Shuo Wei, Ph.D.


Fall: BISC401/609 Molecular Biology of the Cell

Spring: BISC467/667 Current Topics in Development and Cancer

Research Interests

The cranial neural crest (CNC) cells are vertebrate stem cells that migrate from the closing neural tube to form craniofacial structures, cardiac tissues and the peripheral nervous system during embryonic development. Aberrant CNC development may lead to some of the most common birth defects in humans, such as cleft lip/palate and congenital heart diseases. The CNC also serves as an excellent model for cancer research, as CNC resembles cancer in many aspects. For example, the canonical Wnt signaling pathway and its target Snail2 (a.k.a. Slug), a zinc-finger transcription factor, are required for the induction of CNC cell fate as well as subsequent epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) that leads to CNC migration. Similarly, Wnt and Snail2 play important roles in maintaining the cancer stem cells and triggering cancer EMT and metastasis. It has been well established that EMT-inducing transcription factors such as Snail2 upregulate the downstream expression of metalloproteinases, which in turn modify cell-cell/matrix adhesion to promote CNC and cancer cell migration. However, we found recently that some disintegrin metalloproteinases (ADAMs) can act upstream to induce Wnt signaling as well as Snail2 expression and function. This novel finding suggests an earlier, and thus more fundamental, role of metalloproteinases in CNC development and cancer progression. Based on this finding, new methods are being developed to induce CNC cells and to block cancer progression by modulating the expression or activities of ADAMs. Our long-term goal is to apply these new methods to the regeneration of human CNC derivatives and to cancer therapy.

Current Projects

  • Regulation of Wnt signaling and snail2 expression during CNC development
  • ADAM functions in cancer cell EMT and migration

Research Group

  • Pathirennehelage (“Chamath”) Chandrasekera – Graduate student (B.S., Baylor University)
  • Andrew Connell - Graduate student (B.A., University of Delaware)
  • Congyu Lu – Graduate student (M.S., Northwest A&F University, China)
  • Aditi Makhija – Graduate student (B.Tech., Indian Institute of Technology Guwahati, India)
  • Mark Perfetto – Graduate student (B.S., West Virginia University)
  • Xiaolu Xu - Graduate student (B.S., Shangdong University, China)

