Biology Department photograph montage

Zheng-Hui He

Professor zhe
University of Virginia
At SFSU Since: 
Hensill 550
Office Hours: 
Fridays 10:30 am -12 noon
Office Phone: 
(415) 338-6193
Molecular Mechanisms of Cell-Cell and Cell-Environment Communications in Plant Development, Vitamin B6 and Ultraviolet B (UV-B) Signaling, Plant Stress Physiology.

Serving as the Executive Editor  for  MOLECULAR PLANT  since 2007

We have several ongoing projects in the lab right now.

Project 1.  Ultraviolet-B and Vitamin B6 signaling in Arabidopsis

All sun-exposed organisms have to encounter ultraviolet-B (UV-B, 280-320 nm), an integral part of solar radiation. Depending on its energy levels, UV-B can be harmful or beneficial to biological organisms. Understanding the molecular mechanism of how cells sense and respond to UV-B at all levels is fundamentally important to both agriculture and human health. My lab has identified an Arabidopsis mutant, rus1, that is specifically hypersensitive to low level UV-B. The striking phenotypes and extreme UV-B sensitivities of rus1 provided us a feasible platform to identify genetic components that can be good candidates for UV-B specific signaling components. We recently discovered that vitamin B6,  an important cofactor for many enzymes, plays a critical role in this process. Our experiments are underway to delineate the molecular mechanism of low-level UV-B signaling in Arabidopsis.


Project 2. Effective control of harmful algae blooming (HAB) 

HAB is a major environmental problem all over the world. Currently there is no effective and safe method to control this problem. In collaboration with Professor Weiming Wu (Chemistry and Biochemistry, SF State), we have been working to develop chemical compounds that can effectively control HAB. We have discovered a natural compound derivative that can effectively inhibit the growth of cyanobacteria Mycrocystis aeruginosa, the main algae strain that causes HAB in freshwater environments. The LC50 (lethal concentration that halves the growth) of this inhibitor is 0.03 mg/L. The chemical is derived from a natural product secreted by aqua plants as chemical defense against algae. The new chemical has been found not to be toxic against plants, yeast, and animal cells. It is expected to be an effective agent against algae growth in lakes, ponds, pools, or tanks. We are interested in analyzing the mechanism of new compound's selective inhibition on Mycrocystis aeruginosa and extend our laboratory tests to actual field utilizations.

Project 3. Molecular mechanism of green island formation in white orchid Phalaenopsis

Multicellular organisms develop and behave according to both their internal genetic instructions and environmental cues they receive. Understanding how one species in a community influences and regulates the development and behavior of another is fundamentally important. Fungal invaders are known to closely interact with plant hosts, yet little is known about the molecular mechanism of how fungal presence can result in developmental switches in plant cells. My lab have recently discovered  that white orchid (Phalaenopsis) flowers, thus non-photosynthetic tissues, exhibited green halo structures around dark spots that appeared to be fungal infection sites.  Our discoveries documented the first report of flower anthracnose caused by Colletotrichum karstii in white Phalaenopsis orchids in the United States. This work has recently been published in Plant Disease. This phenomenon, known as green island, provides an excellent platform for us to analyze the molecular mechanism of fungus-plant interactions.


Ge, Y.;  He, Z.;  Wu, W. (2015)  “Methods of Inhibiting Cyanobacteria by Administering Gramine Derivatives”, US Patent 8,945,397 B2.

Peer-Reviewed Publications

Leasure, C.D., and He, Z.-H. (2012)  CLE and RGF Family Peptide hormone signaling in Plant Development. Molecular Plant 5:1173-1175.

Jadrane, I., Kornievsky, M., Desjardin, D. E.,  Cai, L., Hyde, K., and He, Z.-H. (2012) First Report of Flower Anthracnose Caused by Colletotrichum karstii in White Phalaenopsis Orchids in the United States. Plant Disease 96(8): 1227.  (

Zhang, Z., Lu Y., Zhai, L., Deng, R., Jiang, J., Li, Y., He, Z.-H., Peng, X. (2012) Glycolate oxidase isozymes are coordinately controlled by GLO1 and GLO4 in rice. PLoS One. 2012;7(6):e39658. Epub 2012 Jun 26.  (

Leasure, C.D., Tong, H.Y., Hou, X.W., Shelton, A., Minton, M., Esquerra, R., Roje, S., Hellmann, H., He, Z.-H.  (2011) Root uv-b sensitive mutants are suppressed by specific mutations in ASPARTATE AMINOTRANSFERASE2 and by exogenous vitamin B6.  Molecular Plant, 4:759-770. (PMCID: PMC3146737) (

Yang, Q., He, H., Li, H., Tian, H., Zhang, J., Zhai, L., Chen, J., Wu, H., Yi, G., He, Z.-H., Peng X. (2011) NOA1 Functions in a Temperature-Dependent Manner to Regulate Chlorophyll Biosynthesis and Rubisco Formation in Rice. PLoS ONE 6(5): e20015. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0020015. (

Yu, L., Jiang, J., Zhang, C., Jiang, L., Ye, N., Lu, Y., Yang, G. Liu, E., Peng, C., He, Z.-H., and Peng, X. (2010) Glyoxylate rather than ascorbate is an efficient precursor for oxalate biosynthesis in rice. Journal of Experimental Botany 61:1625-1634.  (

