Dengke Ma, PhD

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

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.

Primary Thematic Area: 
Tissue / Organ Biology & Endocrinology
Secondary Thematic Area: 
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