Grace Y. Sun, PhD



Professor Emerita



BS Chemistry/Mathematics Seattle Pacific University Seattle, Wash.
PhD Biochemistry Oregon State University Corvallis, Ore.

Research Areas

Neurodegenerative diseases, signal transduction, phospholipases A2, oxidative stress, anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant botanical compounds.

Research Description

The central nervous system (CNS) is comprised of complex cellular networks consisting of neurons and glial cells. Intricate biochemical pathways are known to mediate communications among these cells. Neurons and glial cells are active in their response to numerous extracellular signals, including neurotransmitters and growth factors, which are transmitted through activation of cell specific receptors and signaling pathways. Abnormal functioning of these signaling pathways can impart on a number of neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease, alcoholism and stroke. An important goal for this laboratory is to investigate the signaling pathways mediated by different types of receptors, especially the metabotropic G-protein-coupled receptors (GPCR) and the ionotropic receptors, associated with generation of second messengers and mobilization of intracellular calcium. Current studies in this laboratory are focused on relating these pathways to activation of phospholipases A2 (PLA2), a group of enzymes important in mediating the release of arachidonic acid and biosynthesis of prostaglandins. Increases in pro-inflammatory cytokines and oxidative stress have been regarded important pathological landmarks of many neurodegenerative diseases. One of our goals is to understand how oxidative mechanisms lead to activation of PLA2 and cyclooxygenase (COX) in neuron and glial cells and the significance of these pathways on Alzheimer’s disease pathology and stroke. Cell and animal models will be used to investigate possible anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant effects of a variety of botanical compounds. Research in this laboratory also uses animal models to examine whether nutritional supplement of these compounds may elicit neuroprotective effects. Our studies will employ basic biochemical as well as modern molecular techniques to examine gene and protein expressions. We believe that our effort to better understand the molecular mechanisms underlying signal transduction pathways will contribute to new therapeutic strategies for combating neuronal damage due to stroke, alcoholism and Alzheimer’s disease.

Notable Honors and Service

  • Editorial Boards
    • Neurochemistry Research
    • Neurochemistry International (1995-98)
  • Organizing Committees
    • Oxidative Mechanisms for Neurodegenerative Disorders, 2004
    • International Symposium on Neurotransmission and Signal Transduction, 1989
    • International Symposium on Biomedical Research on Alcoholism, 1988
    • International Symposium on Neural Membrane, 1982
  • Awards
    • Honorary Alumna, MU School of Medicine, 2014
    • President’s Award for Sustained Excellence, University of Missouri System, 2012
    • Altrusa Award in Health, Columbia, Missouri Chapter, 2004
    • William H. Byler Distinguished Professor Award, University of Missouri, 2003
    • Seattle Pacific University distinguished alumni Medallion Award, 2001

Selected Publications

Yang B, Fritsche KL, Beversdorf DQ, Gu Z, Lee JC, Folk WR, Greenlief CM, Sun GY. (2019). Yin-Yang Mechanisms Regulating Lipid Peroxidation of Docosahexaenoic Acid and Arachidonic Acid in the Central Nervous System. Front Neurol. 10:642. doi: 10.3389/fneur.2019.00642. eCollection 2019. Review. [PubMed]

Yang B, Li R, Woo T, Browning JD Jr, Song H, Gu Z, Cui J, Lee JC, Fritsche KL, Beversdorf DQ, Sun GY, Greenlief CM. (2019). Maternal Dietary Docosahexaenoic Acid Alters Lipid Peroxidation Products and (n-3)/(n-6) Fatty Acid Balance in Offspring Mice. Metabolites. 9(3). doi: 10.3390/metabo9030040. [PubMed]

Sun GY, Li R, Yang B, Fritsche KL, Beversdorf DQ, Lubahn DB, Geng X, Lee JC, Greenlief CM. (2019). Quercetin Potentiates Docosahexaenoic Acid to Suppress Lipopolysaccharide-induced Oxidative/Inflammatory Responses, Alter Lipid Peroxidation Products, and Enhance the Adaptive Stress Pathways in BV-2 Microglial Cells. Int J Mol Sci. 20(4). doi: 10.3390/ijms20040932. [PubMed]

