Zhanjun Hou

Zhanjun Hou

Zhanjun Hou

Position Title

Associate Professor - Research
Basic Science

Office Location

Karmanos Cancer Institute
Elliman Building, RM - 3120
421 E Canfield
Detroit, MI 48201

Mailing Address

Karmanos Cancer Institute
4100 John R.
Mail Code: EL03DT
Detroit, MI 48201

Office Phone


Office Fax


Education Training

(1998)  Ph.D. Plant Pathology, China Agricultural University, China 
(1995)  M.S. Plant Pathology, China Agricultural University, China
(1992)  B.S., Agricultural and Husbandry, University of Inner Mongolia, China

Postgraduate Training
(2001-2004)  Post-doctoral Research Fellow/Research Associate, Department of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology, Wayne State University School of Medicine, Detroit, MI

Professional Experience

Faculty Appointments

(2018-Present)  Associate Professor - Research, Department of Oncology Wayne State University School of Medicine, Karmanos Cancer Institute, Detroit, MI
(2013-2018)  Assistant Professor, - Research, Department of Oncology, Wayne State University School of Medicine, Karmanos Cancer Institute, Detroit, MI
(2007-2012)  Research Scientist, Wayne State University School of Medicine, Karmanos Cancer Institute, Detroit, MI
(2004-2007)  Research Associate, Wayne State University School of Medicine, Karmanos Cancer Institute, Detroit, MI
(1998-2000)  Research Associate, Department of Plant Pathology, China Agricultural University

Major Professional Societies

American Association for Cancer Research
American Society of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

Honors and Awards

(2015)  Wayne State University School of Medicine Research Incentive Award
(2014)  Wayne State University School of Medicine Research Incentive Award
(2013)  Wayne State University School of Medicine Research Incentive Award
(2010)  The Karmanos Cancer Center Director;s Research highlights
(2009)  The Karmanos Cancer Center Director's Research Award

Research Interests

My research interest has been on structural and functional studies on physiologically and pharmacologically important folate membrane transporters, including human reduced folate carrier (hRFC) and the human proton-coupled folate transporter (hPCFT). Using a wide range of state-of-art biochemical technologies including scanning cysteine mutagenesis and cysteine-scanning accessibility methods (SCAM), the important amino acid residues involved in hRFC function and substrate binding were dissected. As an extension of this work, I also identified and functionally characterized the oligomeric structure and functional consequences of oligomerization for both hRFC and hPCFT. This was a landmark discovery in the folate transport field with particular ramifications to therapeutic uses of cytotoxic folate analogs for cancer. During my research work on membrane transport proteins, I have established a number of techniques for studying membrane protein structure-function, including FRET and blue-native polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis. In addition, I am also interested in molecular homology modeling these facilitative folate transporters. More recently, I started to turn a portion of my research interest toward discovery and development of new folate-based therapeutics for cancer and other diseases that selectively use high affinity folate receptors and/or hPCFT without substrate activity for hRFC. Drawing from my experience in therapeutic applications of folate analog membrane transport and drug development, my current research focus is on developing novel therapeutic approaches for non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) by using state-of-the-art metabolomics profiling. I am also extending these methods to discovery of novel biomarkers for early diagnosis of NSCLC.


1. Wilson, M.R., Hou, Z., Yang, S., Polin, L., Kushner, J., White, K., Huang, J., Ratnam, M., Gangjee, A., and Matherly, L.H., 2016. Targeting non-squamous non-small cell lung cancer via the proton-coupled folate transporter with 6-substituted pyrrolo[2,3-d]pyrimidine thienoyl antifolates. Mol. Pharmacol. 89(4): 425-434
2. Wilson, M.R., Kugel, S., Huang, J., Wilson, L.J., Wloszczynski, P.A., Ye, J., Matherly, L.H., and Hou, Z., 2015. Structural determinants of human proton-coupled folate transporter oligomerization: role of GXXXG motifs and identification of oligomeric interfaces at transmembrane domains 3 and 6, Biochem. J. 469(1): 33-44

3. Wilson, M.R., Hou, Z., Matherly, L.H., 2014. Substituted cysteine accessibility reveals a novel transmembrane 2-3 reentrant loop and functional role for transmembrane domain 2 in the human proton-coupled folate transporter. J. Biol. Chem. 289(36): 25287-95
4. Hou, Z., Orr, S., Matherly, L.H., 2014. Posttranscriptional regulation of the human reduced folate carrier as a novel adaptive mechanism in response to folate excess or deficiency. BioScience Report. 34(4): 457-468
5. Hou, Z., Desmoulin, S. K., Olive M., Hsiung, B., Cherian, C., Moin, K. and Matherly, L.H., 2012, Identification and functional impact of homo-oligomers of the human proton-coupled folate transporter. J. Biol. Chem., J. Biol. Chem. 287(7): 4982-4995
6. Desmoulin, S. K., Hou, Z., Matherly, L. H., and Gangjee, A., 2012. The Human Proton-coupled Folate Transporter: Biology and Therapeutic Applications to Cancer. Cancer Biology & Therapy. 13(14)
7. Hou, Z., Wu, J., Ye, J., Cherian, C. and Matherly, L.H., 2010, Substrate-specific binding and conformational changes involving Ser313 and transmembrane domain 8 of the human reduced folate carrier, as determined by site-directed mutagenesis and protein cross-linking, Biochem. J. 430: 265-274
8. Hou, Z., Cherian, C., Drews, J., Wu, J. and Matherly, L.H., 2010, Identification of the Minimal Functional Unit of the Homo-oligomeric Human Reduced Folate Carrier. J. Biol. Chem. 285(7): 4732-4740
9. Hou, Z., and Matherly, L.H., 2009, Oligomeric Structure of the Human Reduced Folate Carrier: Identification of Homo-oligomers and Dominat-negative Effects on Carrier Expression and Function. J. Biol. Chem. 284(5): 3285-3293
10. Matherly, L.H. and Hou, Z.: Structure and function of the reduced folate carrier: a paradigm of a major facilitator superfamily mammalian nutrient transporter. Vitamins and Hormones 79: 145-184, 2008.

Pubmed Database Link: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=Hou%2C+Zhanjun


Faculty Status

Basic Science

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