Xuguo “Joe” Zhou

Xuguo “Joe” Zhou

Xuguo “Joe” Zhou

Xuguo “Joe” Zhou


S-225 Ag Science Center N Lexington, KY 40546-0091

Last Revised: Oct 23rd, 2023

Professional Biography


Ph.D. University of Nebraska, Lincoln (2002)

Program Overview

My research interests center around investigating and characterizing genetic and physiological adaptations in insects, which enable them to be one of the most successful groups of organisms on Earth.  This fundamental interest has led me to pursue various research topics at several institutions. Multi-disciplinary experiences in ethology, toxicology, molecular biology, and genomics have inspired me to understand how insects have coped with various biotic and abiotc challenges during the course of millions of years of evolution. 

My research program at the University of Kentucky is a marriage between basic and applied research using an integrative genomics platform. Overall, my goal is to integrate molecular and “omics” toolsets with various branches and subdisciplines within biology to address outstanding questions with practical implications.  Specifically, the directions of my research program at the University of Kentucky include: 1) Behavioral- and socio- genomics in eusocial termites, 2) regulatory issues and technical challenges of RNAi-based biopesticides, and 3) insect-plant-pathogen multitrophic interactions.

Research Team

Current Lab Members
  1. Anugerah Fajar, Master student, Institute of International Education (IIE) Fulbright Scholar, 2021
  2. Quanquan Liu, PhD, Chinese Scholar Council (CSC) Fellow, 2020
  3. Austin Merchant, PhD, 2017
  4. Jing Yang, Visiting Scholar (Associate Professor, Shanxi Agricultural University, Taiyuan, China), 2019
  5. Qinghua Wang, Visiting Scholar (associated professor) from Ecology and Nature Conservation Institute, Chinese Academy of Forestry, Beijing, China

Lab Alumni

Graduate students
  1. Qian “Karen” Sun, PhD student, 2010-2015, now Assistant Professor, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
  2. Lee Tian, PhD student, 2010-2015, now Associate Professor, China Agricultural University, Beijing, China.
  3. Jeffrey E Noland, MS student, 2014-2016, now Principal R&D Scientist - Fermentation/Bioconversion, Technology Platform at The Kraft Heinz Company
  4. Tian Yu, MS student, 2011-2014, now PhD student in bioinformatics, Boston University, MA.
Laboratory technicians
  1. Jordan Hampton, 2015-2017, summer 2018 and 2019, now Biology Teacher, Bryan Station High School, Lexington, KY.
  2. Dongyan Song, 2011-2013, now PhD student in medicine, Renaissance School of Medicine at Stony Brook University, expected to graduate in 2021.
Postdoctoral researchers
  1. Qi Zhang, 2016-2018, now Associate Professor, Shengyang Agricultural University, Shengyang, China.
  2. Huipeng Pan, 2014-2016, now Associate Professor, South China Agricultural University, Guangzhuo, China.
  3. Hu Li, visiting student and later, a postdoctoral researcher, 2013-2015, now Professor, China Agricultural University, Beijing, China.
  4. Xiaowei Yang, visiting student and later, a postdoctoral researcher, 2014-2016, now Associate Professor, Institute of Plant Protection, Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, Beijing, China.
Visiting Students
  1. Hongran Li, 2019-2020, co-advised with John Obrycki, now Postdoctoral Researcher, Shenzhen Institute of Agricultural Genomes, Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences.
  2. Chunxiao Yang, 2014-2016, now Associate Professor, South China Agricultural University, Guangzhuo, China.
  3. Simone Haller, 2014, now graduated with a PhD degree from the Federal Department of Economic Affairs, Education and Research EAER, Zurich, Switzerland
  4. Xiangrui Li, 2011-2013, now Associate Professor, Institute of Plant Protection, Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, Beijing, China.
  5. Zhen Li, 2011-2012, now Associate Professor, China Agricultural University, Beijing, China.
  6. Sarah Heller, a Master student from the College of Design, 2010, now Kentucky-based artist and California-licensed architect.
Visiting Scholars
  1. Yi Yan, 2019-2020, now Associate Professor, Shandong Agricultural University, Taian, China. 
  2. Youjun Zhang, 2014-2015, 2018, 2019, now Professor and Director of Institute of Vegetables and Flowers, Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, Beijing, China.
  3. Yong Liu, 2014-2015, 2018, now Professor and Director of Institute of Plant Protection, Hunan Academy of Agricultural Sciences (HAAS), Hunan, China.
  4. Deyong Zhang, visiting scholar, 2015-2016, 2019, now Professor and Vice President of Hunan Academy of Agricultural Sciences, Hunan, China.
  5. Xiangying Liu, 2017-2018, now Professor, Hunan Agricultural University, Hunan, China.
  6. Haifeng Luo, 2016-2017, now Associate Professor, Hunan Agricultural University, Hunan, China.
  7. Hongjun Zhang, 2015-2016, now Director of Planning and Finance Division, Institute for the Control of Agrochemicals, Ministry of Agriculture, Beijing, China.
  8. Pei Liang, 2011-2012, now Professor, China Agricultural University, Beijing, China.
  9. Xiaoxia Liu, 2011-2012, now Professor, China Agricultural University, Beijing, China.
  10. Nismah Nukmal, 2010-2011, co-advised with Grayson Brown, now Zoology Laboratory Head, Department of Biology, Lampung University, Bandar Lampung, Indonesia.

