Heather Christofk, Ph.D.

Mailing Address:

Office Address:
615 Charles E. Young Drive South
Los Angeles, CA 90095

Associate Director, Basic/Translational Research, Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center
Associate Professor, Biological Chemistry, Molecular & Medical Pharmacology
Research Interests
We are studying the interconnection of growth factor signaling and cell metabolism. In particular, we are interested in how signaling pathways control metabolic fluxes and the impact this may have on diseases such as cancer. It has long been appreciated that cancer cells exhibit an altered metabolism compared to their normal cell counterparts. We have discovered one mechanism by which cancer cells achieve this altered metabolism, and our findings support the idea that this is required to support cell growth. We are now exploring additional mechanisms of metabolic regulation with the goals of identifying novel drug targets for cancer and other proliferative disorders and better defining the role of metabolism in cell growth.

Heather Christofk is an Associate Professor of Biological Chemistry at UCLA.  She earned a B.S. in Molecular, Cell and Developmental Biology at UCLA in 2001, and a PhD in Cell and Developmental Biology at Harvard in 2007.  The goal of Dr. Christofk’s research is to understand the regulation and role of metabolic transitions in cellular transformation, virus infection, and differentiation.  She is a Searle Scholar and recipient of the Damon Runyon-Rachleff Innovation Award, the NIH Director’s New Innovator Award, and an American Cancer Society Research Scholar Award.


A selected list of publications:

