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Min Du Research

Min Du – Research

Animal Sciences
PO Box 646310
Pullman, WA 99164-6310

Phone: 509-335-2744
Fax: 509-335-1082


Developmental origins of adult diseases (fetal programming); Epigenetic regulation of stem cell differentiation; myogenesis and adipogenesis


Our research is focused on exploring mechanisms regulating fetal development, focusing on epigenetic regulation of skeletal muscle and adipose tissue development. Specifically, we are interested in exploring epigenetic mechanisms regulating the differentiation of mesenchymal stem cells into myocytes and adipocytes, and the impact of maternal nutrition and other physiological conditions on the development of fetal skeletal muscle and adipose tissue.

For human health, obesity, including maternal obesity, is increasing at an alarming rate. Skeletal muscle is the major tissue responsible for glucose and fatty acid utilization, and excessive adipose tissue is responsible for obesity. Both skeletal muscle and adipose tissue are primarily developed during the fetal stage. Abnormal muscle and adipose development of the fetuses or neonates due to maternal obesity pre-disposes offspring to adult diseases such as obesity and type II diabetes. Interestingly, muscle cells, adipocytes and fibroblasts share common progenitor cells (Figure 1). Up to now, our understanding of the mechanisms governing progenitor cell commitments into specific lineages remains very limited. Our research focus is to define molecular and cellular mechanisms regulating progenitor cell commitment (Figure 2). Currently, we are exploring the impact of maternal nutrition on the expression of key transcription factors initiating early adipogenic and myogenic commitment of progenitor cells.

Du_MultipotentCell Figure 1. Differentiation of multipotent cells during early fetal development into myogenic and adipogenic cells (Du et al., J Anim Sci 2013, 91: 1419).


For animal agriculture, maternal nutrition especially under-nutrition impacts fetal muscle development and the subsequent animal performance and meat quality. Maternal nutrient deficiency permanently reduces offspring muscle mass but increases fatness. Low lean/fat ratio is associated with huge waste in animal production. On the other hand, intramuscular fat (marbling) is critically important for the palatability of meat. Because both adipocytes and muscle cells are developed from a common pool of progenitor cells, effective manipulation of progenitor cell differentiation can profoundly affect animal production efficiency and meat quality.

Du_Mechanisms Figure 2. The focus of our research is to define molecular and cellular mechanisms governing the commitment and differentiation of multipotent stem cells into differentiated myogenic and adipogenic cells..


Our objective is to define mechanisms, especially environmental factors such as nutrition, which regulate the differentiation of mesenchymal progenitor cells into myocytes and adipocytes during fetal development. These studies have applications to both human medicine and animal agriculture.

We use in vitro cell culture, transgenic mice and livestock as experimental models. A wide range of laboratory techniques are used in our studies, including chemical analyses, enzyme activity assays, immunoblotting, ELISA, immunohistochemical staining, 2-dimensional gel electrophoresis and proteomic analyses, real-time PCR, DNA manipulation, RNA interference and epigenetic analyses.

For complete publication list, please visit ResearchGate:

We are always seeking ambitious and hardworking candidates to join our lab and work together.