Dr. Shuying Sun is an assistant professor in Department of Pathology and Brain Science Institute at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Her research focuses on deciphering disease mechanisms and developing RNA-targeting therapeutic strategies for neurodegenerative diseases amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and frontotemporal degeneration (FTD).

Dr. Sun received her PhD training on the basic mechanisms of RNA processing, especially the regulation of alternative splicing. She then expanded her research repertoire to disease mechanism, therapy development, and mouse genetics during the postdoctoral training. Dr. Sun’s lab is interested in applying RNA Biology knowledge and technologies to decipher molecular mechanism of pathogenesis, identify novel biomarkers and promising drug targets for therapy development by combining innovative techniques and interdisciplinary approaches. more


  • Associate Professor of Physiology
  • Associate Professor of Neuroscience
  • Associate Professor of Pathology

Departments / Divisions

Centers & Institutes



  • B.S.; Shandong University (China) (2003)
  • Ph.D.; Stony Brook University (New York) (2010)

Additional Training

Postdoc fellow, University of California at San Diego (San Diego) (2016)

Research & Publications

Research Summary

The nervous system has extremely complex RNA processing regulation. Dysfunction of RNA metabolism has emerged to play crucial roles in multiple neurological diseases. Mutations and pathologies of several RNA-binding proteins, such as TDP-43, FUS/TLS, hnRNP A1 and A2B1, are found to be associated with neurodegeneration in ALS and FTD. An alternative RNA-mediated toxicity arises from micro-satellite repeat instability in the human genome. For example, hexanucleotide repeat expansion in C9orf72 is the most prevalent genetic cause of both ALS and FTD. The expanded repeat-containing RNAs could potentially induce neuron toxicity by disrupting protein and RNA homeostasis through various mechanisms.

The Sun lab is interested in deciphering the RNA processing pathways altered by the ALS-causative mutants to uncover the mechanisms of toxicity and molecular basis of cell type-selective vulnerability. Another major focus of the group is to identify small molecule and genetic inhibitors of neuron toxic factors using various high-throughput screening platforms. Her lab is also highly interested in developing novel CRISPR technique-based therapeutic strategies. The Sun lab seeks to translate the mechanistic findings at molecular level to therapeutic target development to advance treatment options against neurodegenerative diseases.


Lab Website: The Sun Laboratory

Selected Publications

View all on PubMed

Sun S, Sun Y, Ling SC, Ferraiuolo L, McAlonis-Downes M, Zou Y, Drenner K, Wang Y, Ditsworth D, Tokunaga S, Kopelevich A, Kaspar BK, Lagier-Tourenne C, and Cleveland DW. (2015) Translational profiling identifies a cascade of damage initiated in motor neurons and spreading to glia in mutant SOD1-mediated ALS. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 112(50): E6993-7002

Sun S, Ling SC, Qiu J, Albuquerque CP, Zhou Y, Tokunaga S, Li H, Qiu H, Bui A, Yeo GW, Huang EJ, Eggan K, Zhou H, Fu XD, Lagier-Tourenne C, Cleveland DW. (2015) ALS-causative mutations in FUS/TLS confer gain and loss of function by altered association with SMN and U1-snRNP. Nature Communications 6: 6171

Cheng W, Wang S, Mestre AA, Fu C, Makarem A, Xian F, Hayes LR, Lopez-Gonzalez R, Drenner K, Jiang J, Cleveland DW, Sun S. (2018) C9ORF72 GGGGCC repeat-associated non-AUG translation is upregulated by stress through eIF2α phosphorylation. Nat Commun. 9(1): 51.

Cheng W, Wang S, Zhang Z, Morgens DW, Hayes LR, Lee S, Portz B, Xie Y, Nguyen BV, Haney MS, Yan S, Dong D, Coyne A, Yang J, Xian F, Cleveland DW, Qiu Z, Rothstein JD, Shorter J, Gao F-B, Bassik MC, Sun S. (2019) CRISPR-Cas9 screens identify the RNA helicase DDX3X as a repressor of C9ORF72 (GGGGCC)n repeat-associated non-AUG translation. Neuron 104:1-14.

Zaepfel BL, Zhang Z, Maulding K, Coyne AN, Cheng W, *Lloyd TE, *Sun S, *Rothstein JD. (2021) UPF1 reduces C9orf72 HRE-induced neurotoxicity in the absence of nonsense mediated decay dysfunction. Cell Reports 34(13):108925. *co-corresponding authors

Contact for Research Inquiries

720 Rutland Ave. Ross 572A
Baltimore, MD 21205 map

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Activities & Honors


  • Milton Safenowitz Post Doctoral Fellowship, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Association, 2011
  • Target ALS Springboard Fellowship, Target ALS, 2014
  • K99/R00 Pathway to Independence Award, NIH/NINDS, 2015
  • Synergy Award, The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, 2017
  • Catalyst Award, Johns Hopkins University, 2020

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