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Faculty Research Labs

The Roh Lab

The Roh Lab studies mechanisms that control cellular identity and plasticity, seeking to use our findings to cure disease and improve human health.

teal adipocyte blobs on a black background

Adipose biology

Adipocytes play a key role in nutrient and energy homeostasis, directly implicated in metabolic disease, such as obesity and diabetes. We have previously made an unexpected finding that, despite being a terminally differentiated post-mitotic cell type, adipocyte has potentials to reprogram its cellular identity in response to physiological and environmental cues. Adipose biology is our major research project. We are currently working on two projects.

  1. We study how adipocyte control its color (white, brown, and beige) in response to temperature changes. We are especially interested in transcriptional and epigenetic mechanisms that drive temperature-responsive adipocyte reprogramming. We seek to use our findings to enhance energy metabolism and to improve metabolic health.
  2. We recently discovered that adipocytes adopt altered cellular states with the emergence of muscle-like signatures during obesity. We work to understand how this change is regulated and how it contributes to adipose tissue function and systemic energy metabolism.
graphic shows nuTRAP mouse

Epigenomics

We have previously developed a new transgenic mouse, called NuTRAP, which allows for cell type-specific transcriptomic and epigenomic analysis in vivo. NuTRAP mice has led us to the discovery of adipocyte plasticity.

We continue to employ our NuTRAP mice to elucidate epigenetic remodeling underlying adipocyte plasticity. In addition to RNA-seq and ChIP-seq, we are working with NuTRAP for cutting-edge epigenomic profiling techniques, such as ATAC-seq, and CUT&Tag. We hope to extend to the methods for higher-order chromatin conformation and nuclear architecture analysis. We also work on single cell & nucleus sequencing analysis. We aim to identify cellular heterogeneity in adipose tissues and to address cellular plasticity and population dynamics in response to physiological and environmental cues.

Cellular plasticity

Once differentiated, somatic cells maintain their cellular identity and fulfill unique cellular functions. Our studies with adipocytes, however, suggest that other somatic cell types may also have potentials to switch cellular identity. We are exploring whether and how such cellular plasticity contributes to normal physiology of other tissues and is implicated in human disease.  We are collaborating with other investigators on the campus to test this possibility.

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Current Research Funding

NIH R01 DK129289 Roh (PI)
Transcriptional regulation of beige adipocyte cellular plasticity

ADA 7-21-JDF-056 Roh (PI)
Obesity-induced cellular reprogramming in adipocytes: a role for SRF

Recent Publications

So J, Taleb S, Wann J, Strobel O, Kim K, Roh HC. Chronic cAMP activation induces adipocyte browning through discordant biphasic remodeling of transcriptome and chromatin accessibility. Molecular Metabolism. 2022 Oct 21:101619. doi: 10.1016/j.molmet.2022.101619. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 36273781.

Reilly AM, Yan S, Huang M, Abhyankar SD, Conley JM, Bone RN, Stull ND, Horan DJ, Roh HC, Robling AG, Ericsson AC, Dong XC, Evans-Molina C, Ren H. A high-fat diet catalyzes progression to hyperglycemia in mice with selective impairment of insulin action in Glut4-expressing tissues. J Biol Chem. 2022 Jan;298(1):101431. doi: 10.1016/j.jbc.2021.101431. Epub 2021 Nov 18. PMID: 34801552; PMCID: PMC8689209.

Hall JA, Ramachandran D, Roh HC, DiSpirito JR, Belchior T, Zushin PH, Palmer C, Hong S, Mina AI, Liu B, Deng Z, Aryal P, Jacobs C, Tenen D, Brown CW, Charles JF, Shulman GI, Kahn BB, Tsai LTY, Rosen ED, Spiegelman BM, Banks AS. Obesity-Linked PPARĪ³ S273 Phosphorylation Promotes Insulin Resistance through Growth Differentiation Factor 3. Cell Metabolism. 2020 Oct 6;32(4):665-675

Roh HC, Kumari M, Taleb S, Tenen D, Jacobs C, Lyubetskaya A, Tsai LT, Rosen ED (2020). Adipocytes Fail to Maintain Cellular Identity During Obesity Due to Reduced PPARš›¾ Activity and Elevated TGFĪ²-SMAD Signaling. Molecular Metabolism. 42:101086

Roh HC, Tsai LT, Shao M, Tenen D, Shen Y, Kumari M, Lyubetskaya A, Jacobs C, Dawes B, Gupta RK, Rosen ED. Warming induces significant reprogramming of beige, but not brown, adipocyte cellular identity. Cell Metabolism. 2018, 27(5):1121-1137

View a full list of publications

Research Team

44892-Roh, Hyun Cheol

Hyun Cheol Roh, PhD

Assistant Professor of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology

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Kyungchan (Chan) Kim, PhD

Postdoctoral Fellow in Biochemistry & Molecular Biology

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Jisun So, PhD

Postdoctoral Fellow in Biochemistry & Molecular Biology

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Tan Chaisakhon

Master's Student

Jamie Wann

Research Technician