Saint Louis University

Department of Biology


Dr. Dapeng Zhang
Assistant Professor - Ph.D., University of Ottawa

Contact Information:
Phone: 314-977-4092
Mail: Department of Biology, St. Louis University, 3507 Laclede Ave. St. Louis, MO 63103-2010

Lab website:

Research Interests:
My research is situated at the interface of Bioinformatics, Genomics, Evolution, Structure, and their applications in different biological and health-related questions. Specifically I use computational approaches (such as large-scale sequence/structural analysis, comparative genomics, modeling and phylogenetic inference) to study molecular mechanisms and evolution of biological systems. My research interests can be broadly divided into the following, although I am open to explore other exciting directions:

  1. Reconstruction of novel biological systems and pathways by comparative genomics
  2. Discovery of new biochemical activities and functions of proteins
  3. Evolutionary classification of protein domain families and superfamilies
  4. Development of bioinformatics tools/strategy and specialty databases

Some of my major research findings include:

  1. Discovery of novel bacterial polymorphic toxin systems and eukaryotic CR (Crinkler-RHS) effector systems (which are implicated in host-pathogen interactions)
  2. Defining molecular foundations underlying human inherited diseases (ciliopathies and neurodegenerative diseases)
  3. Reconstructing biochemical systems for genomic DNA modifications
  4. Discovery of the function of GRAS proteins in plant gibberellin signaling. 
  5. Profiling physiological changes of fish neuroendocrine systems

Research Opportunities: I am looking for highly motivated graduate and undergraduate students who are interested in research on Bioinformatics, Evolution, Genomics, Structure and Database. Students with either biology, mathematics, or computer science backgrounds are welcome to apply. Please feel free to contact me by the email for details.

Selected Publications: 
Zhang D, Burroughs AM, Vidal ND, Iyer LM, Aravind L. Transposons to toxins: the provenance, architecture and diversification of a widespread class of eukaryotic effectors. Nucleic Acids Research. 2016, 44(8):3513-3533.

Iyer LM, Zhang D, Aravind L. Adenine methylation in eukaryotes: Apprehending the complex evolutionary history and functional potential of an epigenetic modification. BioEssays. 2016, 38(1):27-40.

Burroughs AM, Zhang D, Schäffer DE, Iyer LM, Aravind L. Comparative genomic analyses reveal a vast, novel network of nucleotide-centric systems in biological conflicts, immunity and signaling. Nucleic Acids Research. 2015, 43(22):10633-10654.

Aravind L, Zhang D, de Souza RF, Anand S, Iyer LM. The natural history of ADP-ribosyltransferases. Current Topics in Microbiology and Immunology. 2015, 384: 3-32.

Aravind L, Burroughs AM, Zhang D, Iyer LM. Protein and DNA modifications: evolutionary imprints of bacterial biochemical diversification and geochemistry on the provenance of eukaryotic epigenetics. Cold Spring Harbor Perspectives in Biology. 2014, 6(7):a016063.

Zhang D, Iyer LM, Burroughs AM, Aravind L. Resilience of biochemical activity in protein domains in the face of structural divergence. Current Opinion in Structural Biology. 2014, 26:92-103

Pusapati GV1, Hughes CE1, Dorn KV1, Zhang D1, Sugianto P, Aravind L, Rohatgi R. EFCAB7 and IQCE regulate hedgehog signaling by tethering the EVC-EVC2 complex to the base of primary cilia. Developmental Cell. 2014, 28(5):483-496. (1co-first authors)

Iyer LM1, Zhang D1, de Souza RF, Pukkila PJ, Rao A, Aravind L. Lineage-specific expansions of TET/JBP genes and a new class of DNA transposons shape fungal genomic and epigenetic landscapes. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 2014, 111(5):1676-1683. (1co-first authors)

Iyer LM, Zhang D, Burroughs AM, Aravind L. Computational identification of novel biochemical systems involved in oxidation, glycosylation and other complex modifications of bases in DNA. Nucleic Acids Research. 2013, 41(16):7635-7655.

Zhang D, Iyer LM, He F, Aravind L. Discovery of Novel DENN Proteins: Implications for the Evolution of Eukaryotic Intracellular Membrane Structures and Human Disease. Frontiers in Genetics: Bioinformatics and Computational Biology. 2012, 3:283.

Zhang D, Xi Y, Coccimiglio ML, Mennigen JA, Jonz MG, Ekker M, Trudeau VL. Functional prediction and physiological characterization of a novel short trans-membrane protein 1 as a subunit of mitochondrial respiratory complexes. Physiological Genomics. 2012, 44(23):1133-1140.

Zhang D, Aravind L. Novel transglutaminase-like peptidase and C2 domains elucidate the structure, biogenesis and evolution of the ciliary compartment. Cell Cycle. 2012, 1(20):3861-3875.

Zhang D, Iyer LM, Aravind L. Bacterial GRAS domain proteins throw new light on gibberellic acid response mechanisms. Bioinformatics. 2012, 28(19):2407-2411.

Zhang D, de Souza RF, Anantharaman V, Iyer LM, Aravind L. Polymorphic toxin systems: Comprehensive characterization of trafficking modes, processing, mechanisms of action, immunity and ecology using comparative genomics. Biology Direct. 2012, 7:18.

Iyer LM, Zhang D, Rogozin IB, Aravind L. Evolution of the deaminase fold and multiple origins of eukaryotic editing and mutagenic nucleic acid deaminases from bacterial toxin systems. Nucleic Acids Research. 2011, 39(22):9473-9497.

Zhang D, Iyer LM, Aravind L. A novel immunity system for bacterial nucleic acid degrading toxins and its recruitment in various eukaryotic and DNA viral systems. Nucleic Acids Research. 2011, 39(11):4532-4552.

Zhao E, Grey CL, Zhang D, Mennigen JA, Basak A, Chang JP, Trudeau VL. Secretoneurin is a potential paracrine factor from lactotrophs stimulating gonadotropin release in the goldfish pituitary. American Journal of Physiology - Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology. 2010, 299(5):R1290-R1297.

Zhang D, Aravind L. Identification of novel families and classification of the C2 domain superfamily elucidate the origin and evolution of membrane targeting activities in eukaryotes. Gene. 2010, 469(1-2):18-30.

Zhang D, Popesku JT, Martyniuk CJ, Xiong H, Duarte-Guterman P, Yao L, Xia X, Trudeau VL. Profiling neuroendocrine gene expression changes following fadrozole-induced estrogen decline in the female goldfish. Physiological Genomics. 2009, 38(3):351-361.

Zhang D, Xiong H, Mennigen JA, Popesku JT, Marlatt VL, Martyniuk CJ, Crump K, Cossins AR, Xia X, Trudeau VL. Defining global neuroendocrine gene expression patterns associated with reproductive seasonality in fish. PLoS One. 2009, 4(6):e5816.

Xiong H, Zhang D, Martyniuk CJ, Trudeau VL, Xia X. Using generalized procrustes analysis (GPA) for normalization of cDNA microarray data. BMC Bioinformatics. 2008, 9:25.

Zhang D, Xiong H, Shan J, Xia X, Trudeau VL. Functional insight into Maelstrom in the germline piRNA pathway: A unique domain homologous to the DnaQ-H 3'-5' exonuclease, its lineage-specific expansion/loss and evolutionarily active site switch. Biology Direct. 2008, 3:48.

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