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Hongjuan Gao, DSc

Academic Title:

Research Associate

Primary Appointment:


Additional Title:

Research Associate



Phone (Primary):


Education and Training

I received my PhD from Institute of Zoology from Chinese Academy of Sciences in China. I pursued postdoc training in Carnegie Institution and Johns Hopkins Univerity. Then I joined University of Maryland School of Medicine.


Work has been done on identifying gene regulatory mechanisms that control hematopoietic progenitor choice between multipotency and differentiation during steady state conditions and in response to stress in the fly.

Asthma is a chronic inflammatory disease of the lungs that results in narrowing of the airways, making it difficult to breathe. Dust is a common trigger of allergy and asthma.  House dust mites (HDM) are the main cause of dust allergies. Despite the fact that macrophages are present in abundant amounts within the lung and are one of the first cells exposed to HDM upon inhalation, little is known about the direct effects of HDM on macrophages..  My work demonstrate that HDM can directly act on bone marrow-derived macrophages (BMM) leading to actin remodeling.  BMM treated with HDM demonstrated alterations in F-actin (based on Phalloidan staining), changed shape, and increased in size significantly. We also observed alterations in the phosphorylation of cofilin and slingshot, two proteins that regulate actin polymerization. BMM demonstrated constitutive phosphorylation of cofilin with little phosphorylated slingshot at baseline. However, HDM treatment diminished cofilin phosphorylation while increasing the phosphorylation of slingshot. Since HDM is known to contain LPS, important for HDM-induced allergic inflammation in vivo, we examined the contribution of LPS to actin remodeling. Actin cytoskeleton changes were still evident in BMM treated with HDM in the presence of polymyxin B (PMB) or in Tlr4-/-BMM, although the average cell size was reduced compared to HDM alone. The HDM-induced changes in phosphorylation of cofilin and slingshot were unaffected by PMB or Tlr4 deficiency. These results suggest that HDM induces actin remodeling in macrophages by a mechanism that is largely LPS/TLR4-independent. These observations provide an opportunity to identify novel therapeutic targets for allergic asthma.

Research/Clinical Keywords

Drosophila, Hematopoiesis, allergic, asthma, macrophage

Highlighted Publications

Gao H., Wu, X., Fossett, N. (2009) Upregulation of the Drosophila Friend of GATA gene u-shaped by JAK/STAT signaling maintains lymph gland prohemocyte potency.  Mol. Cell Bio., 29, 6086-6096. PMID: 19737914 PMCID: PMC2772570

Gao H., Wu, X., Fossett, N. (2013) Drosophila E-cadherin functions in hematopoietic progenitors to maintain multipotency and block differentiation. PLoS ONE 8:e74684. PMID: 24040319 PMCID: PMC3764055

Gao H, Wu X, Simon L, Fossett N. (2014) Antioxidants maintain e-cadherin levels to limit Drosophila prohemocyte differentiation. PLoS ONE 9:e107768. PMID:25226030 PMCID: PMC4167200

Gao H, Baldeosingh R, Wu X, Fossett N. (2016) The Friend of GATA Transcriptional Co-Regulator, U-Shaped, Is a Downstream Antagonist of Dorsal-Driven Prohemocyte Differentiation in Drosophila. PLoS ONE 11:e0155372. PMCID: PMC4862636