Lei Zhang


Department of Primary Appointment:
School of Medicine
Location: Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, Bethesda, MD
Research Interests:
PTSD and biomarkers
Office Phone


He graduated for Shanghai Medical University in 1976 and was a psychiatry resident at Department of Psychiatry of Shanghai Medical University from 1977-1980, and a senior staff fellow at Behavioral and Endocrinology Branch of NIMH, NIH between 1992-2001.


The ultimate goal of Dr. Zhang’s research is to acquire and provide the knowledge that is necessary for the development of novel and effective molecular tools for stress-related diseases such as PTSD. His laboratory is dedicated to elucidating the molecular and cellular mechanisms of the actions of genes such as p11 (S100A10), FKBP5, BDNF, and mitochondria focused-genes in stress, PTSD, The long-term goal is to establish a molecular basis from which the lab can search for a therapeutic target or biomarker for PTSD and suicide risk. Previously, they found that P11 is associated with PTSD. Its mRNA levels are increased in the post-mortem prefrontal cortex (area 46) of PTSD patients. Stress-induced p11 over expression in the prefrontal cortex (PFC) accompanied by elevation of corticosterone concentration in the blood was also observed in rats subjected to three days of inescapable shock. Their mechanism study demonstrated that through glucocorticoid response elements (GREs) within the p11 promoter, dexamethasone (Dex), a synthetic glucocorticoid, up-regulates p11 expression, which can be attenuated by either a glucocorticoid receptor antagonist, RU486, or mutating two of the three GREs. Later in their translational study, they found that levels of p11 as a potential biomarker in peripheral blood distinguish patients with PTSD from those with other major psychiatric disorders including bipolar depression, major depressive disorder, and schizophrenia. His research program has undertaken the following specific objectives:
1. To identify gene networks or pathways of PTSD.
2. To investigate the novel molecular regulatory mechanism of stress and PTSD in vivo and in vitro. His research will provide useful information, which might help translational research, from bench to bed.


Zhang L., Li H., Su T.P., Barker J.L., Maric D., Fullerton C.S., Webster M.J., Hough C.J., Li X., Traumatic Stress Brain Study Group and Ursano R.J. Post-traumatic stress disorder-associated p11 is up-regulated in the forebrain by glucocorticoid acting via two specific glucocorticoid response elements in the promoter, Neurosci., 2008,153:1126–1134

Zhang L., Su T.ung-Ping Su, Choi K., Webster M.J., Li C.T., Chung M.Y. Chen Y.S., Bai Y.M., Chou Y. H., Barker J.L., Barrett J.E., Li X.X., Li H., Benedek D. M. and Ursano R. P11 (S100A10) as a potential biomarker of psychiatric patients at risk of suicide. Journal of Psychiatric Research, 2011, 45, 435-441

Su T., Zhang L., Chung M., Chen Y., Bi Y., Chou Y., Barker J., Barrett J.E., Maric D., Li X., Li H., Webster M., Benedek D., Carlton J. and Ursano R.J. Levels of the potential biomarker p11 in peripheral blood cells distinguish patients with PTSD from those with other major psychiatric disorders. Journal of Psychiatric Research, 2009. 43:1078-1085 (Corresponding author)

Zhang, L., Tung-Ping Su, Kwang Choi, Webster Maree, Cheng-Ta Li, Ming-Yi Chung, Ying-Sheue Chen, Ya-Mei Bai, Yuan-Hwa Chou, Jeffery L. Barker, James E. Barrett, Xiao Xia Li, He Li, David M. Benedek, Robert Ursano. P11 expression and PET in bipolar disorders. Journal of Psychiatric Research. 2011, 1-6

Zhang L., Xian-Zhang Hu, David M. Benedek, Carol S. Fullerton, Robert D. Forsten, James A. Naifeh, Xiaoxia Li, He Li, K. Nikki Benevides, Stanley Smerin, Thien Le, Kwang Choi & Robert J. Ursano. The interaction between stressful life events and leukocyte telomere length is associated with PTSD. Molecular Psychiatry, 2014,1-2

Lei Zhang, He Li, Xianzhang Hu, David M. Benedek, Carol S. Fullerton, Robert D. Forsten, James A. Naifeh, Xiaoxia Li, Hongyan Wu, Kirster Benevides, Thien Le, Stanley Smerin, Dale W. Russell & Robert J. Ursano. Mitochondria-focused gene expression profile reveals common pathways and CPT1B dysregulation in both rodent stress model and human subjects with PTSD. Translational Psychiatry. (2015) 5, e580, 1-8, 2015

Zhang L., DM Benedek, CS Fullerton, RD Forsten1, JA Naifeh, XX Li, XZ Hu, H Li, M Jia , GQ Xing, KN Benevides, & RJ Ursano. PTSD risk is associated with BDNF Val66Met and BDNF over-expression. Molecular Psychiatry 2014, 19, 8–10

Lei Zhang, Xiaoxia Li, Xian-Zhang Hu. Post-traumatic stress disorder risk and brain-derived neurotrophic factor Val66Met. World J Psychiatr. 2016, 6(1): 1-6.