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Qisheng Zhang

Associate Professor Associate Professor

Qisheng Zhang, Ph.D.

Associate Professor, UNC Department of Pharmacology

Associate Professor, Division of Chemical Biology and Medicinal Chemistry


(919) 966-9687
4108 Marsico Hall, Eshelman School Of Pharmacy, CB# 7363, Chapel Hill, NC, 27599



The Zhang lab studies how lipid metabolism regulates membrane structures and signal transduction, and develops new chemical tools targeting lipid signaling pathways for diagnostic and therapeutic applications. Our projects span multiple disciplines, providing opportunities for students to train in synthetic and medicinal chemistry, chemical biology, and biochemistry.


Research in the Zhang lab is focused on understanding the roles of endogenous small molecules, particularly phospholipids, in cell signaling events that are responsible for both normal development and diseases. Phospholipids play essential roles in all living organisms. Other than being major membrane constituents in cells, many phospholipids function as signaling molecules. Consequently, abnormal levels of phospholipids and aberrant regulation of their metabolizing enzymes have been associated with onset and progression of various diseases. However, how phospholipid signaling pathways regulate normal development and diseases is still poorly understood, largely due to their dynamic metabolism in the cells and the lack of available reagents and assays for phospholipids and their metabolic enzymes. I am interested in three different approaches to profile and understand phospholipids: 1) Develop small molecule sensors and modulators for different phospholipid metabolizing enzymes; 2) Develop efficient methods and technologies to profile phospholipids and use the resulting data for precision medicine and identification of new signaling molecules; and 3) Investigate cellular functions of known and unknown phospholipids, particularly their synergistic actions with small GTPases ADP-ribosylation factors in regulating protein trafficking in signaling transduction. More recently, we have also extended our efforts to drug discovery towards diseases (particularly cancer and neurodegenerative diseases) where phospholipid metabolizing enzymes are dysregulated. Toward this end, we are constructing library of small molecules with unique structures and functions.

Professional Positions

4/2018 – present Director of Graduate Studies, Division of Chemical Biology and Medicinal Chemistry, UNC-Chapel Hill

9/2014 – present Associate Professor of Pharmacology, UNC-Chapel Hill

1/2013 – present Associate Professor of Chemical Biology and Medicinal Chemistry, UNC-Chapel Hill

1/2007 – 1/2013 Assistant Professor of Chemical Biology and Medicinal Chemistry, UNC-Chapel Hill


