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Rob Onyenwoke, Ph.D.

Rob Onyenwoke, Ph.D.
Rob Onyenwoke, Ph.D., Assistant Research Professor
  • Earned B.S. in Biology and Ph.D. in Microbiology at the University of Georgia
  • Spent two years as a visiting assistant professor at Kenyon College (Gambier, OH) in the Dept. of Biology
  • Worked as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill in the Neuroscience Center, Lineberger Cancer Center, and Dept. of Cell Biology and Physiology
  • Contact: ronyenwo@nccu.edu or 919-530-6936

Research Interests

Mechanisms of Metabolic Diseases

My research and projects are broadly related to better understanding the signaling pathways involved in metabolic diseases using high throughput, biochemical, and imaging assays with the goal of identifying novel therapeutic targets and molecules.

Ion Channel Biology: Mutation of the lysosomal Ca2+ efflux channel TRPML1 [transient receptor potential mucolipin 1 (MCOLN1; UniProtKB–Q9GZU1)], also known as MCOLN1, results in a very specific lysosomal storage disease (LSD) known as mucolipidosis type 4 (ML4). We are performing drug discovery efforts aimed at better understanding the role of the PTEN/PI3K/Akt/mTOR pathway in disease (ML4) progression.

Translational Cell and Developmental Biology: AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) is a key energy sensor that regulates metabolism to maintain cellular energy balance. AMPK activation has also been proposed to mimic benefits of caloric restriction and exercise. Our results are consistent with models that AMPK shifts energy usage away from expenditures into a conservation mode during nutrient-limited conditions at a cellular level. Our findings may provide significant insight for pharmaceutical strategies to manipulate AMPK function in disease paradigms as diverse as diabetes, cancer, and Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease.


  • Onyenwoke, R.U. & Brenman, J.E. Lysosomal storage diseases – Regulating neurodegeneration. Journal of Experimental Neuroscience (Accepted)
  • Onyenwoke, R.U., Sexton, J.Z., Yan, F., Díaz, M.C.H., Forsberg, L.J., Major, M.B. & Brenman, J.E. (2015) The Mucolipidosis IV Ca2+ channel TRPML1 (MCOLN1) is regulated by the TOR kinase. Biochemical Journal, 470, 331-342 PMCID: PMC4613499
  • Onyenwoke, R.U., Forsberg, L.J., Liu, L., Williams, T., Alzate, O. & Brenman, J.E. (2012) AMPK directly inhibits NDPK through a phospho-serine switch to maintain cellular homeostasis. Molecular Biology of the Cell, 23, 381-389 PMCID: PMC3258181
  • Swick, L.L., Kazgan, N., Onyenwoke, R.U. & Brenman, J.E. (2013) Isolation of AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) alleles required for neuronal maintenance in Drosophila melanogaster. Biology Open, 2, 1321-1323 PMCID:PMC3863416
  • Johnson, E.C., Kazgan, N., Bretz, C.A., Forsberg, L.J., Hector, C.E., Worthen, R.J., Onyenwoke, R. & Brenman, J.E. (2010) Altered metabolism and persistent starvation behaviors caused by reduced AMPK function in Drosophila. PLoS One published Sept. 20 PMCID:PMC2942814
  • Onyenwoke, R.U., Geyer, R. & Wiegel. J. (2009) Characterization of a soluble oxidoreductase from the thermophilic bacterium Carboxydothermus ferrireducens. Extremophiles 13, 687-693 PMID:19536454
  • Onyenwoke, R.U. & Wiegel. J. (2007) Iron (III) reduction: a novel activity of the human NAD(P)H:oxidoreductase. Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications 353, 389-393 PMID:17178108
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