Information for Prospective Students

I am looking for self-motivated individuals who are intrinsically interested in science to join our research group. Please note that the availability of lab positions is contingent upon funding, and I would like to work with the perspective students who share the similar research interests to develop grant proposals for the fellowship applications. If you are interested in learning more about the research in my lab, I encourage you to contact me at xuguozhou@uky.edu

Publications, Original and Peer-Reviewed 

Publication Summary

Peer-reviewed journal articles: 171 published, 5 accepted 
Invited book chapters: 7 
Book: 1, co-edited

Citation Summary


Selected Publications 

(The corresponding author is marked with an asterisk “*”)

1. Behavioral- and socio- genomics in eusocial termites

Sun, Q, JD Hampton, A Merchant, KF Haynes, X Zhou*. 2020. Cooperative policing behavior regulates reproductive division of labor in a termite. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. 287:1928. DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2020.0780.

Ji, YK, XG Li, T Ji*, JB Tang, LF Qiu, JH Hu, JX Dong, SQ Luo, SL Liu, PB Frandsen, X Zhou, SH Parey, LM Li, QS Niu*, and X Zhou*. 2020. Gene reuse facilitates rapid radiation and independent adaptation to diverse habitats in the Asian honeybee. Science Advances. Vol. 6, no. 51, eabd3590. DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abd3590

Liu, N, HJ Li, MG Chevrette, L Zhang, L Cai, HK Zhou, X Zhou, ZH Zhou, PB Pope, CR Currie, YP Huang*, Q Wang*. 2019. Functional metagenomics reveals abundant polysaccharide-degrading gene clusters and cellobiose utilization pathways within gut microbiota of a wood-feeding higher termite. ISME Journal. 13(1): 104-117. DOI: 10.1038/s41396-018-0255-1

Sun, Q, KF Haynes, X Zhou*. 2018. Managing the risks and rewards of death in eusocial insects. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B. 373(1754). DOI: 10.1098/rstb.2017.0258

Tian, L, EL Preisser, KF Haynes, XZhou*. 2017. Social buffering in a eusocial invertebrate: termite soldiers reduce the lethal impact of competitor cues on workers. Ecology. 98(4): 952-960. DOI: 10.1002/ecy.1746

Sun, Q, KF Haynes, X Zhou*. 2017. Dynamic changes in death cues modulate risks and rewards of corpse management in a social insect. Functional Ecology. 31(3): 697-706. DOI: 10.1111/1365-2435.12754

Tian, L, XZhou*. 2014. The soldiers in societies: defense, regulation, and evolution. International Journal of Biological Sciences. 10(3): 296-308. DOI: 10.7150/ijbs.6847

Sun, Q, X Zhou*. 2013. Corpse management in social insects. International Journal of Biological Science. 9(3): 313-321. DOI: 10.7150/ijbs.5781.

Zhou, X, MR Tarver, ME Scharf*. 2007. Hexamerin-based regulation of juvenile hormone-dependent gene expression underlies phenotypic plasticity in a social insect. Development. 134(3): 601-610. DOI: 10.1242/dev.02755. Reticulitermes flavipes. Gene. 395(1-2): 29-39. DOI: 10.1016/j.gene.2007.01.004.

Zhou, X, FM Oi, ME Scharf*. 2006. Social exploitation of hexamerin: RNAi reveals a major caste-regulatory factor in termites. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America: 103(12): 4499-4504. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0508866103.

2. Regulatory issues and technical challenges of RNAi-based biopesticides

Roberts*, A, CJ. Boeckman, M Mühl, J Romeis, J Teem, FH Valicente, JK Brown, MG Edwards, SL Levine, RL Melnick, TB Rodrigues, AM Vélez, X Zhou, RL Hellmich. 2020. Sublethal endpoints in non-target organism testing for insect-active GE crops. Frontiers in Bioengineering and Biotechnology. 8:556. DOI: 10.3389/fbioe.2020.00556

Pan, HP, XW Yang, J Romeis, BD Siegfried, X Zhou*. 2020. Dietary RNAi toxicity assay exhibits differential responses to ingested dsRNAs among lady beetles. Pest Management Sciences. 76 (11): 3606-3614. DOI: 10.1002/ps.5894

