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Weihong Hou

Weihong Hou, PhD
Research Scientist
Liver, Digestive and Metabolic Disorders Laboratory
Cannon Research Center

Prior Positions and Experience

2009 Research Scientist, Carolinas Medical Center, Charlotte, NC
2007-2009 Senior Postdoctoral Fellow, Carolinas Medical Center, Charlotte, NC
2006-2007 Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Connecticut Health Center, Farmington, CT
1998-2006 Associate Professor, Zhengzhou University Medical College, Zhengzhou, China
1992-1998 Lecturer, Henan Medical University, Zhengzhou, China
1989-1992 Teaching Assistant, Henan Medical University, Zhengzhou, China

Education

2003-2006:  PhD (Molecular Biology), Zhengzhou University, Zhengzhou, China
1986-1989:  MS (Biochemistry), Dalian Medical University, Dalian, China
1982-1986:  BS (Chemistry), Henan University, Kaifeng, China

Research Interests

Hepatitis C virus (HCV) infects over 170 million individuals worldwide and often leads to chronic liver diseases, including chronic hepatitis C, cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma. There is as yet no vaccine for hepatitis C. microRNAs (miRNAs) are small non-coding RNAs (~22 nt) that regulate gene expression primarily through post-transcriptional destabilization, translational repression of target mRNAs which bear complementary sites, or a combination of these two mechanisms. miRNAs are likely to play significant roles in HCV replication and the development and progression of HCV-induced liver diseases. Dr. Hou is interested in understanding roles of miRNAs and other non-coding RNAs (ncRNAs) in the pathogenesis of hepatitis C and HCV-induced liver diseases, and developing new therapies to combat HCV and HCV-associated liver diseases. Dr. Hou and colleagues have shown that miRNA-196 plays a role in the regulation of HCV replication and infection in HCV replicon and infectious cell culture systems. miR-196 may hold promise as a potential novel strategy to prevent or ameliorate hepatitis C infection, and to protect against liver injury in chronic HCV infection.  

Dr. Hou’s other areas of special interest are hepatic heme and porphyrin metabolism. Heme oxygenase-1 (HMOX1) is the initial and rate-controlling enzyme involved in heme degradation to biliverdin, carbon monoxide and ferrous iron.  HMOX1, one of key cytoprotective enzymes, has anti-oxidative and anti-inflammatory activities. Bach1, a basic leucine zipper mammalian transcriptional repressor, negatively regulates HMOX1. The evidence is clear that oxidative stress occurs in chronic liver diseases. The goal of this ongoing project is to elucidate the molecular mechanism underlying the regulation of HMOX1/Bach1, and to develop therapeutic agents for treatment of chronic liver diseases. Dr. Hou and colleagues have identified and validated a number of miRNAs, including the let-7 miRNA family and miRNA-196, which enhance HMOX1 gene expression through direct translational repression of Bach1. Furthermore, they have demonstrated that over-expression of those miRNAs attenuates oxidant injury in human hepatocytes. The study has revealed, for the first time, a new role of the let-7 microRNA family in modulation of HMOX1. The results may also have implications for a novel approach to protecting hepatocytes from oxidant injury, which is known to accelerate the progression of hepatitis, liver fibrosis and other forms of liver disease. 

Recent Publications

Bonkovsky HL, Hou W, Steuerwald NM, Tian Q,  Li T,  Parsons J, Hamilton A, Hwang S, Schrum LW. Heme status affects human hepatic messenger RNA and microRNA expression. World J Gastroenterol, 2013, 19(10):1593-601. [PMID:23538684]

Bonkovsky HL, Guo JT, Hou W,  Li T,  Narang T, Thapar M. Porphyrin and heme metabolism and the porphyrias. Compr Physiol. 2013, 3(1):365-401. [PMID:23720291]

Hou W, Tian Q, Steuerwald NM, Schrum LW, Bonkovsky HL. The let-7 microRNA enhances heme oxygenase-1 by suppressing Bach1 and attenuates oxidant injury in human hepatocytes. Biochim Biophys Acta, 2012, 1819(11-12):1113-22. [PMID: 22698995]

Tian Q, Li T, Hou W, Zheng J, Schrum LW, Bonkovsky HL. Lon Peptidase (LONP1)-dependent breakdown of mitochondrial 5-aminolevulinic acid synthase protein by heme in human liver cells. J Biol Chem, 2011, 286(35):26424-430. [PMID:21659532]

Hou W, Tian Q, Zheng J, Bonkovsky HL. Zinc mesoporphyrin induces rapid proteasomal degradation of hepatitis C nonstructural 5A protein in human hepatoma cells. Gastroenterology, 2010, 138(5):1909-1919. [PMID: 19909748].  

Hou W, Tian Q, Zheng J, Bonkovsky HL.MicroRNA-196 represses Bach1 expression in human hepatoma cells stably expressing hepatitis C viral proteins. Hepatology, 2010, 51(2):690-698. [PMID: 20127796]  

Zhang L, Wang G, Hou W, Li P, Dulin A, Bonkovsky HL. Contemporary clinical research of traditional Chinese medicines for chronic hepatitis B in China: an analytical review. Hepatology, 2010, 51(2):690-698. [PMID: 20101751]

Hou WH, Rossi L, Shan Y, Zheng JY, Lambrecht RW, Bonkovsky HL. Iron increases HMOX1 and decreases hepatitis C viral expression in HCV-expressing cells. World J Gastroenterol, 2009, 15(36):4499-510. [PMID: 19777608]

Hou W, Shan Y, Zheng J, Lambrecht RW, Donohue SE, Bonkovsky HL. Zinc mesoporphyrin induces rapid and marked degradation of the transcription factor Bach1 and up-regulates HO-1. Biochim Biophys Acta 2008; 1779 (3):195-203. [PMID: 18325350]

Zheng J, Tian Q, Hou W, Watts JA, Schrum LW, Bonkovsky HL. Tissue-specific expression of ALA synthase-1 and heme oxygenase-1 and their expression in livers of rats chronically exposed to ethanol. FEBS Let, 2008, 582(13):1829-34. [PMID: 18472004]  

Wang T, Xue L, Hou W, Yang B, Chai Y, Ji X, Wang Y. Increased expression of transgene in stably transformed cells of Dunaliella salina by matrix attachment regions. Appl Microbiol Biotechnol. 2007, 76(3):651-657. [PMID: 17611755]

Hou W, Fang T, Chai Y, Wang T, Wang J, Xue L. Expression of recombinant kringle 1-5 domains of human plasminogen by a prokaryote expression system. Protein Expr Purif 2006; 47: 93-98. [PMID: 16510293]

Current, Recent and Pending Grant Support

Grant Title: Effect of Heme on mRNA and miRNA Profiles
Funding Agency: NIH-R15 Award
Role: Co-Investigator
Years: 2013-2015

Grant Title: Roles for Nuclear microRNAs in Hepatitis C Virus Induced Hepatocellular Carcinoma
Funding Agency: NIH/NCI
Role: Principal Investigator
Years: 2014-2015

Grant Title: The Role of Zinc Protoporphyrin in Modulation of Hepatitis C
Funding Agency: NIH/NIDDK
Role: Principal Investigator
Years: 2014-2018

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