Yan Zhou, M.D., Ph.D.Research Associate Professor
Laboratory of the Biology of Addictive Diseases
Recently, Dr. Zhou’s research in the Kreek laboratory focuses on the role of the neuropeptide arginine vasopressin (AVP) and its central receptors, especially V1b subtype, in drug addiction. In collaboration with the Francesco Leri lab at the University of Guelph, he and his colleagues have found that amygdalar AVP gene expression levels were increased in acute heroin withdrawal, and highly selective non-peptide V1b receptor antagonists dose-dependently blocked stress-induced reinstatement of heroin-seeking behavior. Using genetically selected Sardinian alcohol-preferring rats, his lab and the Giancarlo Colombo lab at the Institute of Neuroscience of the National Research Council of Italy found that pharmacological blockade of V1b receptor attenuated alcohol drinking in a rat model of human alcoholism.
Although earlier studies have shown that AVP in the parvocellular division of paraventricular nucleus (pPVN) did not contribute to the acute stimulatory effects of cocaine on hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) activity during protracted cocaine withdrawal, Dr. Zhou and his colleagues found persistent elevations of both peripheral plasma ACTH levels and AVP mRNA levels in the pPVN of rats during protracted cocaine withdrawal, and V1b antagonists attenuated cocaine withdrawal-induced HPA activation. Utilizing AVP-EGFP transgenic mice, Dr. Zhou and collaborators in Donald Pfaff’s lab found that cocaine withdrawal increased the number of pPVN AVP-EGFP neurons, suggesting that enhanced pPVN AVP gene expression is associated with persistent elevations of basal HPA activity. Together, these studies also indicate that the AVP/V1b system may be a potential novel therapeutic target for treating drug addiction.
He received both M.D. and Ph.D. degrees from Beijing Medical University, and met Mary Jeanne Kreek when she was a visiting professor there. He joined Rockefeller in 1993 as the first recipient of the C.H. Li postdoctoral fellowship. He has been a principal investigator in the NIH-funded NIDA Center Grants (led by Dr. Kreek) for several years, and appointed to research assistant professor in 2002 and research associate professor in 2009.