Office: Barshop Institute 2017
Lab: Barshop Institute 1040


Department of Medicine, Division of Endocrinology

Shangang Zhao, PhD

Assistant Professor

Personal Statement:

Dr. Zhao has made important contributions in the fields of obesity and diabetes and solved several long-standing puzzling questions in the field. He proposed that ABHD6-accessible monoacylglycerols function as a metabolic coupling factor in glucose-stimulated insulin secretion (Cell Metabolism, 2014) and inhibition of ABHD6 in mice induces browning of white adipocytes and prevents obesity and type 2 diabetes (Cell Reports, 2016). In addition, Dr. Zhao has identified a new enzyme G3PP, located at the crossroad of glucose and lipid metabolism (PNAS, 2016). This new enzyme G3PP has been highlighted in the PNAS as “it has been rare in the last half a century to discover novel enzymes behind the metabolism of nutrients in mammal tissue, and that so significant are the findings that they may even prompt revisions to biochemistry textbooks.” Furthermore, Dr. Zhao has made a series of landmark discoveries in the field of leptin. His unexpected and exciting observations on partial leptin reduction in obese mice lead to a publication in Cell Metabolism (2019). Furthermore, he demonstrated that a lower leptin level during the progression to diet-induced obesity is beneficial to maintain metabolic health (Molecular Metabolism, 2020). Very recently, Dr. Zhao has demonstrated that hyperleptinemia contributes to anti-psychotic drug-induced weight gain and metabolic disorders (Science Translation Medicine, 2023). Based on these observations, he wrote two review articles with Dr. Philipp Scherer in Diabetes (2020) and Circulation Research (2021) and proposed the new concept that “less leptin is more” under obesogenic conditions. His recent discoveries have broken the dogma in the leptin field and called for a paradigm shift from leptin therapy to leptin lowering strategy to treat diet-induced obesity and type 2 diabetes. These discoveries will have profound influence in developing novel therapies to treat diet-induced obesity and its associated metabolic disorders.


2004BSBioscienceNingbo Univeresity
Ningbo, Zhejiang, China
2007MSMicroorganismShanghai Jiao Tong University
Shanghai, China
2016PhDBiochemistryUniversity of Montreal
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Postdoctoral FellowshipUT Southwestern Medical Center


Dr. Zhao’s current research program will focus on two major projects: the first research project is to explore the effects of leptin modulation in healthspan and lifespan. Multiple mouse tools to modulate circulating leptin levels and leptin signaling pathway are already in place; The second research project is to assess the effects of a newly identified secreting enzyme J18 in metabolic health and aging. Dr. Zhao has generated tissue specific J18 transgenic and floxed mice, which could increase or decrease J18 enzymatic activities in specific tissues. With all these mouse tools, Dr. Zhao’s lab will offer a better understanding regarding J18 physiology.

Awards & Accomplishments

2015FRQS Postdoctoral Fellowship
2021AHA Postdoctoral Fellowship
2021K99/R00 Career Development Award from NIA


Member: American Diabetes Association

Lab Members

Research Assistant: Xiaomeng Xu


1.Li N*, Zhao S*, Zhang Z, Zhu Y, Gliniak CM, Vishvanath L, An YA, Wang MY, Deng Y, Zhu Q, Shan B, Sherwood A, Onodera T, Oz OK, Gordillo R, Gupta RK, Liu M, Horvath TL, Dixit VD, Scherer PE. Adiponectin preserves metabolic fitness during aging. Elife. 2021.
2.Zhao S, Kusminski CM and Scherer PE. Adiponectin, leptin and cardiovascular disease. Circulation Research. 2021.
3.Zhao S, Li N, Zhu Y, Straub L, Zhang Z, Wang MY, Zhu Q, Kusminski CM, Elmquist JK, Scherer PE. Partial leptin deficiency confers resistance to diet-induced obesity in mice. Molecular Metabolism. 2020.
4.Zhao S, Kusminski CM, Elmquist JK*, Scherer PE*. Leptin: Less Is More. Diabetes. 2020.
5.Zhao S, Zhu Y, Schultz RD, Li N, He Z, Zhang Z, Caron A, Zhu Q, Sun K, Xiong W, Deng H, Sun J, Deng Y, Kim M, Lee CE, Gordillo R, Liu T, Odle AK, Childs GV, Zhang N, Kusminski CM, Elmquist JK, Williams KW, An Z, Scherer PE. Partial Leptin Reduction as an Insulin Sensitization and Weight Loss Strategy. Cell Metabolism. 2019.
6.Mugabo Y*, Zhao S*, Seifried A, Gezzar S, Al-Mass A, Zhang D, Lamontagne J, Attane C, Poursharfi P, Iglesias J, Joly E, Peyot ML, Gohla A, Madiraju SRM, Prentki M. Identification of a mammalian glycerol-3-phosphate phosphatase: Role in metabolic control and signaling in pancreatic β–cells and hepatocytes. PNAS. 2016.
7.Zhao S, Mugabo Y, Attané C, Gwyn Thomas, Iglesias J, Zhang D, Poursharifi P, Nguren A, Peyot ML, Joly E, Brown JM, Madiraju SR, Prentki M. α/β-Hydrolase domain-6 deletion induces adipose browning and prevents obesity and type-2 diabetes. Cell Reports. 2016.
8.Zhao S*, Poursharifi P*, Mugabo Y, Levans EJ, Vivo K, Attane C, Iglesias J, Peyot ML, Joly E, Madiraju SR, Prentki M. α/β-hydrolase domain-6 and saturated long chain monoacylglycerol regulate insulin secretion promoted by both fuel and non-fuel stimuli. Molecular Metabolism. 2015.
9.Zhao S*, Mugabo Y*, Iglesias J, Xie L, Delghingaro-Augusto V, Lussier R, Peyot ML, Joly E, Taïb B, Davis MA, Brown JM, Gaisano H, Madiraju SR, Prentki M. α/β-Hydrolase domain-6-accessible monoacylglycerol controls glucose-stimulated insulin secretion. Cell Metabolism. 2014.