2015 PY2 Instructor of the Year, UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy

2007 Junior Faculty R. J. Reynolds Fund Award

Peer Reviewed Publications  

  1. Siraliev-Perez, E.; Hoffmann, R.; Stariha, J.; Temple, B. R.; Zhang, Q.; Hajicek, N.; Burke, J. E.; Sondek, J. Dynamics of allosteric regulation of the phospholipase C- isozymes upon recruitment to membranes. eLife 2022, 11:e77809. 
  2. Gallion, L. A.; Wang, Y.; Massaro, A.; Petersen, B. V.; Huang, W.; Zhang, Q.; Carr, A.; Zhang, Q.; Allbritton, N. L. “Fix and click” for assay of sphingolipid signaling in single primary human intestinal epithelial cells. Anal. Chem. 2022, 94, 1594-1600. 
  3. Cook, B.; Walker, N.; Zhang, Q.; Chen, S.; Evans, T. The small molecule DIPQUO promotes osteogenic differentiation via inhibition of glycogen synthase kinase 3 signaling. J. Biol. Chem. 2021, 296, 100696. Doi: 10.1016/jbc.2021.100696. 
  4. Carr, A. J.; Siraliev-Perez, E.; Huang, W.; Sondek, J.; Zhang, Q. Flourogenic XY-69 in lipid vesicles for measuring activity of phospholipase C isozymes. Methods Mol. Biol. 2021, 2251, 225-236. 
  5. Morbitzer, K. A.; McLaughlin, J. E.; Ozawa, S.; Beechinor, R. J.; Dumond, J. B.; Pomykal, C.; Bush, A. A.; Zhang, Q.; Carpenter, D. M.; Lee, C. R. Implementation and initial evaluation of a research and scholarship training pathway in a PharmD curriculum. Am. J. Pharm. Educ. 2021, 85, 55-66.  
  6. Huang, W.; Carr, A. J.; Hajicek, N.; Sokolovski, M.; Siraliev-Perez, E.; Hardy, P. B.; Pearce, K. H.; Sondek, J.; Zhang, Q. A high-throughput assay to identify allosteric inhibitors of the PLC- isozymes operating at membranes. Biochemistry 2020, 59, 4029-4038. 
  7. Clements, R. L.; Streva, V.; Dumoulin, P.; Huang, W.; Owens, E.; Raj, D. K.; Burleigh, B.; Llinas, M.; Winzeler, E. A.; Zhang, Q.; Dvorin, J. D. A novel antiparasitic compound kills ring-stage plasmodium falciparum and retains activity against Artemisinin-resistant parasites. J. Infect. Dis. 2020, 221, 956-962. 
  8. Huang, W.; Wang, X.; Endo-Streeter, S.; Barrett, M.; Waybright, J.; Wohlfeld, C.; Hajcek, N.; Harden, T. K.; Sondek, J.; Zhang, Q. A membrane-associated, fluorogenic reporter for mammalian phospholipase C isozymes. J. Biol. Chem. 2018, 293, 1728-1735.  
  9. Hajicek, N.; Keith, N. C.; Siraliev-Perez, E.; Temple, B. R. S.; Huang, W.; Zhang, Q.; Harden, T. K.; Sondek J. Structural basis for the activation of PLC- isozymes by phosphorylation and cancer-associated mutations. eLife 2019, 8:e51700. DOI: 10.7554/eLife.51700. 
  10. Waybright, J.; Huang, W.; Proctor, A.; Wang, X.; Allbritton, N. L.; Zhang, Q. Required hydrophobicity of fluorescent reporters for phosphatidylinositol family of lipid enzymes. Anal. Bioanal. Chem. 2017, 409, 6781-6789.  
  11. Tan, L.; Zhou, T.; Cederquist, G.; Mukherjee, S.; Kristen, B.; Zhang, Q.; Schwartz, R.; Evans, T. R.; Chen, S. High content screening in hESC-neural progenitors identifies drug candidates that inhibit Zika virus infection in fetal-like organoids and adult brain. Cell Stem Cell 2017, 21, 274-283. 
  12. Singh, M. H.; Waybright, J.; Zhang, Q. A facile method to enable a model phospholipid cell-permeable and photoactivatable. Tetrahedron 2017, 73, 3677-3683. 
  13. Gao, H.; Sun, W.; Song, Z.; Yu, Y.; Wang, L.; Chen, X.; Zhang, Q. A method to generate and analyze modified myristoylated proteins. Chembiochem 2017, 18, 324-330.  
  14. Seo, J. B.; Jung, S. R.; Huang, W.; Zhang, Q.; Koh, D. S. Charge shielding of PIP2 by cations regulates enzyme activity of phospholipase C. PLoS One 2015, 10, e0144432. 
  15. Singh, M. H.; Gao, H.; Sun, W.; Song, Z.; Schmalzigaug, R.; Premont, R. T.; Zhang, Q. Structure-activity relationship studies of QS11, a small Molecule Wnt synergistic agonist. Bioorg. Med. Chem. Lett. 2015, 25, 4838-4842.  
  16. Huang, W.; Zhang, Q. Fluorous photoaffinity labeling to probe protein-small molecule interactions. Methods Mol. Biol. 2015, 1263, 253-261. 
  17. Huang, W.; Proctor, A.; Sims, C. E.; Allbritton, N. L.; Zhang, Q. Fluorous enzymatic synthesis of phosphatidylinositides. Chem. Commun. 2014, 50, 2928-2931. 
  18. Charpentier, T. H.; Waldo, G. L.; Barrett, M. O.; Huang, W.; Zhang, Q.; Harden, T. K.; Sondek, J. Membrane-induced allosteric control of phospholipase C-β isozymes. J. Biol. Chem. 2014, 289, 29545-29557. 
  19. Huang, W.; Barrett, M.; Hajicek, N.; Hicks, S.; Harden, T. K.; Sondek, J.; Zhang, Q. Small molecule PLC inhibitors from a novel high throughput screen. J. Biol. Chem. 2013, 288, 5840-5848. 
  20. Wang, X.; Barrett, M.; Sondek, J.; Harden, T. K.; Zhang, Q. Fluorescent phosphatidylinositol 4,5-bisphosphate derivatives with modified 6-hydroxy group as novel substrates for phospholipase C. Biochemistry 2012, 51, 5300-5306. 
  21. Huang, W.; Sun, W.; Song, Z.; Yu, Y.; Chen, X.; Zhang, Q. Incorporation of a fluorous diazirine group into phosphatidylinositol 4,5-bisphosphate to illustrate its interaction with ADP-ribosylation factor 1. Org. Biomol. Chem. 2012, 10, 5197-5201. 
  22. Song, Z.; Huang, W.; Zhang, Q. Isotope-coded, fluorous photoaffinity labeling reagents. Chem. Commun. 2012, 48, 3339-3341. 
  23. Song, Z.; Zhang, Q. Design, synthesis, and incorporation of fluorous 5-methylcytosines into oligonucleotides.  J. Org. Chem. 2011, 76, 10263-10268. 