Xu, H., Zhang, J., Zeng, J., Jiang, L., Liu, E., Peng, C., He, Z.-H., Peng, X. (2009). Inducible antisense suppression of glycolate oxidase reveals its strong regulation over photosynthesis in rice. Journal of Experimental Botany 60: 1799-1809. (

Leasure, C.D., Tong, T., Yuen, G.,   Hou, X., Sun, X., and He, Z.-H. (2009) ROOT UV-B SENSITIVE2 Acts With RUS1 in a Root UV-B Sensing Pathway. Plant Physiology 150:1902-1915. (

Tong, H., Leasure, C.D., Hou, X., Yuen, G.,  Briggs, W., and He, Z.-H. (2008)  Role of root UV-B sensing in Arabidopsis early seedling development. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 105: 21039-21044. (

Zhang, J., He, Z.-H., Tian, H., Zhu, G., Peng, X. (2007) Identification of aluminum-responsive genes in rice cultivars with different aluminum sensitivities. Journal of Experimental Botany, 58: 2269-2278. (

Xu, H., Ji, X.-M., He, Z.-H., Shi, W., Zhu, G., Niu, J., Li, B., Peng, X. (2006) Oxalate accumulation and regulation is independent of glycolate oxidase in rice leaves. Journal of Experimental Botany 57:1899-1908. (

Hou, X., Tong, H., Selby, J., DeWitt, J., Peng, X., He Z.-H. (2005) Involvement of a cell wall-associated kinase, WAKL4, in Arabidopsis mineral responses. Plant Physiology 139:1704-1716. (

Zhang S, Chen CS, Li L, Ling M, Singh J, Jiang Ni, Deng X-W, He Z.-H., Lemaux P (2005) Evolutionary Expansion, Gene Structure, and Expression of the Rice (Oryza sativa L.) Wall-Associated Kinase (OsWAKs) Gene Family. Plant Physiology 139:1107-1124. (

Verica, J., Chae, L., Tong, H., Ingmire, P., and He, Z.-H. (2003)  Tissue Specific and Developmentally Regulated Expression of a Cluster of Tandemly Arrayed WAK-Like Kinase, WAKL, Genes in Arabidopsis. Plant Physiology. 133:1732-1746. (

 Sivaguru M, Ezaki B, He, Z.-H., Tong H., Osawa, H., Baluska, F., Volkmann, D., Matsumoto, H. (2003)  Aluminum Induced Gene-Expression and Protein Localization of a Cell Wall-Associated Receptor Protein Kinase in Arabidopsis thaliana. Plant Physiology 132: 2256-2266. (

 Verica, J., He, Z.-H (2002)  The cell wall-associated kinase (WAK) and WAK-like kinase gene family. Plant Physiology. 129:455-459. (

Lally, D., Ingmire, P., Tong, H., He, Z.-H. (2001)  Antisense Expression of a Cell Wall Associated Protein Kinase, WAK4, Results in Cell Elongation Inhibition and Morphological Alternations. Plant Cell. 13:1317-1331. (

Anderson, C. M, Wagner T. A, Perret, M, He Z.-H, He D, Kohorn BD. (2001)  WAKs: cell wall-associated kinases linking the cytoplasm to the extracellular matrix. Plant Molecular Biology. 47:197-206. (

 He, Z.-H., Cheeseman, I., He, D., and Kohorn, B. (1999)  A cluster of five cell wall-associated kinase genes, Wak1-5, are expressed in specific organs of Arabidopsis. Plant Molecular Biology. 39:1189-1196. (

He, Z.-H., He, D., and Kohorn, B. D. (1998)  Requirement for the Induced Expression of a Cell Wall Associated Receptor Kinase for Survival during the Pathogen Response. Plant Journal. 14:155-163. (

 He, Z.-H., Fujiki, M., and Kohorn, B.D. (1996)  A Cell Wall Associated Protein Receptor-like Kinase in Arabidopsis. Journal of Biological Chemistry. 271:19789-19793. (

Kohorn, B.D., He, Z.-H., and Fujiki, M. 1995 A Receptor-like kinase with an EGF domain in the cell wall. In Protein Phosphorylation in Plants, Oxford University Press, pp297-304.

He, Z.-H., Li, J., Sundqvist, C., and Timko, M.P. (1994)  Developmental age affects the expression of genes encoding enzymes of chlorophyll and heme biosynthesis in pea (Pisum sativum L.). Plant Physiology. 106:537-546. (

 Spano, A.J., He, Z.-H., Michel, H., Hunt, D.F., and Timko M.P. (1992)  Molecular cloning, nuclear gene structure, and developmental expression of NADPH-protochlorophyllide oxidoreductase in pea (Pisum sativum L.). Plant Molecular Biology. 18:967-972. (

 Spano, A.J., He, Z.-H., and Timko, M.P. (1992)  NADPH:protochlorophyllide oxidoreductase in white pine (Pinus strobus) and loblolly pine (Pinus taeda). Evidence for light and developmental regulation of expression and conservation in gene organization and protein structure between angiosperms and gymnosperms. Molecular and General Genetics. 236:86-95. (