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University of Colorado Denver College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

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Facutly & Staff Directory

Xiaojun Ren, Ph.D

Assistant Professor

Email: Xiaojun Ren
Office Location: SI 4135
Phone: (303) 556-5659
Fax: (303) 556-4776
Office hours:
T 4:00-5:00PM
W 3:30-4:30PM
R 4:00-5:00PM
Or by appt.

Area of Expertise:

Stem cell, Epigenetics, Chromatin organization, Polycomb group proteins, Single-molecule imaging, Single-cell single-molecule tracking



Research Associate, Howard Hughes Medical Institute/University of Michigan

Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Cambridge

Ph.D. in Macromolecular Chemistry and Physics, Jilin University

M.S. in Organic Chemistry, Jilin University

B.Eng. in Polymer Materials Science and Engineering, Jilin University

In the human body, different cell types perform distinct cellular functions, although they have the same genome. Epigenetic complexes specify cellular functions by organizing chromatin structure in the nucleus of cells. The broad goals in the laboratory aim to understand how the spatiotemporal dynamic interactions between the epigenetic complexes, chromatin and the nuclear environment contribute to the establishment and maintenance of lineage-specific transcriptional programs and the lineage-specific defects of mutations in epigenetic genes.


The current research projects in the laboratory are: 

  • (1) Molecular mechanisms of epigenetic inheritance mediated by Polycomb group proteins 
  • (2) Roles of the spatiotemporal dynamics of interactions between the Polycomb group proteins, chromatin and the nuclear environment in transcriptional regulation and cell-fate transition

The topics are inherently multidisciplinary and will be investigated using a diversity of intellectual and experimental approaches that include: stem cell, chromatin biochemistry, epigenetics, single-molecule imaging, single-cell single-molecule tracking, and cellular and molecular imaging (FRET, FLIM, FRAP and FCS).

The PhD thesis of Dr. Ren focused on creating and developing mimics of glutathione peroxidase, an antioxidant enzyme important for maintenance of homeostasis of active oxygen species of the human body.  Dr. Ren then travelled to the University of Cambridge and worked in the laboratory of Professor Shankar Balasubramanian where he developed single-molecule fluorescence microscopy to investigate the structure, function, and dynamics of telomerase, an important enzyme for maintenance of integrity of the chromosome tips. Inspired by the molecular science of life, Dr. Ren joined the laboratory of Professor Tom Kerppola, an investigator of Howard Hughes Medical Institute, where he devoted his efforts to investigate the molecular mechanisms that control cellular fate transition by Polycomb group proteins.  In September 2012, Dr. Ren joined the Department of Chemistry at the University of Colorado Denver as an assistant professor in biochemistry.

Select Publications

Colleen M. Bartmana, Jennifer Egelstona, Xiaojun Ren, Raibatak Dasa, Christopher J. Phiel (2015) A simple and efficient method for transfecting mouse embryonic stem Cells using polyethylenimine Experimental Cell Research 330(1):178-85.

Chao Yu Zhen, Huy Nguyen Duc, Marko Kokotovic, Christopher Phiel, Xiaojun Ren# (2014) Cbx2 stably associates with mitotic chromosomes via a PRC2 or PRC1-independent mechanism and is needed for recruiting PRC1 complex to mitotic chromosomes Molecular Biology of the Cell 25(23):3726-39.

Bo Cheng*, Xiaojun Ren*,Tom K Kerppola (2014) KAP1 represses differentiation-inducible genes in embryonic stem cells through cooperative binding with PRC1 and derepresses pluripotency-associated genes Molecular and Cellular Biology 34(11):2075-91. (*Contributed equally to this work, Most read article in May, 2014)

Before 2013

Xiaojun Ren, Tom K Kerppola (2011) REST interacts with Cbx proteins and has opposite effects on polycomb repressive complex 1 at proximal versus distal RE1 elements Molecular and Cellular Biology 31 (10): 2100-2110
(Spotlight in this issue)

Xiaojun Ren
, Claudius Vincenz, Tom K Kerppola (2008) Changes in the distributions and dynamics of polycomb repressive complexes during embryonic stem cell differentiation Molecular and Cellular Biology 28 (9): 2884-2895
(Most-Read Articles in May, 2008)

David Alves, Haitao Li, Rosalind Codrington, Angel Orte, Xiaojun Ren, David Klenerman, Shankar Balasubramanian
(2008) Single-molecule analysis of human telomerase monomer Nature Chemical Biology 4 (5): 287-289

Xiaojun Ren
, Haitao Li, Richard W. Clarke, David A. Alves, Liming Ying, David Klenerman, Shankar Balasubramanian (2006) Analysis of human telomerase activity and function by two-colour single molecule coincidence fluorescence spectroscopy  Journal of the American Chemical Society 128 (15): 4992-5000

Haitao Li *, Xiaojun Ren *, Liming Ying, Shankar Balasubramanian, David Klenerman (2004) Measuring single-molecule nucleic acid dynamics in solution by two-color filtered ratiometric fluorescence correlation spectroscopy

Xiaojun Ren*, Gérald Gavory*, Haitao Li*, Liming Ying, David Klenerman, Shankar Balasubramanian (2003) Identification of a new RNA: RNA interaction site for human telomerase RNA (hTR): structural implications for hTR accumulation and a dyskeratosis congenita point mutation Nucleic Acids Research 31 (22): 6509-6515
(Selected as Cover Story in the Issue; *Contributed equally to this work)

Zeyuan Dong, Junqiu Liu, Shizhong Mao, Xin Huang, Bing Yang, Xiaojun Ren, Guimin Luo, Jiacong Shen(2004)Aryl thiol substrate 3-carboxy-4-nitrobenzenethiol strongly stimulating thiol peroxidase activity of glutathione peroxidase mimic 2, 2'-ditellurobis (2-deoxy-beta-cyclodextrin) Journal of the American Chemical Society 126(50): 16395–1640 h

Xiaojun Ren, Per Jemth, Philip G. Board, Guimin Luo, Bengt Mannervik, Junqiu Liu, Kun Zhang, Jiacong Shen (2002) A semisynthetic glutathione peroxidase with high catalytic efficiency: Selenoglutathione transferase Chemistry & Biology 9 (7): 789-794

Xiaojun Ren, Yan Xue, Junqiu Liu, Kun Zhang, Jian Zheng, Guimin Luo, Canhui Guo, Ying Mu, Jiacong Shen (2002) A novel cyclodextrin-derived tellurium compound with glutathione peroxidase activity ChemBioChem 3 (4): 356-363

Xiaojun Ren, Shujuan Gao, Delin You, Hualiang Huang, Zi Liu, Ying Mu, Junqiu Liu, Yan Zhang, Ganglin Yan, Guimin Luo, Tongshu Yang, Jiacong Shen (2001) Cloning and expression of a single-chain catalytic antibody that acts as a glutathione peroxidase mimic with high catalytic efficiency Biochemical Journal 359: 369-374

Xiaojun Ren, Liquan Yang, Junqiu Liu, Dan Su, Delin You, Chuanpen Liu, Kun Zhang, Guimin Luo, Ying Mu, Ganglin Yan, Jiacong Shen (2001) A novel glutathione peroxidase mimic with antioxidant activity
Archives of Biochemistry and Biophysics
387 (2): 250-256

Xiaojun Ren, Junqiu Liu, Guimin Luo, Yan Zhang, Yuanming Luo, Ganglin Yan, Jiacong Shen (2000) A novel selenocystine-beta-cyclodextrin conjugate that acts as a glutathione peroxidase mimic Bioconjugate Chemistry 11 (5): 682-687





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