Member of Faculty Lab:

  • Jun Dai
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Jun Dai, PhD

Assistant Professor

Research Interests:

Skin homeostasis relies on regulation of gene expression orchestrated by transcription factors and signaling molecules. Using mouse models and cellular assays, we study how the transcriptional networks, centered by the nuclear orphan receptors RORs, regulate keratinocyte growth, differentiation, epidermal barrier functions, and communication between different skin cell types. We also evaluate the potentials of endogenous and synthetic ROR ligands in treating inflammatory skin diseases associated defective epidermal barrier functions.

Another focus of our lab is to elucidate the functions and mechanisms of the mitotic kinase haspin in control of cell cycle progression and the antitumor potential of its inhibitors. Post-translational modifications of conserved residues on histone tails regulate many aspects of chromosome activity. We have identified the protein kinase haspin, which is responsible for mitosis specific phosphorylation of histone H3 at Threonine 3 residue. Gene silencing of haspin leads to chromosome misalignment, precious loss of cohesion between sister chromatids, multipolar spindles, and overall mitotic arrest. We are interested in exploring the role of haspin in cancer development and the therapeutic potential of haspin inhibitors in treating different types of skin cancer.

Jun Dai received her B.S. in Biochemistry from Nankai University in Tianjin and obtained her Ph.D. in Anatomy from Tulane University in New Orleans working in the laboratory for Professor Steven M. Hill. She pursued her postdoctoral research first in Division of Rheumatology, Allergy, and Immunology at Brigham Women’s Hospital with Professor Victor W. Hsu and Professor Jonathan M. Higgins, and subsequently at Cutaneous Biology Research Center of Massachusetts General Hospital with Professor G. Paolo Dotto and Professor/Head David E. Fisher. She held a faculty appointment as an instructor in Harvard Medical School between 2005 and 2016, and was a recipient of an NIH K01 Career Development Award.  In 2014, she began her independent career as an Associate Professor of Cell Biology in School of Pharmaceutical Science and Technology at Tianjin University, and in 2017, she moved to University of Wisconsin–Madison.


