Shang CAI, Ph.D.

Somatic Stem Cell and Cancer Stem Cell Lab




shang cai
shang cai

Shang CAI, Ph.D.

Somatic Stem Cell and Cancer Stem Cell Lab




"As far as science is concerned, it's easier to see, to a limited extent, the parts than the whole. I am confident that the prestigious Westlake shall foster dedication, humbleness and diligence in me, who shall strive to see an ever bigger picture in the pursuit to better understand life and disease."


Dr. Shang Cai  is currently the assistant professor in Westlake Institute of Advanced Studies.  He received his bachelor degree of biological science in Peking University in  2003. He then went abroad to the Biochemistry Department of Indiana University  for his PhD studies, working on the molecular mechanism of spindle assembly and  chromosome alignment. After getting his PhD degree in 2009, he pursued his  postdoc research in the Institute of Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine,  Stanford University, working on the mechanism of self-renewal and fate  specification of mammary stem cell and breastcancer stem cell. He was promoted  to research associate in 2015.


Dr. Shang  Cai’s research focused on the role of mammary stem cell in the morphological and  functional integrity of the mammary gland during puberty, pregnancy and  lactation, as well as the role of breast cancer stem cells in cancer initiation,  evolution, drug resistance, relapse and metastasis.  Through single cell gene  expression analysis, he has successfully isolated a subset of mammary stem cells  in quiescence, which can long-term self-renewal and regenerate mammary gland. He  further identified a key transcription factor Bcl11b, which determines the  quiescent state, and elucidated the molecular mechanism.  In addition, his  research revealed that a subset of stromal cells, positive for Gli2 expression,  is responsible for the niche specification and mammary stem cell maintenance.  Abnormalities in the Gli2 positive niche can cause mammary phenotypes associated  with human disease of combined pituitary hormone deficiency (CPHD). This study  provides insights in the treatment of the mammary underdevelopment for the CPHD  patients.

Recent years,  stem cell researches have gained much attention due to its potential for  cellular therapy, organ repair and regeneration, but also are facing many  bottlenecks for clinical applications. Our lab’s research interests focus on  regenerative ability of stem cells, lineage specification and abnormalities of  stem cells in various diseases. In the next five years, we are particularly  interested in the following directions:

1. Lineage  hierarchy of mammary cells and their dynamic changes during various  developmental stages

2.  The  aberrant behaviors of stem cells in aging, hyperplasia and other  diseases

3.  The  mechanism of drug resistance and metastasis of cancer stemcells.

Representative  Publications

*These authors contribute equally

1. Chen Zhao*, Shang  Cai*, Kunyoo Shin, Agnes Lim,  Tomer Kalisky, Michael F. Clarke, Philip A. Beachy Stromal gli2 activity  coordinates a niche signaling program for mammary epithelial stem  cells. Science (2017) *cofirst author

2. Shang  Cai, Tomer Kalisky, Debashis  Sahoo, Piero Dalerba, Shaheen S. Sikandar, Neethan A. Lobo, Maider Zabala,  Weiguo Feng, Yuan Lin, Angela Kong, Jeffrey Yu, Flora Wang, Elizabeth Y. Chen,  Ferenc A. Scheeren, Angera H. Kuo,   Shigeo Hisamori, Linda Jacqueline van  Weele, Diane Heiser, Sopheak Sim, Jessica Lam, Dalong Qian, Stephen Quake and  Michael F. Clarke   A quiescent Bcl11b high stem cell population is required for  maintenance of the mammary gland. (Volume 20, Issue 2,  p247–260.e5, Cell Stem Cell (2016)

3. Scheeren FA, Kuo AH, van Weele LJ, Cai  S, Glykofridis I, Sikandar SS,  Zabala M, Qian D, Lam JS, Johnston D, Volkmer JP, Sahoo D, van de Rijn M, Dirbas  FM, Somlo G, Kalisky T, Rothenberg ME, Quake SR, Clarke MF A cell-intrinsic role  for TLR2-MYD88 in intestinal and breast epithelia and  oncogenesis. Nat. Cell Biol. (2014) 16,  1238-48

4. Isobe T, Hisamori S, Hogan DJ, Zabala M, Hendrickson  DG, Dalerba P, Cai  S, Scheeren F, Kuo AH, Sikandar  SS, Lam JS, Qian D, Dirbas FM, Somlo G, Lao K, Brown PO, Clarke MF, Shimono Y  miR-142 regulates the tumorigenicity of human breast cancer stem cells through  the canonical WNT signaling pathway. Elife (2014)  3

5. Feng W, Gentles A, Nair RV, Huang M, Lin Y, Lee  CY, Cai  S, Scheeren  FA, Kuo AH, Diehn M Targeting unique metabolic properties of breast tumor  initiating cells. Stem Cells (2014)

6. Stephanie C. Ems-McClung, Sarah G. Hainline, Jenna  Devare, Hailing Zong, Shang  Cai, Stephanie K. Lamb, Sid L.  Shaw, Claire E. Walczak. Aurora B inhibits MCAK activity through a  phospho-conformational switch that regulates MT association. Curr.  Biol. (2013) 23, 2491-9

7. Cai  S, Weaver LN, Ems-McClung SC,  Walczak CE. Proper Organization of microtubule minus ends is needed for the  midzone stability and cytokinesis. Curr Biol. 2010 May  11;20(9):880-5. 

8. Cai,  S.,  O’Connell, C. B., Khodjakov, A. and Walczak, C.E. Chromosome congression in the  absence of kinetochore fibres. Nat.  Cell Biol 2009 Jul;  11(7):832-8.

9. Walczak CE, Cai  S, Khodjakov A. Mechanisms of  chromosome behaviour during mitosis. Nat Rev Mol Cell  Biol. 2010 Feb;11(2):91-102.   

10. Cai.  S., Weaver,  L.N., Ems-McClung, S.C. and Walczak, C.E.   Kinesin-14 family proteins  HSET/XCTK2 control spindle length by cross-linking and sliding  microtubules.  Mol. Biol. Cell.  2009  Mar;20(5):1348-59. PMID: 19116309.

11. Cai  S, Walczak CE. The road less  travelled to the spindle equator. Cell Cycle. 2009  Dec;8(23):3791-3.  

12. Cai,  S., and Walczak, C.E. (2008)  Kinetochore attachment:  how the Hec can a cell do it? Curr.  Biol. 18(23):1093-1096. 

13. Ma, Y., Cai,  S., Lv, Q., Lv, X., Jiang, Q.,  Zhou, J. and Zhang, C.  Inhibition of protein deacetylation by trichostatin A  impairs microtubule-kinetochore attachment.  Cell Mol. Life  Sci. 2008; 65(19): 3100-3109.

14. Ma, Y., Cai,  S., Lv, Q., Jiang, Q., Zhang, Q,  Sodmergen, Zhai, Z. and Zhang, C.   Lamin B receptor plays a role in stimulating  nuclear envelope production and targeting membrane vesicles to chromatin during  nuclear envelope assembly through direct interaction with importin  beta.  J. Cell Sci. 2007;  120(3):520-530.

15. Chen, Z., Cai,  S., Jiang,  Q., Zhang, C. & Tang, X. Roles for microtubule and microfilament  cytoskeletons in animal cell cytokinesis. Chinese Science  Bulletin, 2005; 50(3):229-235.

Contact Information

Our lab is  currently recruiting multiple levels of researchers from all over the world. If  you are interested, send your CV to: