Qingchun Tong, Ph.D.

Qingchun Tong, Ph.D.

Associate Professor, Center for Metabolic and Degenerative Disease
Cullen Chair in Molecular Medicine

Email Address: Qingchun.Tong@uth.tmc.edu


Synopsis  The Tong lab studies how neurocircuitry in the brain controls feeding, energy expenditure and glucose homeostasis. To tackle the complexity in the hypothalamic neural network in the regulation of energy balance, Dr. Tong’s group will generate mouse models with gene-deletion restricted to defined groups of brain neurons using Cre-loxP technology. Using these animal models, as well as an array of techniques including immunohistochemistry, in situ hybridization, neuronal tracing and stereotaxic delivery, his group will try to delineate neural pathways in the brain underlying food intake, body weight homeostasis and glucose homeostasis, and provide a framework for an effective drug design against the current epidemics of obesity and its associated syndromes.


B.S.: Anhui Normal University, China, 1996

M.S.: Shanghai Institute of Physiology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, 1999

PhD: SUNY Downstate Medical Center, 2003

Postdoc training: Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School, 2003-2008

Instructor: Harvard Medical School, 2008-2009 

Assistant Professor, UT Health Science Center at Houston 2009-2014

Associate Professor, UT Health Science Center at Houston 2014-present

Research Interests    

Obesity and its associated complications are imposing a huge burden to our society, while its effective treatment is still lacking. A better understanding of the mechanisms regulating energy balance is required to develop new therapeutic strategies. Neurons in the hypothalamus receive and integrate nutritional status signals, and then adjust food intake and energy expenditure accordingly to maintain energy balance. Previous research has identified important functions of a few groups of hypothalamic neurons (e.g. POMC neurons, AgRP neurons, etc.) and a few hypothalamic genes (POMC, AgRP and MC4R, etc.). However, the mechanisms with which the hypothalamus regulates energy balance are not well understood.

The research focus of my group is to understand how neurocircuitry in the hypothalamus regulates energy balance. My current research focus is to understand the role of glutamate and GABA release from hypothalamic neurons in the regulation of energy balance. Glutamate and GABA are the main excitatory and inhibitory neurotransmitters, respectively, in the brain. However, research efforts that address the mechanisms underlying energy balance have been largely focusing on the roles of neuropeptides, while the roles of glutamate and GABA have been overlooked. To study the roles of glutamate and GABA release, we generated mice with floxed vesicular glutamate transporter 2 (Vglut2, required for presynaptic glutamate release in the hypothalamus) and floxed vesicular GABA transporter (Vgat, required for presynaptic GABA release). These mice will be crossed with transgenic mouse lines that express Cre only in a subset of hypothalamic neurons to generate mice with disruption of glutamate (lox-Vglut2) or GABA (lox-Vgat) release only from the Cre-expressing neurons. These models will then used to study the function of neural pathways in which these glutamatergic or GABAergic neurons engage to regulate energy balance. Recently, we have incorporated optogenetics and DREADD techniques in our research. Ultimately we try to delineate specific neural pathways underlying specific physiologic functions.

In addition, we are also interested in understanding how the brain controls energy expenditure and mediates responses to high-caloric, high-fat diet (HFD) feeding through communicating with peripheral metabolic tissues with an aim to identify key tissues/mediators that are important to mediate appropriate responses to HFD feeding and could be used to better cope with HFD feeding. 

See this link for all publications:


Publications (since 2012):