Selected Publications

  • Li, J., Perfetto, M., Neuner, R., Bahudhanapati, H., Christian, L., Mathavan, K., Bridges, L.C., Alfandari, D., and Wei, S. (2018) Xenopus ADAM19 regulates Wnt signaling and neural crest specification by stabilizing ADAM13. Development In press.  Equal contributors.
  • Wang, J., Koganti, P., Yao, J., Wei, S., and Cleveland, B. (2017) Comprehensive analysis of lncRNAs and mRNAs in skeletal muscle of rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) exposed to estradiol. Sci. Rep. 7, 11780.
  • Li, J., Qu, J., Shi, Y., Perfetto, M., Ping, Z., Christian, L., Niu, H., Mei, S., Zhang, Q, Yang, X. and Wei, S. (2017) Nicotinic acid inhibits glioma invasion by facilitating Snail1 degradation. Sci. Rep. 7:43173.
  • Fu, L., Zhang, M., Mastrantoni, K., Perfetto, M., Wei, S. and Yao, J. (2016) Bovine Lhx8, a germ cell-specific nuclear factor, interacts with Figla. PLoS One 11, e0164671.
  • Bahudhanapati, H., Bhattacharya, S., and Wei, S. (2015) Evolution of vertebrate Adam genes; duplication of testicular Adams from ancient Adam9/9-like loci. PLoS One 10, e0136281.
  • Christian, L., Bahudhanapati, H., and Wei, S. (2013) Extracellular metalloproteinases in neural crest development and craniofacial morphogenesis. Crit. Rev. Biochem. Mol. Biol. 48, 544-560.
  • Wei, S. (2013) ADAM metalloproteinases. In The Handbook of Proteolytic Enzymes, 3rd edition. Edited by: Rawlings, N.D. and Guy, S. Oxford: Academic Press, 1086-1094.
  • Xu, G., Wei, S., White, J.M., and DeSimone, D.W. (2012) Identification and characterization of ADAM41, a novel metalloproteinase in Xenopus. Int. J. Dev. Biol. 56, 333-339.
  • Wei, S., Xu, G., Bridges, L.C., Williams, P., Nakayama, T., Shah, A., Grainger, R.M., White, J.M., and DeSimone, D.W. (2012) Roles of ADAM13-regulated Wnt activity in early Xenopus eye development. Dev. Biol. 363, 147-154.
  • Wu, Y., Wei, S., Van Doren, S.R., and Brew, K. (2011) Entropy increases from different sources support the high-affinity binding of the N-terminal inhibitory domains of tissue inhibitors of metalloproteinases (N-TIMPs) to the catalytic domains of matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) -1 and-3. J. Biol. Chem. 286, 16891-16899.
  • Wei, S., Xu, G., Bridges, L.C., Williams, P., White, J.M., and DeSimone, D.W. (2010) ADAM13 induces cranial neural crest by cleaving class B ephrins and regulating Wnt signaling. Dev. Cell 19: 345-352.
  • Wei, S., Whittaker, C., Xu, G., Bridges, L.C., Shah, A., White, J.M., and DeSimone, D.W. (2010) Conservation and divergence of ADAM family proteins in the Xenopus genome. BMC Evol. Biol. 10: 211.
  • Van Doren, S.R., Wei, S., Gao, G., Dague, B.B., Palmier, M.O., Bahudhanapati, H., and Brew, K. (2008) Inactivation of N-TIMP-1 by N-terminal acetylation when expressed in Bacteria. Biopolymers 89: 960-968.
  • Hamze A.B., Wei, S., Bahudhanapati, H., Kota, S., Acharya, K.R., and Brew, K. (2007) Constraining specificity in the N-domain of tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinases-1; gelatinase-selective inhibitors. Protein Sci. 16: 1905-1913. Equal contributors.
  • Lauer-Fields, J.L., Cudic, M., Wei, S., Mari, F., Fields, G.B., and Brew, K. (2007) Engineered sarafotoxins as TIMP-like MMP inhibitors. J. Biol. Chem. 282: 26948-26955.
  • Iyer, S., Wei, S., Brew, K., and Acharya, K.R. (2007) Crystal structure of the catalytic domain of matrix metalloproteinase-1 in complex with the inhibitory domain of tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinase-1. J. Biol. Chem. 282: 364-371.
  • Wei, S., Kashiwagi, M., Kota, S., Xie, Z., Nagase, H., and Brew, K. (2005) Reactive site mutations in TIMP-3 disrupt inhibition of MMPs but not ADAM-17 (TACE). J. Biol. Chem. 280: 32877-32882.
  • Cui, T., Wei, S., Brew, K., and Leng, F. (2005) Energetics of binding the mammalian high mobility group protein HMGA2 to poly(dA-dT)2 and poly(dA)poly(dT). J. Mol. Biol. 352: 629-645.
  • Wei, S., Xie, Z., Filenova, E., and Brew, K. (2003) Drosophila TIMP is a potent inhibitor of MMPs and TACE: similarities in structure and function to TIMP-3. Biochemistry 42: 12200-12207.
  • Wei, S., Chen, Y., Chung, L., Nagase, H., and Brew, K. (2003) Protein engineering of the tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinase 1 (TIMP-1) inhibitory domain. In search of selective matrix metalloproteinase inhibitors. J. Biol. Chem. 278: 9831-9834.

Assistant Professor

Phone: (302) 831-1146


Office: 235 Wolf Hall

Lab: 259 Wolf Hall


  • B.S., University of Science and Technology of China
  • Ph.D., University of Miami Miller School of Medicine
  • Postdoc: University of Virginia