Junsu Kang

Position title: Associate Professor

Email: junsu.kang@wisc.edu

Phone: Phone: (608) 262-8678

RESEARCH INTERESTS - Heart regeneration, fin regeneration, regeneration enhancer, gene regulation, genetic mutant, zebrafish

Headshot of Junsu Kang


Address: 4451 WIMR II – 1111 Highland Avenue Madison, WI 53705
Visit the Kang Lab Website



PhD, Seoul National University
Postdoctoral Research: Duke University (with Kenneth Poss)


1. Heart regeneration
Most human genes are highly conserved in zebrafish. However, unlike adult humans, zebrafish can regenerate their damaged heart tissues. This discrepancy in heart regeneration is attributable to differential expression of essential genes upon cardiac injury. Major efforts have been made to generate the molecular blueprint of heart regeneration, yet regulatory events are poorly understood. Previously, we reported the first Tissue Regeneration Enhancer Elements (TREEs), short DNA sequences which can activate tissue regeneration programs (Fig. 1). The activity of TREE is very specific: restricted to wound tissues and only during regeneration (Fig. 1). Intriguingly, the specificity of TREE can be engineered with regenerative factor, and we showed that TREE-engineered pro- or anti-regenerative factors do not influence development but are strongly induced upon injury, suggesting that enhancer engineering with TREE can modulate tissue regeneration positively or negatively. Our laboratory will employ various methodologies including transgenic assays, small molecule screening, and biochemical analysis to uncover how cardiac TREE activity is precisely controlled. Investigation of cardiac TREE will allow us to solve the mystery of heart regeneration and further to inspire the therapeutic strategy to unlock our bodies’ latent healing power to give back healthy cardiac tissues to patients.


2. Fin regeneration
Zebrafish is amenable to forward genetic screening, a powerful approach to discover novel factors affecting the phenotype. To identify novel regeneration factors, during my postdoctoral training I carried out forward genetic screening and isolated many mutant families which exhibit fin regeneration defects in a temperature-dependent manner (Fig. 2). We continue to study these mutant families here at UW-Madison. The goal of this project is to identify novel genes and their cellular and molecular mechanisms in fin regeneration and further to determine their roles in regeneration of other tissues including heart. This work will discover novel findings that are important for tissue regeneration.


