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Ren Xu, PhD


HKRB 438


  • Professor
  • Markey Cancer Center

College Unit(s)

Other Affiliation(s)
  • Markey Cancer Center - Affiliated Faculty
  • Pharmacology and Nutritional Sciences Center Affiliated Faculty

Biography and Education


Professor; Department of Pharmacology and Nutritional Sciences, University of Kentucky, 7/2020

Associate professor; Department of Pharmacology and Nutritional Sciences, University of Kentucky, 7/2016

Assistant professor; Molecular and Biomedical Pharmacology Department, University of Kentucky, 4/2010---6/2016

PI; Markey Cancer Center, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY, 4/2010---present

Project scientist; Life Science Division, Lawrence Berkeley National laboratory, Berkeley, California, 9/2008 --- 4/2010 Postdoctoral fellow; Life Science Division, Lawrence Berkeley National laboratory, Berkeley, California, 9/2002 --- 9/2008 Education

Ph.D in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology; Shanghai Institute of Biochemistry and Cell Biology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Shanghai, China, 9/1997---7/2002

B.S. in Biology; Department of Biological Science and Technology, Nanjing University, Nanjing, China, 9/1993---7/1997. Graduated with honors.


My long-term goal is to determine the mechanisms by which microenvironmental signals modulate breast cancer progression, and to identify novel strategies to inhibit breast cancer metastasis by targeting microenvironmental cues. Currently, research in my group focuses on the biological function and regulation of ECM microenvironment during breast cancer progression. By utilizing contemporary in vitro and in vivo models, we are continuing to reveal the important mechanism and biology underlying breast cancer progression and metastasis. We believe that our study will lead to the discovery of a novel strategy for inhibiting breast cancer progression by targeting the ECM microenvironment. Collaborators: Dr. Binhua P. Zhou, Professor, School of Medicine, University of Kentucky; Dr. Mina J Bissell, Distinguished Scientist, Lawrence Berkeley National Lab; Dr. Christine Trinkle, AssociateProfessor, College of Engineering, University of Kentucky; Dr. Kazuhiro Nagata, Profesor, Kyoto Sangyo University

We are recruiting students and postdoctoral fellows

Selected Publications

Selected research articles

1. Xu R, Du P, Fan JJ, Zhang Q, Li TP and Gan RB. High-level expression and secretion of recombinant mouse endostatin by Escherichia coli. Protein Expression Purif. 2002 Apr; 24(3): 453-9.

2. Xu R, Yao ZY, Xin L, Zhang Q, Li TP and Gan RB. NC1 domain of human type VIII collagen (alpha 1) inhibits bovine aortic endothelial cell proliferation and causes cell apoptosis. Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2001 Nov; 289(1): 264-8.

3. Xu R* (co-first author), Le Beyec L, Lee SY, Nelson CM, Rizki A, Alcaraz J and Bissell MJ. Cell shape regulates global histone acetylation in human mammary epithelial cells. Exp Cell Res. 2007 Aug; 313(14): 3066-75. (Highlighted by the editor)

4. Xu R, Spencer VA, Bissell MJ. Extracellular matrix-regulated gene expression requires cooperation of SWI/SNF and transcription factors. J Biol Chem. 2007 May; 282(20): 14992-9.

5. Alcaraz J, Xu R, Mori H, Nelson CM, Mroue R, Spencer VA, Brownfield D, Radisky DC, Bustamante C and Bissell MJ. Laminin and biomimetic extracellular elasticity enhance functional differentiation in mammary epithelia. EMBO J. 2008. Nov; 27(21): 2829-38.

6. Xu R* (co-corresponding author), Boudreau A, Bissell MJ. Tissue architecture and function: Dynamic reciprocity via extra- and intra-cellular matrices (review). Cancer Metastasis Rev. 2009 Jun; 28(1-2): 167-76. Selected commentary on this manuscript. Faculty of 1000 evaluations:

7. Xu R*(co-corresponding author), Nelson CM, Muschler JL, Veiseh M, Vonderhaar BK and Bissell MJ. Sustained activation of STAT5 is essential for chromatin remodeling and maintenance of mammary-specific function. J Cell Biol. 2009 Jan; 184(1): 57-66. (Highlighted by the editor) Selected commentary on this manuscript. Faculty of 1000 evaluations:; Sedwick C, It takes two to party with chromatin. J Cell Biol. 184 (1); Commentary on NCI website: /vonehaar.asp.