  24. Sun, W.; Vanhooke, J.; Sondek, J.; Zhang, Q. High throughput fluorescence polarization assay for the enzymatic activity of GTPase-activating protein of ADP-ribosylation factor (ARFGAP). J. Biomol. Screen. 2011, 16, 717-723. 
  25. Huang, W.; Hicks, S. N.; Sondek, J.; Zhang, Q. A fluorogenic, small molecule reporter for mammalian phospholipase C isozymes. ACS Chem. Biol. 2011, 6, 223-228. 
  26. Huang, W.; Jiang, D.; Wang, X.; Sims, C. E.; Allbritton, N. L.; Zhang, Q. Kinetic analysis of PI3K reactions with fluorescent PIP2 derivatives. Anal. Bioanal. Chem. 2011, 401, 1881-1888. 
  27. Liu, R.; Xu, R.; Chen, M.; Weiwer, M.; Zhou, X.; Bridges, A. S.; DeAngelis, P. L.; Zhang, Q.; Linhardt, R. J.; Liu, J. Chemozymatic design of heparan sulfate oligosaccharides. J. Biol. Chem. 2010, 285, 34240−34249. 
  28. Song, Z. and Zhang, Q. Fluorous aryl diazirine photoaffinity labeling reagents. Org. Lett. 2009, 11, 4883-4885.       
  29. Jones, C. A.; Nishiya, N.; London, N. R.; Zhu, W.; Sorensen, L. K.; Chan, A.; Lim, C. J.; Chen, H.; Zhang, Q.; Schultz, P. G.; Hayallah, A. M.; Thomas, K. R.; Famulok, M.; Zhang, K.; Ginsberg, M. H.; Li, D. Y. Slit2-Robo4 signaling promotes vascular stability by blocking Arf6 activity. Nature Cell Biol. 2009, 11, 1325-1331. 
  30. Chen, S.; Takanashi, S.; Zhang, Q.; Xiong, W.; Peters, E.C.; Ding, S.; Schultz, P.G. Reversine induces cellular reprogramming of lineage-committed mammalian cells. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U. S. A. 2007, 104, 10482-10487. 
  31. Zhang, Q.; Major, B.; Takanashi, S.; Camp, N. D.; Nishiya, N.; Peters, E. C.; Ginsberg, M.; Schultz, P. G.; Moon, R. T.; Ding, S. A small molecule synergist of the Wnt/β-catenin signaling pathway. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U. S. A.104, 7444–7448.  
  32. Chen, S.; Do, J.; Zhang, Q.; Yao, S.; Yan, F.; Scholer, H. Schultz, P. G.; Ding, S. Maintenance of human and mouse embryonic stem cells self-renewal by a small molecule. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U. S. A. 2006, 103, 17266–17271. 
  33. Curran, D. P.; Zhang, Q.; Richard, C. R.; Lu, H.; Gudipati, V. Total synthesis of a twenty-eight member stereoisomer library of murisolins. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2006, 128, 9561–9573. 
  34. Curran, D. P.; Zhang, Q.; Lu, H.; Gudipati, V. On the proof and disproof of natural product stereostructures: Characterization and analysis of a twenty-eight member stereoisomer library of murisolins and their Mosher ester derivatives. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2006, 128, 9943–9956. 
  35. Zhang, Q.; Curran, D. P. Quasienantiomers and quasiracemates: New tools for identification, analysis, separation and synthesis of quasienantiomers.  Chem. Eur. J. 2005, 11, 4866–4880. 
  36. Curran, D. P.; Wang, X.; Zhang, Q. Heavy, medium and light fluorous triarylphosphines exhibit comparable reactivities to triphenylphosphine in typical reactions of triarylphosphines. J. Org. Chem. 2005, 70, 3716–3719. 
  37. Zhang, Q.; Lu, H.; Richard, C. R.; Curran, D. P. Synthesis of sixteen stereoisomers of murisolin, murisolin A and 16,19-cis-murisolin by fluorous mixture synthesis. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2004, 126, 36–37. 
  38. Chen, S.; Zhang, Q.; Wu, X.; Schultz, P. G.; Ding, S. Cellular dedifferentiation of lineage-committed myogenic cells induced by reversine. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2004, 126, 410–411. 
  39. Zhang, Q. Fluorous DMSO, 1,1,1,2,2,3,3,4,4,5,5,6,6-nonafluoro-6-methane sulfinylhexane. Electronic Encyclopedia of Reagents for Organic Synthesis, 2004. 
  40. Vallin, K. S. A.; Zhang, Q.; Larhed, M.; Curran, D. P.; Hallberg, A. A new regioselective Heck-vinylation with enamides: Synthesis and investigation of fluorous-tagged bidentate ligands for fast separation. J. Org. Chem. 2003, 68, 6639–6645.  
  41. Curran, D. P.; Zhang, Q. Microwave heating effects rapid and selective decarboalkoxylation of mono-alkylated malonates and -ketoesters. Adv. Synth. Catal. 2003, 345, 329–333. 
  42. Zhang, Q.; Rivkin, A.; Curran, D. P. Quasiracemic synthesis: Concepts and implementation with a fluorous tagging strategy to make both enantiomers of pyridovericin and mappicine. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2002, 124, 5774–5781. 
  43. Luo, Z.; Zhang, Q.; Oderaotoshi, Y.; Curran, D. P. Fluorous mixture synthesis: A fluorous-tagging strategy for the synthesis and separation of mixtures of organic compounds. Science 2001, 291, 1766–1769. 
  44. Zhang, Q.; Luo, Z.; Curran, D. P. Separation of “light fluorous” reagents and catalysts by fluorous solid-phase extraction: Synthesis and study of a family of triarylphosphines bearing linear and branched fluorous tags. J. Org. Chem. 2000, 65, 8866–8873. 
  45. Zhang, Q.; Lu, L. A novel synthetic route to ethyl 3-substituted-trans-2,3-difluoro-2-acrylates and their reactions with nucleophiles. Tetrahedron Lett. 2000, 41, 8545–8548. 
  46. Yu, H.; Zhang, Q.; Huang, W. A two-step approach to 2-polyfluoroalkyl quinolines from N-aryl polyfluoroalkyl imidoyl iodides. Chin. J. Chem. 1997, 15, 278–282.  


