Center for Translational Biomedical Research

Zhang Research Group

Research Focus

Disease Biomarkers and Analytical Biochemistry

Qibin Zhang, Ph.D.
CTBR Co-Director, Associate Professor of Chemistry
Tel: 704-250-5803
Chemistry website:


Dr. Zhang is primarily interested in the diagnosis and prognosis of human diseases and the effects of environment on health. The Zhang research group focuses on developing new capabilities for more accurate, more sensitive and higher throughput measurement of biomolecules, and the clinical application of proteomics, lipidomics and metabolomics for comprehensive identification of disease biomarkers, and systems biological understanding of the pathogenic mechanism underlying the complex human diseases.  Our research could lead to clinical assays for early diagnosis of human diseases, and effective intervention and prevention strategies for better human health. Below are the brief descriptions of our research projects.

Development of Bioanalytical Capabilities

The specific functions of lipids, biomolecules with important roles in many human disorders such as cancer and diabetes, are related to their chemical and physical properties and depend on their particular molecular structures.  We are developing a mass spectrometry based instrument platform that incorporates ozone induced dissociation (OzID) for unambiguous and comprehensive elucidation of lipid chemical structures, and high resolution field asymmetric waveform ion mobility spectrometry (FAIMS) technology for enhanced specificity in distinguishing lipid isomers. The resulting instrument platform is expected to have broad applications in structural identification of intact lipids and aid the unambiguous identification of lipid biomarkers of diseases, and will improve our understanding of the functional roles of diverse lipids in the disease process.

In addition, we are interested in the following technology development and the new biology that are enabled by these new capabilities:

  • Developing high throughput, quantitative methods for characterization of oligosaccharides, and saccharolipids (fatty acids linked to sugars).
  • Developing chemical- and antibody-based methods for quantitative characterization of novel protein post-translational modifications (PTMs) and proteoforms that are important to human diseases.

Biomarkers for Human Diseases

Type 1 diabetes (T1D), a devastating disorder that primarily impacts children, results from autoimmune destruction of insulin-producing pancreatic beta cells. At the time of clinical diagnosis, more than 80% of beta cells have died, and novel biomarkers are greatly in need to indicate this destruction process at the earliest possible stage. We are funded by the NIH for a comprehensive identification of biomarkers correlated to the progression of this disease, through proteomic, lipidomic, and metabolomic characterization of human pancreatic tissues and longitudinally collected serum samples, as well as for a comprehensive validation of the candidate markers in diseases that share similar clinical and immunological outcomes with T1D.  The results not only can help to establish early diagnosis and risk assessment criteria for T1D, but also help to understand the pathogenesis of this disorder when combined with mechanistic studies using cell line and animal models.

The approach that we take for diabetes research can be applied to biomarkers research of other diseases.

Students and postdocs working in the Zhang research group have access to state-of-the-art analytical instrumentation (including a Thermo QExactive HF and a Thermo TSQ Quantiva interfaced with FAIMS, nano-LC and UPLC, and a Leco GC-TOF), bioinformatics and statistics tools, and are exposed to a variety of other experimental techniques including biochemistry, physical chemistry and synthetic organic chemistry depending upon their research interests.

Current Members

Dr. Chih-Wei Liu, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Researcher

Dr. Monica Narvaez Rivas, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Researcher

Dr. Lina Zhang, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Researcher

Ms. Ngoc Vu, Graduate Student, MS Program

Mr. Rodell Barrientos, Graduate Student, PhD Program

Mr. Derick Jones, Graduate Student, PhD Program

Dr. Guan-Yuan Chen, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Researcher

