9433; Fax: 313-577-9469
metabolism, stem cell, cancer, and EMT
Administrative Contact
Ms. Brenda Batts, 313-577-1102

Our research seeks to understand metabolic requirements for embryonic stem cell (ES) self-renewal, and contribution of aberrant metabolism to cancer development. ES cells and cancer cells share some common properties, notably autonomy in proliferation and preference for glycolytic metabolism.  The key regulatory mechanism of ES cells is often hijacked by cancer to gain “stemness”. Previously we found mitochondrial threonine degradation as an essential mechanism to sustain mouse ES cell self-renewal, wherein threonine is broken down into glycine and acetyl-CoA, which in turn fed into core anabolic/catabolic pathways via glycine cleavage system and TCA cycle. Given the similarities between the metabolism of ES and cancer cells, we hypothesize the aforementioned pathways could constitute a hot spot to promote cancer development. Our current research is to determine the role of mitochondrial threonine/glycine metabolism in pluripotency reprogramming and tumorigenesis. Also, we study towards identifying metabolic changes in epithelial to mesenchymal transition (EMT), a critical embryonic developmental process with important role in tumorigenesis.


M.D. (1989), Tongji Medical University, Wuhan, China

Ph.D. (2005), McGill University, Montreal, Canada
Postdoctoral fellowship (2011), University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, Dallas, TX, USA
Wang, J., Shou, J., and Chen, X. (2000), Dickkopf-1, an inhibitor of the Wnt signaling pathway, is induced by p53. Oncogene 19, 1843-1848.
Wang, J., Alexander, P., Wu, L., Hammer, R., Cleaver, O., and McKnight, S.L., (2009), Dependence of mouse embryonic stem cell on threonine catabolism. Science,325, 435-439.
Wang, J. and Pantopoulos, K. (2011), Regulation of cellular iron metabolism. Biochem J, 434, 365-381.
Alexander, P., Wang, J., and McKnight, S.L., (2011), Target killing of a mammalian cell based upon its specialized metabolic state. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA, 108, 15828-13833.
Wang, J., Alexander, P., and McKnight, S.L., (2011), Metabolic specialization of mouse embryonic stem cells. Cold Spring Harb Symp Quant Biol, in press.