Teng T, Ridgley DM, Tsoy A, Sun GY, Askarova S, Lee JC. (2018). Azelnidipine Attenuates the Oxidative and NFκB Pathways in Amyloid-β-Stimulated Cerebral Endothelial Cells. ACS Chem Neurosci. 2018 Nov 8. doi: 10.1021/acschemneuro.8b00368. Epub ahead of print. [PubMed]

Teng T, Dong L, Ridgley DM, Ghura S, Tobin MK, Sun GY, LaDu MJ, Lee JC. (2018). Cytosolic Phospholipase A(2) Facilitates Oligomeric Amyloid-β Peptide Association with Microglia via Regulation of Membrane-Cytoskeleton Connectivity. Mol Neurobiol. 2018 Aug 15. doi: 10.1007/s12035-018-1304-5. Epub ahead of print. [PubMed]

Yang B, Li R, Greenlief CM, Fritsche KL, Gu Z, Cui J, Lee JC, Beversdorf DQ, Sun GY. (2018). Unveiling anti-oxidative and anti-inflammatory effects of docosahexaenoic acid and its lipid peroxidation product on lipopolysaccharide-stimulated BV-2 microglial cells. J Neuroinflammation. 15(1):202. doi: 10.1186/s12974-018-1232-3. [PubMed]

Wu JS, Kao MH, Tsai HD, Cheung WM, Chen JJ, Ong WY, Sun GY, Lin TN. (2018). Clinacanthus nutans Mitigates Neuronal Apoptosis and Ischemic Brain Damage Through Augmenting the C/EBPβ-Driven PPAR-γ Transcription. Mol Neurobiol. 55(7):5425-5438. doi: 10.1007/s12035-017-0776-z. [PubMed]

Sun GY, Simonyi A, Fritsche KL, Chuang DY, Hannink M, Gu Z, Greenlief CM, Yao JK, Lee JC, Beversdorf DQ. (2018). Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA): An essential nutrient and a nutraceutical for brain health and diseases. Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids. 136:3-13. doi: 10.1016/j.plefa.2017.03.006. Review. [PubMed]

Ni Y, Teng T, Li R, Simonyi A, Sun GY, Lee JC. (2017). TNFα alters occludin and cerebral endothelial permeability: Role of p38MAPK. PLoS One. 12(2):e0170346. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0170346. eCollection 2017. [PubMed]

Song H, Lu Y, Qu Z, Mossine VV, Martin MB, Hou J, Cui J, Peculis BA, Mawhinney TP, Cheng J, Greenlief CM, Fritsche K, Schmidt FJ, Walter RB, Lubahn DB, Sun GY, Gu Z. (2016). Effects of aged garlic extract and FruArg on gene expression and signaling pathways in lipopolysaccharide-activated microglial cells. Sci Rep. 6:35323. doi: 10.1038/srep35323. [PubMed]

Lei W, Browning JD Jr, Eichen PA, Folk WR, Sun GY, Lubahn DB, Fritsche KL. (2016). An Investigation into the Immunomodulatory Activities of Sutherlandia frutescens in Healthy Mice. PLoS One. 11(8):e0160994. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0160994. eCollection 2016. [PubMed]

Ong WY, Sun GY, Wood WG, Lin TN. (2016). Nutraceuticals in Neurodegeneration and Aging. Neuromolecular Med. 18(3):239-40. doi: 10.1007/s12017-016-8432-8. [PubMed]

Chuang DY, Simonyi A, Cui J, Lubahn DB, Gu Z, Sun GY. (2016). Botanical Polyphenols Mitigate Microglial Activation and Microglia-Induced Neurotoxicity: Role of Cytosolic Phospholipase A2. Neuromolecular Med. 18(3):415-25. doi: 10.1007/s12017-016-8419-5. [PubMed]

Tan CS, Ho CF, Heng SS, Wu JS, Tan BK, Ng YK, Sun GY, Lin TN, Ong WY. (2016). Clinacanthus nutans Extracts Modulate Epigenetic Link to Cytosolic Phospholipase A2 Expression in SH-SY5Y Cells and Primary Cortical Neurons. Neuromolecular Med. 18(3):441-52. doi: 10.1007/s12017-016-8404-z. [PubMed]

Qu Z, Mossine VV, Cui J, Sun GY, Gu Z. (2016). Protective Effects of AGE and Its Components on Neuroinflammation and Neurodegeneration. Neuromolecular Med. 18(3):474-82. doi: 10.1007/s12017-016-8410-1. [PubMed]