Pan, HP, XW Yang, K Bidne, RL Hellmich, BD Siegfried, X Zhou*. 2017. Dietary risk assessment of v-ATPase A dsRNAs on monarch butterfly larvae. Frontiers in Plant Science. 8: 242. DOI: 10.3389/fpls.2017.00242

Vélez*, AM, J Jurzenski, N Matz, X Zhou, HC Wang, M Ellis, BD Siegfried. 2016. Developing an in vivo toxicity assay for honey bees, Apis mellifera L. Chemosphere. 144: 1083-1090. DOI: 10.1016/j.chemosphere.2015.09.068

Pan, HP, LH Xu, JE Noland, H Li, BD Siegfried, X Zhou*. 2016. Assessment of potential risks of dietary RNAi to a soil micro-arthropod, Sinella curviseta Brook (Collembola: Entomobryidae). Frontiers in Plant Science. 7: 1028. DOI: 10.3389/fpls.2016.01028

Roberts*, AF, Y Devos, GNY Lemgo, X Zhou. 2015. Biosafety research for non-target organism risk assessment of RNAi-based GE plants. Frontiers in Plant Science. 6: 958. DOI: 10.3389/fpls.2015.00958

3. Insect-plant-pathogen multitrophic interactions

Guo*, ZJ, S Kang, D Sun, LJ Gong, JL Zhou, JY Qin, L Guo, LH Zhu, Y Bai, F Ye, QJ Wu, SL Wang, N Crickmore, X Zhou, YJ Zhang*. 2020. MAPK-dependent hormonal signaling plasticity contributes to overcoming Bacillus thuringiensis toxin action in an insect host. Nature Communication. 11:3003. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-020-16608-8

Yang*, X, S Deng, XG Wei, J Yang, QN Zhao, C Yin, TH Du, ZJ Guo, JX Xia, ZZ Yang, W Xie, SL Wang, QJ Wu, FS Yang, X Zhou, R Nauen, C Bass, and  YJ Zhang*. 2020. MAPK-directed activation of the whitefly transcription factor CREB leads to P450-mediated imidacloprid resistance. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 117 (19): 10246-10253. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1913603117

Wan, YR, XB Zheng, BY Xu, W Xie, SL Wang, YJ Zhang, X Zhou*, QJ Wu*. 2020. Insecticide resistance increases the vector competence: a case study in Frankliniella occidentalis. Journal of Pest Science. Published: 20 February. DOI:10.1007/s 10340-020-01207-9

Wan, YR, GD Yuan, BQ He, BY Xu, W Xie, SL Wang, YJ Zhang, QJ Wu*, X Zhou*. 2018. Foccα6, a truncated nAChR subunit, positively correlates with Spinosad resistance in the western flower thrips, Frankliniella occidentalis (Pergande). Insect Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. 99: 1-10. DOI: 10.1016/j.ibmb.2018.05.002

Xie, W, CH Chen, ZZ Yang, LT Guo, X Yang, D Wang, M Chen, JJ Huang, YN Wen, Y Zeng, YT Liu,JX Xia, LX Tian, HY Cui, QJ Wu, SL Wang, BY Xu, XC Li, XQ Tan, M Ghanim, BL Qiu, HP Pan, D Chu, H Delatte, MN Maruthi, F Ge, XP Zhou, XW Wang, FH Wan, YZ Du,  C Luo, FM Yan, EL Preisser, XG Jiao, BS Coates, JY Zhao, Q Gao, JQ Xia, Y Yin*, Y Liu*, JK Brown*, X Zhou*, YJ Zhang*. 2017. Genome sequencing of the sweetpotato whitefly Bemisia tabaci MED/Q. GigaScience. 6(5): 1-7. DOI: 10.1093/gigascience/gix018

Liu, BM, EL Preisser, D Chu, HP Pan, W Xie, SL Wang, QJ Wu, X Zhou*, YJ Zhang*. 2013. Multiple forms of vector manipulation by a plant-infecting virus: Bemisia tabaci and tomato yellow leaf curl virus. Journal of Virology. 87(9): 4929-4937. DOI: 10.1128/JVI.03571-12.

Course Taught

Undergraduate Student Courses

ABT 360: Principles of Genetics, ABT 395/399: Independent Study In Biotechnology, ABT 396: Research Experience in Biotechnology, ABT460: Introduction To Molecular Genetics, ABT495: Experimental Methods in Biotechnology, ABT 301: Writing & Presentations for the Life Sciences, and BIO199: Authentic Research Experience for STEMCats. 

Graduate Student Courses

ENT 770: Topics in insect molecular biology and genomics, ENT 770: Cultural Entomology, and ENT 635: Insect Physiology Laboratory (laboratory section).


Contact Information

S-225 Ag Science Center Lexington, KY 40546-0091

(859) 257-7450