8. Spencer VA, Xu R, Bissell MJ. Gene expression in the third dimension: The ECM-nucleus connection. J Mammary Gland Biol Neoplasia. 2010 Mar;15(1):65-71.

9. Xu R* (co-corresponding author), Spencer VA, Levy D, Bissell MJ. Laminin regulates PI3K basal localization and activation to sustain STAT5 activation. Cell Cycle. 2010 Nov;9(21):4315-22.

10. Spencer VA, Costes S, Inman JL, Xu R, Chen J, Hendzel MJ, Bissell MJ. Depletion of nuclear actin is a key mediator of quiescence in epithelial cells. J Cell Sci. 2011 Jan; 124(Pt 1):123-32.

11. Xu R* (corresponding author). Mao J-H. Gene transcriptional networks integrate microenvironmental signals in human breast cancer. Integr Biol. 2011 Apr; 3(4):368-74.

12. Pontiggia O, Sampayo R, Raffo D, Motter A, Xu R, Bissell, MJ et al. The tumor microenvironment modulates tamoxifen resistance in breast cancer: a role for soluble stromal factors and fibronectin through β1 integrin. Breast cancer Res Treat. 2011 Sep; 133(2):459-71.

13. Yu T, Chen X, Zhang W, Li J, Xu R, Wang TC, Ai W, Liu C. Krüppel-like Factor 4 Regulates Intestinal Epithelial Cell Morphology and Polarity. PLoS One 2012; 7(2):e32492.

14. Xiong G, Wang C, Evers BM, Zhou BP, Xu R. RORα suppresses breast tumor invasion through inducing SEMA3F expression. Cancer Research. 2012 Apr; 72(7):1728-39. News and Views: This week in therapeutics. SciBX 5(11).

15. Liu H, Radisky DC, Yang D, Xu R, Radisky ES, Bissell MJ, Bishop JM. Myc suppresses cancer metastasis by direct transcriptional silencing of αv and β3 integrin subunits. Nature Cell Biology 2012 May; 14(6): 567-74.

16. Lee SE, Sasaki DY, Park Y, Xu R, Brennan JS, Bissell MJ, Lee LP. Photonic Gene Circuits by Optically Addressable siRNA-Au Nanoantennas. ACS Nano. 2012 Jul; 6(9):7770-80.

17. Lee S, Meier R, Furuta S, Lenburg ME, Kenny PA, Xu R, Bissell MJ. FAM83A confers EGFR-TKI resistance in breast cancer cells and in mice. J Clinical Investigation. 2012 Sep; 122(9):3211-20

18. Becker-Weimann S, Xiong G, Furuta S, Han J, Kuhn I, Akavia U, Pe’er D, Bissell MJ, Xu R. (corresponding author). NFkB disrupts cellular polarity by preventing integration of microenvironmental signals. Oncotarget 2013, (11), 2010-20.

19. Xiong G, Deng L, Rychahou PG, Zhu J, Xu R. Prolyl-4-hydroxylase alpha subunit 2 promotes breast cancer progression and metastasis by regulating collagen deposition. BMC Cancer 2014, 14(1), 1.

20. Xiong G, Xu R. RORα binds to E2F1 to inhibit cell proliferation and regulate mammary gland branching morphogenesis. Mol Cell Biol. 2014 Aug;34(16):3066-75.

21. Zhu J, Xiong G, Fu H, Evers BM, Zhou BP, Xu R. Chaperone Hsp47 Drives Malignant Growth and Invasion by Modulating an ECM Gene Network. Cancer Res. 2015 Apr 15;75(8):1580-91.

22. Shu D, Li H, Shu Y, Xiong X, Haque F, Xu R and Guo P. Systemic Delivery of Anti-miRNA for Suppression of Triple Negative Breast Cancer Utilizing RNA Nanotechnology. ACS Nano. 2015.

23. Xiong G, Flynn TJ, Trinkle C, and Xu R*. Development of an ex vivo breast cancer lung colonization model utilizing decellularized lung matrix. Integrative Biology. 2015, featured on cover.

24. Xiong F, Xu R*. Function of cancer cell-derived extracellular matrix in tumor progression (review). JCMT, 2016.

25. Li L, Chen J, Xiong G, St Clair DK, Xu W and Xu R*. Increased ROS production in non-polarized mammary epithelial cells induces monocyte infiltration in 3D culture. J Cell Sci. 2017.

26. Wang S, Li Z, Xu R*, Cancer and platelet interaction, a potential therapeutic target. Int. J. Mol. Sci. Review, 2018.

