Dr Lei Zhang

Group Leader - Energy Expenditure Group

Senior Research Officer

Conjoint/Adjunct Role(s)

Conjoint lecturer, St Vincent's Clinical School, Faculty of Medicine, UNSW Sydney

I obtained my BSc degree in Wuhan University, China, with a major in Virology. In 2001, I came to Australia to pursue a PhD degree in the Biochemistry department, University of Tasmania. During my PhD, I investigated the hemodynamic actions of insulin on microvasculature in relation to insulin’s metabolic effects on glucose homeostasis.

After the completion of my PhD in 2005, with an interest in diabetes and obesity research, I came to Prof Caroline McMillen’s lab at the University of Adelaide working on projects investigating how intrauterine restriction leads to increased risks in developing adulthood cardiovascular disease, obesity and insulin resistance. It was through this experience I developed a strong interest in central regulation of adiposity associated with insulin resistance.

This interest led to my appointment in Prof Herbert Herzog’s laboratory at the Neuroscience Research Program, Garvan Institute of Medical Research in 2006, where I started to investigate how neuropeptide Y family peptides regulate energy balance and glucose homeostasis. With obtaining my NHMRC project grant in 2012, I established my research group with particularly interests in finding out how neuropeptides regulate appetite, energy metabolism, physical activity, body composition and glucose homeostasis, and whether neuropeptide receptor(s)-targeted strategy would confer benefits for obesity treatment.

In addition, by using an activity-based anorexia mouse model established in my group, we are interested in finding out the central mechanisms underlying the paradoxical hyperactivity often observed in anorexia nervosa patients. The neuropeptides we are focusing on currently include neuropeptide Y family peptides and RFamide family peptides.

Research Interests

Energy metabolism and appetite
Body weight and body composition
Physical activity
Glucose homeostasis
Neuroendocrine and neuronal pathways
Anorexia nervosa


2005 - PhD, Department of Biochemistry, School of Medicine, University of Tasmania - Australia
2000 - BSc, School of Life Science, Wuhan University - China

Selected Publications

Shi YC, Lau J, Lin A, Zhang H, Zhai L, Sperk G, Heilbronn R, Mietzsch M, Weger S, Huang XF, Enriquez RF, Castillo L, Baldock PA, Zhang L, Sainsbury A, Herzog H, Lin S. Arcuate NPY controls sympathetic output and BAT function via a relay of tyrosine hydroxylase neurons in the PVN. Cell Metabolism, 2013; 17(2):236-48.

Macia L, Bijker MS, Pangon L, Yulyaningsih E, Nguyen A, Lin S, Shi Y, Zhang L, Mackay F, Sainsbury, A.* & Herzog, H.* Y1 receptor signaling in immune cells is a master regulator of cytokines contributing to diet-induced obesity and insulin resistance. Diabetes, 2012; 61(12):3228-38.

Shi YC, Hämmerle C, Lee ICJ, Turner N, Nguyen AD, Riepler SJ, Lin S, Sainsbury A, Herzog H, Zhang L. Adult-onset PYY overexpression in mice reduces food intake and increases lipogenic capacity. Neuropeptides, 2012; 46(4):173-82.

Zhang L, Nguyen AD, Lee ICJ, Yulyaningsih E, Riepler SJ, Stehrer B, Enriquez RF, Lin S, Shi YC, Baldock PA, Sainsbury A, Herzog H. NPY modulates PYY function in the regulation of energy balance and glucose homeostasis. Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism, 2012; 14(8):727-36.

Zhang L. “Voluntary oral administration of drugs in mice” Protocol Exchange 2011; DOI: 10.1038/protex.2011.236

Zhang L, Riepler SJ, Turner N, Enriquez RF, I-Chieh Lee, Baldock PA, Herbert H and Sainsbury A. Y2 and Y4 receptor signalling synergistically act on energy expenditure and physical activity. American Journal of Physiology – regulatory, integral and comparative physiology 2010; 229 (6): R1618-28.

Cox HM, Tough IR, Woolston A, Zhang L, Nguyen AD, Sanisbury A, Herzog H. Peptide YY is critical for Acylethanolamine receptor Gpr119-induced activation of gastrointestinal mucosal responses. Cell Metabolism, 2010; 11(6): 532-42.

Zhang L, Lee NJ, Nguyen AD, Enriquez RF, Riepler SJ, Stehrer B, Yulyaningsih E, Lin S, Shi YC, Baldock PA, Herzog H and Sainsbury A. Additive actions of the cannabinoid and neuropeptide Y systems on adiposity and lipid oxidation. Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism, 2010; 12: 591-603.

Zhang L. Macia L, Turner N, Enriquez RF, Riepler SJ, Nguyen AD, Lin S, Lee NJ, Shi YC, Yulyaningsih E, Slack K, Baldock PA, Herzog H and Sainsbury A. Peripheral neuropeptide Y Y1-receptors regulate oxidation and fat accretion. International Journal of Obesity (Lond), 2010; 34(2):357-73.


Zhang L, Yagi M, Herzog H. The role of NPY and ghrelin in anorexia nervosa. Current Pharmaceutical Design, 2012; 18(31):4766-78.

Sainsbury A, Zhang L. Role of the hypothalamus in the neuroendocrine regulation of body weight and composition during energy deficit. Obesity Review 2011; Nov 10. [Epub ahead of print]

Zhang L, Martijn S. Bijker and Herzog H. The Neuropeptide Y System: Pathophysiological and Therapeutic Implications in Obesity and Cancer. Pharmacology & Therapeutics 2011;, Mar 23. [Epub ahead of print].

Sainsbury A and Zhang L. Role of the arcuate nucleus of the hypothalamus in the regulation of body weight during energy deficit. Molecular and Cellular Endocrinology 2010; Mar 25; 316(2):109-19. 

Dr Lei Zhang