Dengke Ma, PhD

Assistant Professor
Cardiovascular Research Institute
Department of Physiology
+1 415 502-3386

We study how genes control life processes in homeostasis and organismic responses to changes in physical chemical conditions. Low temperature (hypothermia) and reduced oxygen (hypoxia) pervasively affect cellular metabolism and physiology, decelerate organismic biological time and trigger instinctive animal behaviors. Many species in nature have evolved unique traits to respond and adapt to severe hypothermia/hyperthermia/hypoxia. We use 1) genetically tractable C. elegans mutants isolated from large-scale screens with abnormal behavioral and extremophile-like phenotypes and 2) Mangrove Killifish, the only known self-fertilizing vertebrate with genetics similar to that of C. elegans and known extreme physiological phenotypes, as discovery tools. In addition, we culture mammalian neural stem cells ex vivo from hibernating ground squirrels to unravel cellular intrinsic mechanisms of hypoxia/hypothermia tolerance. With multidisciplinary approaches and technologies, our long-term goal is to understand how animals integrate interoceptive states with environmental stimuli through nervous/vascular/respiratory systems to coordinate internal homeostasis and tolerance of severe abiotic stresses. This will identify new mechanisms of extreme physiology and general principles of biological adaptation, with potential applications in organ transplantation, reversible cryo-preservation and novel therapeutics to treat metabolic, neurological and ischemic disorders.

Research Summary: 
Genetic analysis of extreme physiology and stem cell biology



The conserved autoimmune-disease risk gene TMEM39A regulates lysosome dynamics.

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

Luo S, Wang X, Bai M, Jiang W, Zhang Z, Chen Y, Ma DK

Nucleolus Localization of SpyCas9 Affects its Stability and Interferes with Host Protein Translation in Mammalian Cells.

Genes & Diseases

Renke Tan, Wenhao Du, Yiyang Liu, Xiaoji Cong, Meirong Bai, Chenxiao Jiang, Zengxia Li, Minjia Tan, Dengke Ma, Qiang Huang, Wei Jiang, Yongjun Dang

Resilience to Injury: A New Approach to Neuroprotection?

Neurotherapeutics : the journal of the American Society for Experimental NeuroTherapeutics

Singhal NS, Sun CH, Lee EM, Ma DK

Broadly conserved roles of TMEM131 family proteins in intracellular collagen assembly and secretory cargo trafficking.

Science advances

Zhang Z, Bai M, Barbosa GO, Chen A, Wei Y, Luo S, Wang X, Wang B, Tsukui T, Li H, Sheppard D, Kornberg TB, Ma DK

Neuronal GDPGP1 and glycogen metabolism: friend or foe?

The Journal of cell biology

Singhal NS, Lee EM, Ma DK

MDT-15/MED15 permits longevity at low temperature via enhancing lipidostasis and proteostasis.

PLoS biology

Lee D, An SWA, Jung Y, Yamaoka Y, Ryu Y, Goh GYS, Beigi A, Yang JS, Jung GY, Ma DK, Ha CM, Taubert S, Lee Y, Lee SV

WDR-23 and SKN-1/Nrf2 Coordinate with the BLI-3 Dual Oxidase in Response to Iodide-Triggered Oxidative Stress.

G3 (Bethesda, Md.)

Xu Z, Hu Y, Deng Y, Chen Y, Hua H, Huang S, Nie Q, Pan Q, Ma DK, Ma L

A genetic program mediates cold-warming response and promotes stress-induced phenoptosis in C. elegans.


Jiang W, Wei Y, Long Y, Owen A, Wang B, Wu X, Luo S, Dang Y, Ma DK

Conserved roles of C. elegans and human MANFs in sulfatide binding and cytoprotection.

Nature communications

Bai M, Vozdek R, Hnízda A, Jiang C, Wang B, Kuchar L, Li T, Zhang Y, Wood C, Feng L, Dang Y, Ma DK

Prolyl 4-hydroxylase 2 promotes B-cell lymphoma progression via hydroxylation of Carabin.


Jiang W, Zhou X, Li Z, Liu K, Wang W, Tan R, Cong X, Shan J, Zhan Y, Cui Z, Jiang L, Li Q, Shen S, Bai M, Cheng Y, Li B, Tan M, Ma DK, Liu JO, Dang Y

Multiple excitatory and inhibitory neural signals converge to fine-tune Caenorhabditis elegans feeding to food availability.

FASEB journal : official publication of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology

Dallière N, Bhatla N, Luedtke Z, Ma DK, Woolman J, Walker RJ, Holden-Dye L, O'Connor V

Warm up and cool down!


Wang T, Ma D

Acyl-CoA Dehydrogenase Drives Heat Adaptation by Sequestering Fatty Acids.


Ma DK, Li Z, Lu AY, Sun F, Chen S, Rothe M, Menzel R, Sun F, Horvitz HR

CYP-13A12 of the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans is a PUFA-epoxygenase involved in behavioural response to reoxygenation.

The Biochemical journal

Keller J, Ellieva A, Ma DK, Ju J, Nehk E, Konkel A, Falck JR, Schunck WH, Menzel R

Cytochrome P450 drives a HIF-regulated behavioral response to reoxygenation by C. elegans.

Science (New York, N.Y.)

Ma DK, Rothe M, Zheng S, Bhatla N, Pender CL, Menzel R, Horvitz HR

Neuronal activity modifies the DNA methylation landscape in the adult brain.

Nature neuroscience

Guo JU, Ma DK, Mo H, Ball MP, Jang MH, Bonaguidi MA, Balazer JA, Eaves HL, Xie B, Ford E, Zhang K, Ming GL, Gao Y, Song H

Epigenetic choreographers of neurogenesis in the adult mammalian brain.

Nature neuroscience

Ma DK, Marchetto MC, Guo JU, Ming GL, Gage FH, Song H

Activity-dependent extrinsic regulation of adult olfactory bulb and hippocampal neurogenesis.

Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences

Ma DK, Kim WR, Ming GL, Song H

Adult neural stem cells in the mammalian central nervous system.

Cell research

Ma DK, Bonaguidi MA, Ming GL, Song H

DNA excision repair proteins and Gadd45 as molecular players for active DNA demethylation.

Cell cycle (Georgetown, Tex.)

Ma DK, Guo JU, Ming GL, Song H

Neuronal activity-induced Gadd45b promotes epigenetic DNA demethylation and adult neurogenesis.

Science (New York, N.Y.)

Ma DK, Jang MH, Guo JU, Kitabatake Y, Chang ML, Pow-Anpongkul N, Flavell RA, Lu B, Ming GL, Song H

G9a and Jhdm2a regulate embryonic stem cell fusion-induced reprogramming of adult neural stem cells.

Stem cells (Dayton, Ohio)

Ma DK, Chiang CH, Ponnusamy K, Ming GL, Song H

Cellular niches for endogenous neural stem cells in the adult brain.

CNS & neurological disorders drug targets

Jordan JD, Ma DK, Ming GL, Song H

Disrupted-In-Schizophrenia 1 regulates integration of newly generated neurons in the adult brain.


Duan X, Chang JH, Ge S, Faulkner RL, Kim JY, Kitabatake Y, Liu XB, Yang CH, Jordan JD, Ma DK, Liu CY, Ganesan S, Cheng HJ, Ming GL, Lu B, Song H

Adult neural stem cells and repair of the adult central nervous system.

Journal of hematotherapy & stem cell research

Goh EL, Ma D, Ming GL, Song H