People - Zhen



Name: Zhen Zhao
Title: Doctoral Candidate
Degree: BS Biology, Xiamen University, China
Research area: neuroendocrinology
Program: Interdepartmental Biological Sciences (IBiS)
Department of Neurobiology and Physiology
Northwestern University
2205 Tech Drive
Evanston, IL 60208
Phone: (847) 491-7949
Email: z-zhao@northwestern.edu      

Research description:
The major focus of my thesis work is the molecular and cellular mechanisms underlying the estrogen-dependent GnRH/LH surge, which is regulated by the coordinated communication between the brain and the ovary. It is generally believed that two important determinants control the GnRH/LH surge, one is the estrogen positive feedback, and another is the circadian timing(1). The anteroventrol periventricular nucleus (AVPV) of the prepotic area (POA) of the hypothalamus contain a large population of estrogen receptor (ER)-containing neurons, which project directly to the GnRH neurons, and receive direct inputs from the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN). It is well believed that the AVPV is an integration center and permissive gate to converge the estrogen permissive signal and circadian timing signal, and communicates them to the GnRH neurons. Furthermore, the estrogen-dependent GnRH surge is strongly correlated with neuronal plasticity in the preoptic area (POA) of the hypothalamus. It is widely accepted that estrogen modulates synaptic plasticity, which is correlated with estrogen-induced physiological and functional changes. One molecule known to play a critical role in synaptic plasticity is p21 activated kinase1 (PAK1). I hypothesize that PAK1-modulated synaptic plasticity is regulated by estrogen, and this modulation is a critical mechanism in generating GnRH/LH surge.











Dr. Jon E. Levine
Department of Neurobiology and Physiology -  Institute for Neuroscience – Center for Reproductive Science
Northwestern University
2205 Tech Drive, Evanston, IL 60208. Office Phone: 847-491-7180. Lab Phone 847-491-7949

E-Mail: jlevine@northwestern.edu

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