Representative Publications

  • Rao, A., Lyu, B., Jahan,I., Lubertozzi, A., Zhou, G., Tedeschi, F., Jankowsky, E., Kang, J., Carstens, B., Poss, K., Baskin, K., and Goldman, J.A. The Translation Initiation Factor Homolog, eif4e1c, Regulates Cardiomyocyte Metabolism and Proliferation During Heart Regeneration. Development, 2023 May 24;dev.201376. (2023)
  • Yan, R., Cigliola, V., Oonk, K.A., Petrover, Z., DeLuca, S., Wolfson, D., Vekstein, A., Mendiola, M.A., Devlin, G., Bishawi, M., Gemberling, M.P., Sinha, T., Sargent, M.A., York, A.J., Shakked, A., DeBenedittis, P., Wendell, D.C., Ou, J., Kang, J., Goldman, J.A., Baht,J.S., Karra, R., Williams, A.R., Bowles, D., Asokan, A., Tzahor, E., Gersbach, C.A., Molkentin, J.D., Bursac, N., Black, B.L., Poss, K.D., An enhancer-based gene therapy strategy for spatiotemporal control of cargoes during tissue repair. Cell Stem Cell, 2023 Jan 5;30(1):96-111.e6. (2023)
  • Shin, K., Begeman, I. J., Cao, J., Kang, J., leptin b and its regeneration enhancer illustrate the regenerative features of zebrafish hearts. Developmental Dynamics, Dec 10. doi: 10.1002/dvdy.556. (2022)
  • Begeman, I.J., Emery, B., Kurth., A., Kang, J., Regeneration and Developmental Enhancers Are Differentially Compatible with Minimal Promoters. Developmental Biology, Dec;492:47-58. doi: 10.1016/j.ydbio.2022.09.007. (2022)
  • Elbialy, A., Sulidan, K., Bhuiyan, A., Igarashi, Y., Yoshitake, K., Yamanouchi, D., Kang , J.,  Asakawa, S., Watabe, S., Kinoshita, S. Induction of endoplasmic reticulum stress markers in an acromegaly model. J. Cell Biochem., doi: 10.1002/jcb.30301. (2022)
  • Osorio-Méndez, D., Miller, A., Begeman, I., Kurth, A., Hagle, R., Rolph, D., Dickson, A.L., Chen, C.H., Halloran, M., Poss, K.*, Kang, J.*, Voltage-gated sodium channel, scn8a, is required for innervation and regeneration of amputated adult zebrafish fins. (*Co-corresponding authors). Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA, Jul 12;119(28):e2200342119. (2022)
  • Peng, X., Lai, K.S., Yu, G., She, P., Kang, J., Wang, T., Li, G., Zhou, Y., Sun, J., Jin, D., Xu, X., Liao, L., Liu, J., Lee, E., Poss, K.D., Zhong, T.P., Induction of Wnt signaling inhibitors and P21-activated kinase enhances cardiomyocyte proliferation during zebrafish heart regeneration. Journal of Molecular Cell Biology, Apr 10;13(1):41-58, (2021)
  • Begeman, I.*, Shin, K.*, Kurth, A., Lee, N., Chamberlain, T.J., Pelegri, F.J. and Kang, J. Decoding an organ regeneration switch by dissecting cardiac regeneration enhancers. Development, Dec 23;147(24):dev1940192020, (2020). *: co-first authors
  • Thompson, J.D., Ou, J., Lee, N., Shin, K., Cigliola, V., Song, L., Crawford, G., Kang, J. and Poss, K.D., Identification and requirements of enhancers that direct gene expression during zebrafish fin regeneration. Development, Jul 30;147(14):dev191262, (2020).
  • Golenberg, N., Squirrell, JM., Bennin, DA., Rindy, J., Pistono, PE., Eliceiri, KW., Shelef, MA., Kang, J., Huttenlocher, A. Citrullination regulates wound responses 1 and tissue regeneration in zebrafish. Journal of Cell Biology, 219(4), e201908164, (2020).
  • Rodriguez, A.M., Kang, J., Regeneration enhancers: Starting a journey to unravel regulatory events in tissue regeneration. Semin. Cell Dev. Biol. pii: S1084-9521(18) 30198-8 (2019).
  • Yang, K., Kang, J. Tissue Regeneration Enhancer Elements: A Way to Unlock Endogenous Healing Power. Dev. Dyn. Jan;248(1):34-42 (2019).
  • Begeman, I.J., Kang, J., Transcriptional Programs and Regeneration Enhancers Underlying Heart Regeneration. J. Cardiovasc. Dev. Dis. Dec 22;6(1) (2018).
  • Kang, J., Hu, J., Karra, R., Dickson, A.L, Tornini, V.A., Nachtrab, G., Gemberling, M., Goldman, J.A., Black, B.L., Poss, K.D. Modulation of tissue repair by regeneration enhancer elements. Nature. 523(7598):201-206, (2016)
  • Kang, J., Karra, R., and Poss, K.D. Back in Black. Developmental Cell. 33(6):623-624, (2015)
  • Kang, J., Nachtrab, G., Poss, K.D., Local Dkk1 Crosstalk from Breeding Ornaments Impedes Regeneration of Injured Male Zebrafish Fins. Developmental  Cell.  27(1):19-31,  (2013)  (This paper is chosen by cover story.)
  • Kang, J.*, Bai, Z.*, Zegarek, M.H., Grant, B.D., Lee, J. Essential roles of snap-29 in C. elegansDevelopmental Biology. 355(1):77-88, (2011). (* These two equally contributed to this work)
  • Choi, B., Kang, J., Park, YS., Lee, J., Cho, NJ. A possible role for FRM-1, a C. elegans FERM family protein, in embryonic development. Molecules and Cells. 31(5):455-459, (2011).
  • Min, K.*, Kang, J.*, and Lee, J., A modified feeding RNAi method for simultaneous knock-down of more than one gene in Caenorhabditis elegans. Biotechniques. 48(3):229-32, (2010). (* These two equally contributed to this work)
  • Kang, J., Shin, D., Yu, JR., Lee, J., Lats kinase is involved in the intestinal apical membrane integrity in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans., Development. 136(16):2705-15, (2009)
  • Kim, YH., Song, HO., Ko, KM., Singaravelu, G., Jee, C., Kang, J., and Ahnn, J., A novel calcineurin-interacting protein, CNP-3, modulates calcineurin deficient phenotypes in Caenorhabditis elegans., Mol Cells. 30;25(4):566-71, (2008)