Shuhong Zhao

Professor, College of Animal Science and Biotechnology, Huazhong Agricultural University

Summary of my work

In pig production, growth, feed efficiency and health are always important traits to improve. Traditional breeding methods based on quantitative genetics play an important role. However, traditional methods have limits in selection accuracy, and the improvement of some important traits in every generation is rather low. In addition, the generation interval is long, resulting in a relatively high cost.

As head of one of the biggest teams in porcine molecular genetics in China, my research has spanned a number of areas, including muscle development, lean growth efficiency, and identification of cross-talk genes for muscle growth and immunity traits. My group has conducted pioneering work in porcine functional genomics tool development, such as the design of a protocol for the first generation of oligo arrays. We also developed the software and platform for pig miRNA study, identified genes that control muscle growth. We also conducted fetal muscle transcriptional profiling between lean and Chinese fatty breeds to identify genes related to muscle growth based on the fact that the muscle fiber number is a key factor affecting meat yield and it is fixed before birth. A number of genes have been detected for SNPs among different breeds and were found to be associated with meat production traits. We also developed a whole genome microRNA prediction software package and published the first paper on miRNA transcriptome and possible pathways in porcine fetal muscle development. Our team also confirmed target genes and pathways for several miRNAs.

To address the conflict of decreased disease resistance under high lean growth, in one of my projects, I developed an F2 population to map important genes and chromosome regions for IFNA production and other immune response traits and markers for porcine disease resistance. Also, we performed the transcriptional profiling work of a porcine lung and spleen infected by Haemophilus parasuis (HPS), and found those bacteria can cause of expression of many genes involved in apoptosis, inflammation, and antibody processing. Our work indicates that the MYD88 myeloid differentiation primary response gene 88 and dependent TLR2 Toll-like Receptor 2 signaling plays a crucial role in initiating host IRs following HPS infection. CEBPB Ccaat/enhancer binding protein beta is the core transcription factor in this signaling that connects to a wide range of cascades like inflammatory responses and acute phase reactions. Gene networks for respiratory disease, genetic disorder, arthritis, etc., have been identified too. Canonical pathway analysis indicates that HPS employs several strategies for immune evasion, including inhibiting leukocyte migrations, phagocytosis, and communications between immune cells in innate IR and activation of T/B lymphocytes in adaptive IR.

Impacts in China

By combining modern molecular theory and traditional methods, pig breeding progress can be accelerated and selection costs can be decreased. In the future, molecular biology techniques can help breeders decide which piglet can be used as breeding stock at birth by genotype. Through collaboration with breeding companies, we are trying to use our research results in breeding programs, and our research has contributed to the progress of porcine molecular biology and its application in breeding practice. The long-term goal of our research is to improve production efficiency. I am also recognized internationally in my area. I was invited as a Co-Chair of the world's largest plant and animal genome (PAG) conference organizing committee (2009-2011), PAG-Aisa(2015--), and I am a standing committee member of functional genomics in the International Society of Animal Genetics. I'm an editor and reviewer for a number of international and national scientific journals. I was invited to attend the brainstorming session with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Global Good on leveraging ‘omics technologies to benefit global health and agriculture’ (2014).


  • National Youth Scientific Award, 2011 Outstanding team leader of Agricultural Research, MOA, 2015-
  • National Outstanding Young Woman Scientist, 2011
  • Award of the National Outstanding Youth Science Foundation, 2010
  • Award as Provincial Excellent Woman Teacher Prize by Government of Hubei Province (2009)
  • Award as Hundreds, thousands talented people of China of Chinese Ministry of Human resource (2006)
  • Award as Provincial Significant Contribution Young Expert by Government of Hubei Province (2009)
  • Award as New Century Excellent Talent by Education Ministry of
  • China (2005)
  • 2nd class award of Hubei Provincial Nature Science Prize (2006) 2nd class award Nature Science Prize Education Ministry of China (2007)
  • 3rd class award of Scientific foundation of Liang Shengqiao of Hubei province (2008)
  • Excellent teacher award of National Challenge Cup on supervising undergraduate students conducting scientific research (2007)