R01CA258993-01 (Zhang/Pearce/Sondek)                                       NIH                  05/01/2021-04/30/2025

A high-throughput platform to identify selective allosteric inhibitors of the PLC-gamma isozymes

Role: Principal Investigator

The goal of this grant is to develop an innovative high-throughput platform to identify selective allosteric inhibitors of the PLC-gamma isozymes that are ready for further development.

R01CA177993-01A1 (Allbritton/Armistead/Gomez/Zhang)               NIH                     05/07/2019-04/30/2024

Microfabricated instrumentation to measure sphingolipid signaling in human acute myeloid leukemia

Role: Multiple Principal Investigator

The goal of this grant is to develop an innovative platform to measure the activity of the sphingolipid pathway in single cells from primary, human, acute myeloid leukemia.

Not numbered (Zhang)                                   Eshelman Institute for Innovation          07/01/2021-06/30/2024

Targeting LRRK2 for novel therapeutics for Parkinson’s disease

Role: Principal Investigator

The goal of this grant is to further develop a small molecule that regulates LRRK2’s GTPase activity through inhibition of ArfGAP1 as a lead for novel therapeutic to treat Parkinson’s disease.

R56AG083424-01 (Zhang/Pearce/Sondek)                                       NIH                     09/01/2023-08/31/2025

Discovery of allosteric activators of PLC-g2 as novel therapeutics to treat Alzheimer’s disease

Role: Principal Investigator

The goal of this grant is to discover PLC-g2 activators as novel therapeutics for Alzheimer’s disease.

R01CA282339-01 (La-Beck/Zhang)                                                  NIH                      09/19/2023-08/31/2028

Cholesterol metabolism in the pharmacology of liposomal therapeutics

Role: Multiple Principal Investigator

The goals of this grant are to understand how liposomes interact with the immune system to control tumor growth and to develop novel cholesterol analogs for liposomal delivery.

2003 – 2006 Postdoctoral Associate in the area of Chemical Biology
Advisor: Professor Peter G. Schultz
The Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla, California
1998 – 2003 Ph.D. in Organic Chemistry
Advisor: Professor Dennis P. Curran
University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA
1995 – 1998 M.S. in Organic Chemistry
Advisor: Professor Long Lu
Shanghai Institute of Organic Chemistry, Shanghai
1990 – 1995 B.E. in Chemical Engineering
Advisor: Professor Jian Chen
Tsinghua University, Beijing


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