Assistant Professor
Department of Medicine
Section of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
Baylor College of Medicine
Assistant Professor
Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology
Baylor College of Medicine
Dan L Duncan Comprehensive Cancer Center
Baylor College of Medicine
Houston, Texas, United States


PhD from University of Arizona
Post-Doctoral Fellowship at University of Pennsylvania

Professional Interests

  • Epigenomic regulation of energy metabolism and neurocognitive functions by physical exercise, diet, and the circadian clock

Professional Statement

What doesn't kill you makes you stronger. Hormesis, the paradoxical beneficial effect of low-dose stressors, can be elicited by reactive oxygen species (ROS), chemical carcinogens, calorie restriction, and physical exercise. Calorie restriction and exercise remodels redox homeostasis and energy metabolism, leading to amelioration of metabolic and neurodegenerative disorders, and extended lifespan. Thus, the beneficial effects of lifestyle management and the free radical theory of aging can be unified under the common conceptual framework of hormesis. Mechanistically, hormesis is attributed to epigenomic regulation of gene expression.

We are interested in how the environment, including external dietary environment and physical exercise or internal hormonal environment and the circadian clock, regulates metabolism and cognitive functions at the epigenomic level. We use genetic animal models, recombinant viral vectors, molecular biology approaches such as epigenomics, metabolomics, physiology, and animal behavior tests.

Keywords: circadian clock, epigenomics, nuclear hormone receptor, HDAC, transcription corepressor, metabolism, diabetes, autism, neurodegenerative disease, aging

Selected Publications

  • Zhou W, He Y, Rehman AU, Kong Y, Hong Y, Ding G, Yalamanchili HK, Wan Y-W, Paul B, Wang C, Gong Y, Zhou W, Liu H, Dean J, Scalais E, O’Driscoll M, Morton JEV, DDD study, Hou X, Wu Q, Tong Q, Liu Z, Liu P, Xu Y, Sun Z. "Loss of function of NCOR1 and NCOR2 impairs memory through a novel GABAergic hypothalamus–CA3 projection." Nat Neurosci. 2019;22(2):205-217.
  • Hong S, Zhou W, Fang B, Lu W, Loro E, Damle M, Ding G, Jager J, Zhang S, Zhang Y, Feng D, Chu Q, Dill BD, Molina H, Khurana TS, Rabinowitz JD, Lazar MA, Sun Z. "Dissociation of muscle insulin sensitivity from exercise endurance in mice by HDAC3 depletion." Nat Med. 2017;23(2):223-234.
  • Papazyan R, Sun Z, Kim YH, Titchenell PM, Hill DA, Lu W, Damle M, Wan M, Zhang Y, Briggs ER, Rabinowitz JD, Lazar MA. "Physiological Suppression of Lipotoxic Liver Damage by Complementary Actions of HDAC3 and SCAP/SREBP." Cell Metab. 2016;24(6):863-874.
  • Zhang Y, Fang B, Emmett MJ, Damle M, Sun Z, Feng D, Armour SM, Remsberg JR, Jager J, Soccio RE, Steger DJ, Lazar MA. "Discrete functions of nuclear receptor Rev-erbα couple metabolism to the clock.." Science. 2015;348(6242):1488-92.
  • Fang B, Everett LJ, Jager J, Briggs E, Armour SM, Feng D, Roy A, Gerhart-Hines Z, Sun Z, Lazar MA.. "Circadian enhancers coordinate multiple phases of rhythmic gene transcription in vivo.." Cell. 2014;159(5):1140-52.
  • Sun Z, Feng D, Fang B, Mullican SE, You SH, Lim HW, Everett LJ, Nabel CS, Li Y, Selvakumaran V, Won KJ, Lazar MA. "Deacetylase-independent function of HDAC3 in transcription and metabolism requires nuclear receptor corepressor." Mol Cell. 2013;52(6):769-82.
  • Sun Z, Miller RA, Patel RT, Chen J, Dhir R, Wang H, Zhang D, Graham MJ, Unterman TG, Shulman GI, Sztalryd C, Bennett MJ, Ahima RS, Birnbaum MJ, Lazar MA. "Hepatic Hdac3 Promotes Gluconeogenesis by Repressing Lipid Synthesis and Sequestration." Nat Med. 2012;18(6):934-42.
  • Sun Z, Lazar MA. "Dissociating fatty liver and diabetes." Trends Endocrinol Metab. 2013;24(1):4-12.
  • Sun Z, Singh N, Mullican SE, Everett LJ, Li L, Yuan L, Liu X, Epstein JA, Lazar MA. "Diet-induced lethality due to deletion of the hdac3 gene in heart and skeletal muscle." J Biol Chem. 2011;286(38):33301-9.
  • Feng D, Liu T, Sun Z, Bugge A, Mullican SE, Liu XS, Lazar MA. "An epigenomic circadian rhythm orchestrated by histone deacetylase 3 controls hepatic lipid metabolism." Science. 2011;331(6022):1315-9.
  • You SH, Lim HW, Sun Z, Broache M, Won KJ, Lazar MA. "Nuclear receptor co-repressors are required for the histone-deacetylase activity of HDAC3 in vivo." Nat Struct Mol Biol. 2013;20(2):182-7.
  • Sun Z, Wu T, Birch CM, Zhang DD. "KPNA6-mediated nuclear import of Keap1 is required for sufficient repression of Nrf2-dependent antioxidant response." Mol Cell Biol. 2011;31(9):1800-11.
  • Sun Z, Chin YE, Zhang DD. "Acetylation of Nrf2 by p300/CBP augments promoter-specific DNA binding of Nrf2 during antioxidant response." Mol Cell Biol. 2009;29:2658-72.
  • Sun Z, Zhang S, Chan JY, Zhang DD. "Keap1 controls postinduction repression of the Nrf2-mediated antioxidant response by escorting nuclear export of Nrf2." Mol Cell Biol. 2007;27:6334-49.