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Peter Espenshade, Ph.D.

Peter J. Espenshade, Ph.D.

Photo of Dr. Peter Espenshade, Ph.D.
  • Associate Dean for Graduate Biomedical Education
  • Professor of Cell Biology

Research Interests

Sterol synthesis; Sterol regulatory element binding protein (SREBP); Regulation of sterol homeostasis; Dissolved gases; Insoluble lipids; Cholesterol; Eukaryotic cells; Oxygen sensing; Hypoxia; Homeostasis; Cell function; Mechanisms of molecular sensing more


Dr. Peter J. Espenshade is a professor of cell biology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. He also serves as director of the Center for Innovation in Graduate Biomedical Education.

The Espenshade Lab studies the mechanisms of molecular sensing, including the regulation of cellular cholesterol homeostasis and the cellular response to hypoxia.

Dr. Espenshade currently serves as the principal investigator (PI) of both an American Heart Association-funded study of prolyl hydroxylase Ofd1 and a National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease-funded study of the mechanisms of host adaptation for candida albicans. He also served as PI of two externally funded studies that concluded in 2014. One examined the regulation of cellular cholesterol homeostasis; the other looked at the SREBP pathway as a target for pancreatic cancer therapy.

Dr. Espenshade earned an A.B. in molecular biology from Princeton University. He earned his Ph.D. in cell biology/genetics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology before completing postdoctoral training in molecular cell biology at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. Dr. Espenshade joined the Johns Hopkins faculty as an Assistant Professor in 2003.

Dr. Espenshade has published more than 40 journal articles and contributed chapters to four books, including The Encyclopedia of Biological Chemistry and The Johns Hopkins Textbook of Dyslipidemia. He has received many professional honors, including the 2012 Avanti Young Investigator Award in Lipid Research by the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. more


  • Associate Dean for Graduate Biomedical Education
  • Director, Center for Innovation in Graduate Biomedical Education
  • Professor of Cell Biology
  • Professor of Oncology

Departments / Divisions

Centers & Institutes



  • Ph.D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Massachusetts) (1998)
  • B.A., Princeton University (New Jersey) (1990)

Additional Training

UT Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, TX, 2002, Molecular Cell Biology

Research & Publications

Research Summary

The Espenshade Lab uses a multidisciplinary, multi-organismal approach to understand how eukaryotic cells measure insoluble lipids and dissolved gases.

Researchers use cholesterol and oxygen as model molecules – based on their essential roles in cell function and the importance of their proper homeostasis for human health – to examine the mechanisms of molecular sensing.

One type of sensing is the regulation of cellular cholesterol homeostasis. The membrane-bound transcription factor sterol regulatory element binding protein (SREBP) upregulates enzymes required for cholesterol biosynthesis in response to cellular cholesterol depletion.

Using mammalian tissue culture and fission yeast models, Dr. Espenshade and his team are investigating how cells measure the cholesterol concentration in membranes.

Another type of molecular sensing is the cellular response to hypoxia. To understand how cells sense oxygen, the Espenshade Lab is investigating the adaptive programs initiated by eukaryotes in response to hypoxia.

The team has discovered that fission yeast monitor oxygen-dependent sterol synthesis as a measure of environmental oxygen supply.

Lab Website: Espenshade Lab

Selected Publications

View all on Pubmed

Shao W, Espenshade PJ. "Sterol regulatory element-binding protein (SREBP) cleavage regulates Golgi-to-endoplasmic reticulum recycling of SREBP cleavage-activating protein (SCAP)." J Biol Chem. 2014 Mar 14;289(11):7547-57. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M113.545699. Epub 2014 Jan 29.

Brookheart RT, Lee CY, Espenshade PJ. "Casein kinase 1 regulates sterol regulatory element-binding protein (SREBP) to control sterol homeostasis." J Biol Chem. 2014 Jan 31;289(5):2725-35. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M113.511899. Epub 2013 Dec 10.

Lloyd SJ, Raychaudhuri S, Espenshade PJ. "Subunit architecture of the Golgi Dsc E3 ligase required for sterol regulatory element-binding protein (SREBP) cleavage in fission yeast." J Biol Chem. 2013 Jul 19;288(29):21043-54. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M113.468215. Epub 2013 Jun 12.

Cheung R, Espenshade PJ. "Structural requirements for sterol regulatory element-binding protein (SREBP) cleavage in fission yeast." J Biol Chem. 2013 Jul 12;288(28):20351-60. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M113.482224. Epub 2013 May 31.

Shao W, Espenshade PJ. "Expanding roles for SREBP in metabolism." Cell Metab. 2012 Oct 3;16(4):414-9. doi: 10.1016/j.cmet.2012.09.002. Epub 2012 Sep 20. Review.

Academic Affiliations & Courses

Graduate Program Affiliation

Biochemistry, Cellular and Molecular Biology Graduate Program

Cellular and Molecular Medicine Graduate Program

Activities & Honors


  • Established Investigator Award, American Heart Association, 2008
  • Avanti Young Investigator Award in Lipid Research, American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, 2012
  • Session Chair, American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, 2012
  • Investigator in Pathogenesis of Infectious Disease, Burroughs Wellcome Fund, 2006
  • Career Award in the Biomedical Sciences, Burroughs Wellcome Fund, 2001
  • Dean’s Discretionary Fund Award, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, 2006
  • National Research Service Award, National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, 1998
  • Predoctoral fellowship, National Science Foundation, 1992
  • Phi Beta Kappa Honor Society, Princeton University, 1990


  • INMP Study Section, NIH, 2008 - 2009
  • Integrative Nutrition and Metabolic Processes (INMP), National Institutes of Health (NIH),, 2009 - 2012
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