27. Qi Y, Xu R*, Roles of PLODs in Collagen Synthesis and Cancer Progression. Frontiers in Cell and Developmental Biology. Review, 2018.

28. Zhang H, Fredericks T, Xiong G, Qi Y, Li J, Pihlajaniemi T, Xu W, and Xu R*, Membrane associated collagen XIII promotes cancer metastasis by enhancing cancer cell invasion and stemness. Breast Cancer Research. 2018, Oct 1;20(1):116.

29. Xiong G, Stewart RL, Chen J, Gao T, Scott TM, Samayo LM, O’Connor K, Lane AN, Xu R*, Collagen prolyl 4-hydroxylase 1 is essential for HIF-1α stabilization and chemoresistance in TNBC. Nature Communications. 2018 Oct 26;9(1):4456.

30. Yin H, Xiong G, Guo S, Xu R, Guo P, Shu D. Delivery of Anti-miRNA for Triple Negative Breast Cancer Therapy Using RNA Nanoparticles Targeting to Stem Cell Marker CD133. Molecular Therapy, 2019. Jul 3;27(7):1252-1261. PMID: 31085078.

31. Torabia S, Li L, Grabaua J, Berrond JV, Xu R, and Trinkle CA. Towards a Vascularized 3D Tissue Culture Model: Utilizing Cassie-Baxter Surfaces to Integrate Microfluidics and 3D Cell Culture. Langmuir. 2019 Jul 23. PMID: 31291112.

32. Jin J, Qiu S, Wang P, Liang X, Huang F, Wu H, Zhang B, Zhang W, Tian X, Xu R*, Shi H*, Wu X. Cardamonin inhibits breast cancer growth by repressing HIF-1α-dependent metabolic reprogramming. Journal of Experimental & Clinical Cancer Research. 2019. Aug 27;38(1): 377. PMID: 31455352.

33. Chen J, Wang S, Zhang Z, and Richards CI, Xu R*. Hsp47 binds to DDR2 and regulates its protein stability. J Biol Chem. 2019. Sep 30. PMID: 31570520.

34. Xiong G, Chen J, Zhang G, Wang S, Kawasaki K, Zhu J, Zhang Y, Nagata K, Li Z, Zhou BP, Xu R*, Hsp47-dependent collagen deposition promotes cancer metastasis by inducing cancer cell-platelet interaction. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2020 Feb 3. PMID: 32015106 i. News and Views: UKnow: Protein Could Offer Therapeutic Target for Breast Cancer Metastasis.

35. Ning G, Xu R, Trinkle C, Grayscale Surface Patterning Using Electrophoretic Motion Through a Heterogeneous Hydrogel Material. Electrophoresis, 2020 May 9. PMID: 32386331.

36. Wang S, Lee K-H, Araujo N, Zhan C-G, Rangnekar VM, Xu R* Develop a High-Throughput Screening Method to Identify C-P4H1 (Collagen Prolyl 4-Hydroxylase 1) Inhibitors from FDA-Approved Chemicals. Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2020, 21(18), 6613.

37. Xu R*, Zhou X, Wang S, Trinkle C. Tumor organoid models in precision medicine and investigating cancer-stromal interaction. Pharmacology and Therapeutics, 2021 Feb; 218: 107668. Invited review.

38. Wang P, Jin J, Liang X, Yang C, Huang F, Wu H, Zhang B, Fei X, Wang Z, Xu R, Shi H, Wu X. Helichrysetin inhibits gastric cancer growth through targeting c-Myc/PDHK1 axis-mediated cell metabolism reprogramming. Acta Pharmacol Sin. 2021 Aug 30.

39. Mao W, Xiong G, Wu Y, Wang C, St Clair D, Li JD, Xu R*. RORα Suppresses Cancer-Associated Inflammation by Repressing Respiratory Complex I-Dependent ROS Generation Int. J. Mol. Sci. 22 (19), 10665; 2021.

40. Xiong G, Xu R. Retinoid orphan nuclear receptor alpha (RORa) suppresses the epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) by directly repressing Snail transcription. J Biol Chem. 2022 May 20:102059.

41.  Li J, Xu R*. Obesity-Associated ECM Remodeling in Cancer Progression. Cancers. 2022, Nov 19;14(22):5684. PMID: 36428776. Invited review.

42. Tong Y, Qi Y, Xiong G, Li J, Scott TL, Chen J, Li L, He D, Wang C, Lane AN. Xu R*. The PLOD2/Succinate axis regulates the epithelial-mesenchymal plasticity and cancer cell stemness. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A., May 8, 2023, 120 (20). PMID: 37155842.