Dr. Ray Lu

Dr. Ray Lu
Associate Professor and Graduate Studies Coordinator
Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology
Phone number: 
56247 / 53612
SSC 3443
SSC 3401

I received my first postgraduate degree at the Beijing Institute for Cancer Research (Peking University) studying the relationship between oncogenes (e.g., c-myc and c-ras) and tumour metastasis. This was when I first became fascinated about genes and gene regulations. Following my Master's study I went to the Biology Department at the University of Saskatchewan and obtained my Ph.D. degree in Molecular Genetics with Gerry Rank. My current research interests began with my postdoctoral work in Vikram Misra's lab at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine. At that time people were very intrigued by a cellular protein, Host Cell Factor C1 (HCF or HCF1) that is required by the human herpes virus-1 protein VP16 to initiate the viral gene expression cascade during lytic infection. Among several groups racing to identify cellular ligands for HCF1, I was the first to discover two novel human genes that interact with HCF1, namely Luman (also called LZIP in mice, official Genbank name CREB3) and Zhangfei (or CREBZF). Most interestingly, we and others have found out that the viral protein VP16 mimics the mode of interactions of Luman/Zhangfei with HCF1. This discovery has led to the hypothesis that Luman/Zhangfei mediates certain cell stress signaling that is targeted by the viral mimicry critical for the herpes virus infection cycle. This theory holds true to date with accumulating supportive experimental evidence. Later, I did a short postdoc with Tom Kristie at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) in NIH investigating the cellular role of HCF1. In 2001 I took a faculty position here at the University of Guelph and have continued to work on the biological function of Luman/CREB3, Zhangfei/CREBZF and LRF/CREBRF (later discovered in Guelph), and their related stress responses.

  • BSc, Wuhan University
  • MSc, Beijing University
  • PhD, University of Saskatchewan 

Key words: ER and Golgi stress; Unfolded Protein Response (UPR); glucocorticoid signaling; gene knockout mice; animal stress; metabolism

During the course of our study of gene regulatary events in virus-host cell interactions, we have identified three new cellular proteins, Luman/CREB3, Zhangfei/CREBZF, and Luman-recruiting factor LRF (or CREBRF). We and others have since produced strong evidence suggesting that these proteins play key roles in cellular stress responses, specifically the Unfolded Protein Response (UPR) triggered primarily by disruption of homeostasis in the endoplasmic reticulum and the Golgi. The UPR has been linked to animal development, cell differentiation, as well as a variety of human diseases such as Alzheimer’s, diabetes, cancer and viral infection.

In recent years our research has expanded from molecular genetics and cell biology to animal physiology and neuroscience. We have established CREB3- and CREBRF-gene knockout mouse models, both of which showed strikingly similar phenotype – lean and blunted stress response. We have since discovered that CREB3 and CREBRF are regulators of the glucocorticoid signaling and key modulators of lipid metabolism. Our ongoing research falls into the following themes –

1) How CREB3 and CREBRF mediate stress signaling, what their upstream and downstream targets are, and how this is related to cellular processes and animal diseases, such as metabolic disorders such as obesity/diabetes and animal stress-related disorders including animal welfare.

2) What are the genetic variations responsible for the differences among individuals in the response to stresses or susceptibility to metabolic disorders?

  • BIOL*1090 Introduction to Molecular and Cellular Biology (current)
  • MCB*2050 Molecular Biology of the Cell
  • MBG*3040 Molecular Biology of the Gene
  • MBG*4240 Applied Molecular Genetics in Medicine and Biotechnology (current)
  • MICR*4330 Molecular Virology

Postdoctoral Fellow

  • Zahra Karimi

Graduate Students

  • Brandon Smith (PhD)
  • Briana Locke (PhD)
  • Brian Chiu (MSc)


Graduate student positions are available.