Selected Publications

  1. Zhang, Q., Matzke, M., Schepmoes, A. A., Moore, R. J., Webb-Robertson, B. J., Hu, Z., Monroe, M. E., Qian, W. J., Smith, R. D., and Morgan, W. F. (2014) High and low doses of ionizing radiation induce different secretome profiles in a human skin model, PLoS One 9, e92332.
  2. Meng, D., Zhang, Q., Gao, X., Wu, S., and Lin, G. (2014) LipidMiner: a software for automated identification and quantification of lipids from multiple liquid chromatography/mass spectrometry data files, Rapid Commun Mass Spectrom 28, 981-985.
  3. Zhang, Q., Fillmore, T. L., Schepmoes, A. A., Clauss, T. R., Gritsenko, M. A., Mueller, P. W., Rewers, M., Atkinson, M. A., Smith, R. D., and Metz, T. O. (2013) Serum proteomics reveals systemic dysregulation of innate immunity in type 1 diabetes, J Exp Med 210, 191-203.
  4. Hu, Z. P., Kim, Y. M., Sowa, M. B., Robinson, R. J., Gao, X., Metz, T. O., Morgan, W. F., and Zhang, Q. (2012) Metabolomic response of human skin tissue to low dose ionizing radiation, Mol Biosyst 8, 1979-1986.
  5. Gao, X., Zhang, Q., Meng, D., Isaac, G., Zhao, R., Fillmore, T. L., Chu, R. K., Zhou, J., Tang, K., Hu, Z., Moore, R. J., Smith, R. D., Katze, M. G., and Metz, T. O. (2012) A reversed-phase capillary ultra-performance liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (UPLC-MS) method for comprehensive top-down/bottom-up lipid profiling, Anal Bioanal Chem 402, 2923-2933.
  6. Zhang, Q., Monroe, M. E., Schepmoes, A. A., Clauss, T. R., Gritsenko, M. A., Meng, D., Petyuk, V. A., Smith, R. D., and Metz, T. O. (2011) Comprehensive identification of glycated peptides and their glycation motifs in plasma and erythrocytes of control and diabetic subjects, J Proteome Res 10, 3076-3088.
  7. Kim, Y. M., Metz, T. O., Hu, Z., Wiedner, S. D., Kim, J. S., Smith, R. D., Morgan, W. F., and Zhang, Q. (2011) Formation of dehydroalanine from mimosine and cysteine: artifacts in gas chromatography/mass spectrometry based metabolomics, Rapid Commun Mass Spectrom 25, 2561-2564.
  8. Gonzalez, R. M., Zhang, Q., Zangar, R. C., Smith, R. D., and Metz, T. O. (2011) Development of a fibrinogen-specific sandwich enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay microarray assay for distinguishing between blood plasma and serum samples, Anal Biochem 414, 99-102.
  9. Zhang, Q., Hu, J. Z., Rommereim, D. N., Murphy, M. K., Phipps, R. P., Huso, D. L., and Dicello, J. F. (2009) Application of high-resolution 1H MAS NMR spectroscopy to the analysis of intact bones from mice exposed to gamma radiation, Radiat Res 172, 607-616.
  10. Zhang, Q., Ames, J. M., Smith, R. D., Baynes, J. W., and Metz, T. O. (2009) A perspective on the Maillard reaction and the analysis of protein glycation by mass spectrometry: probing the pathogenesis of chronic disease, J Proteome Res 8, 754-769.
  11. Zhang, Q., Tang, N., Schepmoes, A. A., Phillips, L. S., Smith, R. D., and Metz, T. O. (2008) Proteomic profiling of nonenzymatically glycated proteins in human plasma and erythrocyte membranes, J Proteome Res 7, 2025-2032.
  12. Zhang, Q., Tang, N., Brock, J. W., Mottaz, H. M., Ames, J. M., Baynes, J. W., Smith, R. D., and Metz, T. O. (2007) Enrichment and analysis of nonenzymatically glycated peptides: boronate affinity chromatography coupled with electron-transfer dissociation mass spectrometry, J Proteome Res 6, 2323-2330.
  13. Zhang, Q., Qian, W. J., Knyushko, T. V., Clauss, T. R., Purvine, S. O., Moore, R. J., Sacksteder, C. A., Chin, M. H., Smith, D. J., Camp, D. G., 2nd, Bigelow, D. J., and Smith, R. D. (2007) A method for selective enrichment and analysis of nitrotyrosine-containing peptides in complex proteome samples, J Proteome Res 6, 2257-2268.
  14. Zhang, Q., Frolov, A., Tang, N., Hoffmann, R., van de Goor, T., Metz, T. O., and Smith, R. D. (2007) Application of electron transfer dissociation mass spectrometry in analyses of non-enzymatically glycated peptides, Rapid Commun Mass Spectrom 21, 661-666.
  15. Metz, T. O., Zhang, Q., Page, J. S., Shen, Y., Callister, S. J., Jacobs, J. M., and Smith, R. D. (2007) The future of liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LC-MS) in metabolic profiling and metabolomic studies for biomarker discovery, Biomark Med 1, 159-185.
  16. Ding, J., Sorensen, C. M., Zhang, Q., Jiang, H., Jaitly, N., Livesay, E. A., Shen, Y., Smith, R. D., and Metz, T. O. (2007) Capillary LC coupled with high-mass measurement accuracy mass spectrometry for metabolic profiling, Anal Chem 79, 6081-6093.
  17. Zhang, Q., and Wang, Y. (2005) Generation of 5-(2′-deoxycytidyl)methyl radical and the formation of intrastrand cross-link lesions in oligodeoxyribonucleotides, Nucleic Acids Res 33, 1593-1603.
  18. Zhang, Q., and Wang, Y. (2005) The reactivity of the 5-hydroxy-5,6-dihydrothymidin-6-yl radical in oligodeoxyribonucleotides, Chem Res Toxicol 18, 1897-1906.
  19. Zhang, Q., and Wang, Y. (2004) Independent generation of the 5-hydroxy-5,6-dihydrothymidin-6-yl radical and its reactivity in dinucleoside monophosphates, J Am Chem Soc 126, 13287-13297.
  20. Zhang, Q., and Wang, Y. (2003) Independent generation of 5-(2′-deoxycytidinyl)methyl radical and the formation of a novel cross-link lesion between 5-methylcytosine and guanine, J Am Chem Soc 125, 12795-12802.