  • Post-Doctoral Research Fellow:  Brigham Women’s Hospital and Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA
  • Ph.D. in Anatomy:  Tulane University, New Orleans, LA
  • B.S. in Biochemistry: Nankai University, Tianjin, China
Highlighted Publications:
  • Hua X, Blosch CD, Dorsey H, Ficaro MK, Wallace NL, Hsung RP, Dai J. Epidermal Loss of RORα Enhances Skin Inflammation in a MC903-Induced Mouse Model of Atopic Dermatitis. Int J Mol Sci. 2023 Jun 16;24(12):10241. doi: 10.3390/ijms241210241.
  • Wang P, Hua X, Sun Y, Li H, Bryner YH, Hsung RP, Dai J. Loss of haspin suppresses cancer cell proliferation by interfering with cell cycle progression at multiple stages. FASEB J. 2021 Oct;35(10):e21923. doi: 10.1096/fj.202100099R.
  • Wang P, Hua X, Bryner YH, Liu S, Gitter CB, Dai J. Haspin delays cell cycle progression through interphase in cancer cells. J. Cell. Physiol. 2020;235(5):4508-4519. doi: 10.1002/jcp.29328. Epub 2019 Oct 17.
  • Sun Y, Wang P, Li H, Dai J. BMAL1 and CLOCK proteins in regulating UVB-induced apoptosis and DNA damage responses in human keratinocytes. J. Cell. Physiol. 2018; 233(12): 9563-9574. doi: 10.1002/jcp.26859. Epub 2018 Jun 26.
  • Dai J, Choo MK, Park JM, Fisher DE. Topical ROR inverse agonists suppress inflammation in mouse models of atopic dermatitis and acute irritant dermatitis. J. Invest. Dermatol. 2017; 137(12):2523-2531. 
  • Han L, Wang P, Sun Y, Liu S, Dai J. Anti-melanoma activities of haspin inhibitor CHR-6494 deployed as a single agent or in a synergistic combination with MEK inhibitor. J. Cancer 2017; 8(15): 2933-2943. 
  • Li H, Zhou L, Dai J. Retinoic acid receptor-related orphan receptor RORα regulates differentiation and survival of keratinocytes during hypoxia. J. Cell Physiol. 2018; 233(1):641-650. doi: 10.1002/jcp.25924. Epub 2017 May 19.
  • Brooks Y, Ostano P, Jo S, Dai J, Getsios S, Dziunycz P, Hofbauer GF, Cerveny K, Ghiorino G, Lefort K, Dotto GP. ERß in multifactorial control of notch1 gene transcription and function in squamous cell differentiation and cancer. J. Clin. Invest. 2014; 124(5):2260-76. 
  • Dai J, Brooks Y, Lefort K, Getsios S, Dotto GP. The retinoid-related orphan receptor RORα promotes keratinocyte differentiation via FOXN1. PLOS ONE 2013; 8(7): e70392.
  • Wang F, Dai J, Daum JR, Niedzialkowska E, Banerjee B, Stukenberg T, Gorbsky GJ, Higgins, JM. Histone H3 Thr-3 phosphorylation by haspin positions Aurora B at centromeres in mitosis. Science 2010; 330 (6001): 231–235.
  • Dong C, Yuan L, Dai J, Lai L, Mao L, Xiang S, Rowan B, Hill SM. Melatonin inhibits mitogenic cross-talk between retinoic acid-related orphan receptor alpha (RORalpha) and ERalpha in MCF-7 human breast cancer cells. Steroids 2010; 75(12): 944–951.
  • Dai J*, Kateneva AV, Higgins JM*. Studies of haspin-depleted cells reveal that spindle-pole integrity in mitosis requires chromosome cohesion.  J. Cell Sci. 2009; 122(22): 4148–4176. *Co-corresponding authors.
  • Li J, Peters PJ, Bai M, Dai J, Bos E, Kirchhausen T, Kandror KV, Hsu VW. An ACAP1-containing clathrin coat complex for endocytic recycling. J. Cell Biol. 2007; 178(3): 453–464.
  • Dai J, Sullivan BA, Higgins JM. Regulation of mitotic chromosome cohesion by haspin and aurora B.  Dev. Cell 2006; 11(5): 741–750.  (Featured on the journal cover illustration)
  • Dai J, Higgins JM. Haspin: A mitotic histone kinase required for metaphase chromosome alignment. Cell Cycle 2005; 4(5): 665–668.
  • Dai J, Sultan S, Taylor SS, Higgins JM. The kinase haspin is required for mitotic histone H3 Thr 3 phosphorylation and normal metaphase chromosome alignment. Genes Dev. 2005; 19(4): 472–488. (Featured on the journal cover illustration)
  • Li J, Ballif BA, Powelka AM, Dai J, Gygi SP, Hsu VW. Phosphorylation of ACAP1 by Akt Regulates the Stimulation-Dependent Recycling of Integrin beta1 to Control Cell Migration. Dev. Cell 2005; 9(5): 663–673.
  • Dai J, Li J, Bos E, Porcionatto M, Premont RT, Bourgoin S, Peters PJ, Hsu VW. ACAP1 promotes endocytic recycling by recognizing recycling sorting signals. Dev. Cell 2004; 7(5): 771–776.
  • Ram PT, Dai J, Yuan L, Dong C, Kiefer TL, Lai L, Hill SM. Involvement of the mt1 melatonin receptor in human prostate cancer. Cancer Lett. 2002; 179(2): 141–150.
  • Dai J, Inscho EW, Yuan L, Hill SM. Modulation of intracellular calcium and calmodulin by melatonin in MCF-7 human breast cancer cells.  J. Pineal Res. 2002; 32 (2): 112–119.
  • Dai J, Ram PT, Yuan L, Spriggs LL, Hill SM. Transcriptional repression of RORalpha activity in human breast cancer cells by melatonin.  Mol. Cell Endocrinol. 2001; 176(1-2): 111–120.