  1. Xu Y, Chang JT, Myers MG Jr, Xu Y, Tong Q. Euglycemia Restoration by Central Leptin in Type 1 Diabetes Requires STAT3 Signaling but Not Fast-Acting Neurotransmitter Release. Diabetes. 2016 Jan 28. pii: db151160. [Epub ahead of print] PubMed PMID: 26822087.
  2. Fan S, Dakshinamoorthy J, Kim ER, Xu Y, Huang C, Tong Q. An Indirect Action Contributes to C-Fos Induction in Paraventricular Hypothalamic Nucleus by Neuropeptide Y. Sci Rep. 2016 Jan 27;6:19980. doi: 10.1038/srep19980. PubMed PMID: 26813148; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4728490.
  3. Zhang Y, Gu M, Cai W, Yu L, Feng L, Zhang L, Zang Q, Wang Y, Wang D, Chen H, Tong Q, Ji G, Huang C. Dietary component isorhamnetin is a PPARγ antagonist and ameliorates metabolic disorders induced by diet or leptin deficiency. Sci Rep. 2016 Jan 18;6:19288. doi: 10.1038/srep19288. PubMed PMID: 26775807; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4726074.
  4. Yan C, He Y, Xu Y, Shu G, Wang C, Yang Y, Saito K, Xu P, Hinton AO Jr, Yan X, Yu L, Wu Q, Tso P, Tong Q, Xu Y. Apolipoprotein A-IV Inhibits AgRP/NPY Neurons and Activates POMC Neurons in the Arcuate Nucleus. Neuroendocrinology. 2015 Aug 25. [Epub ahead of print] PubMed PMID: 26337236; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4767704.
  5. Kim ER, Wu Z, Sun H, Xu Y, Mangieri LR, Xu Y, Tong Q. Hypothalamic Non-AgRP, Non-POMC GABAergic Neurons Are Required for Postweaning Feeding and NPY Hyperphagia. J Neurosci. 2015 Jul 22;35(29):10440-50. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1110-15.2015. PubMed PMID: 26203139; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4510285.
  6. Yan C, Yang Y, Saito K, Xu P, Wang C, Hinton AO Jr, Yan X, Wu Q, Tong Q, Elmquist JK, Fukuda M, Xu Y. Meta-chlorophenylpiperazine enhances leptin sensitivity in diet-induced obese mice. Br J Pharmacol. 2015 Jul;172(14):3510-21. doi: 10.1111/bph.13141. Epub 2015 May 11. PubMed PMID: 25817043; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4507156.
  7. Xu P, Cao X, He Y, Zhu L, Yang Y, Saito K, Wang C, Yan X, Hinton AO Jr, Zou F, Ding H, Xia Y, Yan C, Shu G, Wu SP, Yang B, Feng Y, Clegg DJ, DeMarchi R, Khan SA, Tsai SY, DeMayo FJ, Wu Q, Tong Q, Xu Y. Estrogen receptor-α in medial amygdala neurons regulates body weight. J Clin Invest. 2015 Jul 1;125(7):2861-76. doi: 10.1172/JCI80941. Epub 2015 Jun 22. PubMed PMID: 26098212; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4563687.
  8. Zhu L, Zou F, Yang Y, Xu P, Saito K, Othrell Hinton A Jr, Yan X, Ding H, Wu Q, Fukuda M, Sun Z, Tong Q, Xu Y. Estrogens prevent metabolic dysfunctions induced by circadian disruptions in female mice. Endocrinology. 2015 Jun;156(6):2114-23. doi: 10.1210/en.2014-1922. Epub 2015 Mar 25. PubMed PMID: 25807042; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4430614.
  9. Zheng H, Fu J, Xue P, Zhao R, Dong J, Liu D, Yamamoto M, Tong Q, Teng W, Qu W, Zhang Q, Andersen ME, Pi J. CNC-bZIP protein Nrf1-dependent regulation of glucose-stimulated insulin secretion. Antioxid Redox Signal. 2015 Apr 1;22(10):819-31. doi: 10.1089/ars.2014.6017. Epub 2015 Feb 18. PubMed PMID: 25556857; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4367236.
  10. Wu Z, Kim ER, Sun H, Xu Y, Mangieri LR, Li DP, Pan HL, Xu Y, Arenkiel BR, Tong Q. GABAergic projections from lateral hypothalamus to paraventricular hypothalamic nucleus promote feeding. J Neurosci. 2015 Feb 25;35(8):3312-8. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3720-14.2015. PubMed PMID: 25716832; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4339348.
  11. Daquinag AC, Tseng C, Salameh A, Zhang Y, Amaya-Manzanares F, Dadbin A, Florez F, Xu Y, Tong Q, Kolonin MG. Depletion of white adipocyte progenitors induces beige adipocyte differentiation and suppresses obesity development. Cell Death Differ. 2015 Feb;22(2):351-63. doi: 10.1038/cdd.2014.148. Epub 2014 Oct 24. PubMed PMID: 25342467; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4291494.
  12. Cao X, Xu P, Oyola MG, Xia Y, Yan X, Saito K, Zou F, Wang C, Yang Y, Hinton A Jr, Yan C, Ding H, Zhu L, Yu L, Yang B, Feng Y, Clegg DJ, Khan S, DiMarchi R, Mani SK, Tong Q, Xu Y. Estrogens stimulate serotonin neurons to inhibit binge-like eating in mice. J Clin Invest. 2014 Oct;124(10):4351-62. doi: 10.1172/JCI74726. Epub 2014 Aug 26. PubMed PMID: 25157819; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4191033.
  13. Xu Y, Kim ER, Fan S, Xia Y, Xu Y, Huang C, Tong Q. Profound and rapid reduction in body temperature induced by the melanocortin receptor agonists. Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2014 Aug 22;451(2):184-9. doi: 10.1016/j.bbrc.2014.07.079. Epub 2014 Jul 24. PubMed PMID: 25065745; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4162093.
  14. Xu Y, Wu Z, Sun H, Zhu Y, Kim ER, Lowell BB, Arenkiel BR, Xu Y, Tong Q. Glutamate mediates the function of melanocortin receptor 4 on Sim1 neurons in body weight regulation. Cell Metab. 2013 Dec 3;18(6):860-70. doi: 10.1016/j.cmet.2013.11.003. PubMed PMID: 24315371; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3880549.
  15. Shi X, Zhou F, Li X, Chang B, Li D, Wang Y, Tong Q, Xu Y, Fukuda M, Zhao JJ, Li D, Burrin DG, Chan L, Guan X. Central GLP-2 enhances hepatic insulin sensitivity via activating PI3K signaling in POMC neurons. Cell Metab. 2013 Jul 2;18(1):86-98. doi: 10.1016/j.cmet.2013.06.014. PubMed PMID: 23823479; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3752162.
  16. Xu Y, Kim ER, Zhao R, Myers MG Jr, Munzberg H, Tong Q. Glutamate release mediates leptin action on energy expenditure. Mol Metab. 2013 Jan 29;2(2):109-15. doi: 10.1016/j.molmet.2013.01.004. eCollection 2013. PubMed PMID: 24199156; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3817390.
  17. Tong Q, Xu Y. Central Leptin Regulation of Obesity and Fertility. Curr Obes Rep. 2012 Dec 1;1(4):236-244. PubMed PMID: 23243628; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3519445.
  18. Kong D, Tong Q, Ye C, Koda S, Fuller PM, Krashes MJ, Vong L, Ray RS, Olson DP, Lowell BB. GABAergic RIP-Cre neurons in the arcuate nucleus selectively regulate energy expenditure. Cell. 2012 Oct 26;151(3):645-57. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2012.09.020. PubMed PMID: 23101631; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3500616.
  19. Xu Y, O'Brien WG 3rd, Lee CC, Myers MG Jr, Tong Q. Role of GABA release from leptin receptor-expressing neurons in body weight regulation. Endocrinology. 2012 May;153(5):2223-33. doi: 10.1210/en.2011-2071. Epub 2012 Feb 14. PubMed PMID: 22334723; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3339652.
  20. Liu T, Wang Q, Berglund ED, Tong Q. Action of Neurotransmitter: A Key to Unlock the AgRP Neuron Feeding Circuit. Front Neurosci. 2013 Jan 21;6:200. doi: 10.3389/fnins.2012.00200. eCollection 2012. PubMed PMID: 23346045; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3549528.
  21. Wu Z, Xu Y, Zhu Y, Sutton AK, Zhao R, Lowell BB, Olson DP, Tong Q. An obligate role of oxytocin neurons in diet induced energy expenditure. PLoS One. 2012;7(9):e45167. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0045167. Epub 2012 Sep 18. PubMed PMID: 23028821; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3445456.