Thaker Shivani K, Chapa Travis, Garcia Gustavo, Gong Danyang, Schmid Ernst W, Arumugaswami Vaithilingaraja, Sun Ren, Christofk Heather R   Differential Metabolic Reprogramming by Zika Virus Promotes Cell Death in Human versus Mosquito Cells Cell metabolism, 2019; 29(5): 1206-1216.e4.
Thaker Shivani K, Ch'ng James, Christofk Heather R   Viral hijacking of cellular metabolism BMC biology, 2019; 17(1): 59.
Sullivan William J, Mullen Peter J, Schmid Ernst W, Flores Aimee, Momcilovic Milica, Sharpley Mark S, Jelinek David, Whiteley Andrew E, Maxwell Matthew B, Wilde Blake R, Banerjee Utpal, Coller Hilary A, Shackelford David B, Braas Daniel, Ayer Donald E, de Aguiar Vallim Thomas Q, Lowry William E, Christofk Heather R   Extracellular Matrix Remodeling Regulates Glucose Metabolism through TXNIP Destabilization Cell, 2018; 175(1): 117-132.e21.
Flores Aimee, Schell John, Krall Abigail S, Jelinek David, Miranda Matilde, Grigorian Melina, Braas Daniel, White Andrew C, Zhou Jessica L, Graham Nicholas A, Graeber Thomas, Seth Pankaj, Evseenko Denis, Coller Hilary A, Rutter Jared, Christofk Heather R, Lowry William E   Lactate dehydrogenase activity drives hair follicle stem cell activation Nature cell biology, 2017; 19(9): 1017-1026.
Krall Abigail S, Christofk Heather R   Cell cycle: Division enzyme regulates metabolism Nature, 2017; 546(7658): 357-358.
Momcilovic Milica, Bailey Sean T, Lee Jason T, Fishbein Michael C, Magyar Clara, Braas Daniel, Graeber Thomas, Jackson Nicholas J, Czernin Johannes, Emberley Ethan, Gross Matthew, Janes Julie, Mackinnon Andy, Pan Alison, Rodriguez Mirna, Works Melissa, Zhang Winter, Parlati Francesco, Demo Susan, Garon Edward, Krysan Kostyantyn, Walser Tonya C, Dubinett Steven M, Sadeghi Saman, Christofk Heather R, Shackelford David B   Targeted Inhibition of EGFR and Glutaminase Induces Metabolic Crisis in EGFR Mutant Lung Cancer Cell reports, 2017; 18(3): 601-610.
Krall Abigail S, Xu Shili, Graeber Thomas G, Braas Daniel, Christofk Heather R   Asparagine promotes cancer cell proliferation through use as an amino acid exchange factor Nature communications, 2016; 7(1): 11457.
Gu Wen, Gaeta Xavier, Sahakyan Anna, Chan Alanna B, Hong Candice S, Kim Rachel, Braas Daniel, Plath Kathrin, Lowry William E, Christofk Heather R   Glycolytic Metabolism Plays a Functional Role in Regulating Human Pluripotent Stem Cell State Cell stem cell, 2016; 19(4): 476-490.
Hong Candice Sun, Graham Nicholas A, Gu Wen, Espindola Camacho Carolina, Mah Vei, Maresh Erin L, Alavi Mohammed, Bagryanova Lora, Krotee Pascal A L, Gardner Brian K, Behbahan Iman Saramipoor, Horvath Steve, Chia David, Mellinghoff Ingo K, Hurvitz Sara A, Dubinett Steven M, Critchlow Susan E, Kurdistani Siavash K, Goodglick Lee, Braas Daniel, Graeber Thomas G, Christofk Heather R   MCT1 Modulates Cancer Cell Pyruvate Export and Growth of Tumors that Co-express MCT1 and MCT4 Cell reports, 2016; 14(7): 1590-601.
Fu Xudong, Chin Randall M, Vergnes Laurent, Hwang Heejun, Deng Gang, Xing Yanpeng, Pai Melody Y, Li Sichen, Ta Lisa, Fazlollahi Farbod, Chen Chuo, Prins Robert M, Teitell Michael A, Nathanson David A, Lai Albert, Faull Kym F, Jiang Meisheng, Clarke Steven G, Cloughesy Timothy F, Graeber Thomas G, Braas Daniel, Christofk Heather R, Jung Michael E, Reue Karen, Huang Jing   2-Hydroxyglutarate Inhibits ATP Synthase and mTOR Signaling Cell metabolism, 2015; 22(3): 508-15.
Thai Minh, Thaker Shivani K, Feng Jun, Du Yushen, Hu Hailiang, Ting Wu Ting, Graeber Thomas G, Braas Daniel, Christofk Heather R   MYC-induced reprogramming of glutamine catabolism supports optimal virus replication Nature communications, 2015; 6(12): 8873.
Krall Abigail S, Christofk Heather R   Rethinking glutamine addiction Nature cell biology, 2015; 17(12): 1515-7.
Sullivan William J, Christofk Heather R   The metabolic milieu of metastases Cell, 2015; 160(3): 363-4.
Thai Minh, Graham Nicholas A, Braas Daniel, Nehil Michael, Komisopoulou Evangelia, Kurdistani Siavash K, McCormick Frank, Graeber Thomas G, Christofk Heather R   Adenovirus E4ORF1-induced MYC activation promotes host cell anabolic glucose metabolism and virus replication Cell metabolism, 2014; 19(4): 694-701.
Garon Edward B, Christofk Heather R, Hosmer Wylie, Britten Carolyn D, Bahng Agnes, Crabtree Matthew J, Hong Candice Sun, Kamranpour Naeimeh, Pitts Sharon, Kabbinavar Fairooz, Patel Cecil, von Euw Erika, Black Alexander, Michelakis Evangelos D, Dubinett Steven M, Slamon Dennis J   Dichloroacetate should be considered with platinum-based chemotherapy in hypoxic tumors rather than as a single agent in advanced non-small cell lung cancer Journal of cancer research and clinical oncology, 2014; 140(3): 443-52.
Chin Randall M, Fu Xudong, Pai Melody Y, Vergnes Laurent, Hwang Heejun, Deng Gang, Diep Simon, Lomenick Brett, Meli Vijaykumar S, Monsalve Gabriela C, Hu Eileen, Whelan Stephen A, Wang Jennifer X, Jung Gwanghyun, Solis Gregory M, Fazlollahi Farbod, Kaweeteerawat Chitrada, Quach Austin, Nili Mahta, Krall Abby S, Godwin Hilary A, Chang Helena R, Faull Kym F, Guo Feng, Jiang Meisheng, Trauger Sunia A, Saghatelian Alan, Braas Daniel, Christofk Heather R, Clarke Catherine F, Teitell Michael A, Petrascheck Michael, Reue Karen, Jung Michael E, Frand Alison R, Huang Jing   The metabolite α-ketoglutarate extends lifespan by inhibiting ATP synthase and TOR Nature, 2014; 510(7505): 397-401.
Williams Kevin J, Argus Joseph P, Zhu Yue, Wilks Moses Q, Marbois Beth N, York Autumn G, Kidani Yoko, Pourzia Alexandra L, Akhavan David, Lisiero Dominique N, Komisopoulou Evangelia, Henkin Amy H, Soto Horacio, Chamberlain Brian T, Vergnes Laurent, Jung Michael E, Torres Jorge Z, Liau Linda M, Christofk Heather R, Prins Robert M, Mischel Paul S, Reue Karen, Graeber Thomas G, Bensinger Steven J   An Essential Requirement for the SCAP/SREBP Signaling Axis to Protect Cancer Cells from Lipotoxicity Cancer research, 2013; 73(9): 2850-2862.
Krall Abigail S, Christofk Heather R   Cancer: A metabolic metamorphosis Nature, 2013; 496(7443): 38-40.
Ahler Ethan, Sullivan William J, Cass Ashley, Braas Daniel, York Autumn G, Bensinger Steven J, Graeber Thomas G, Christofk Heather R   Doxycycline alters metabolism and proliferation of human cell lines PloS one, 2013; 8(5): e64561.
Babic Ivan, Anderson Erik S, Tanaka Kazuhiro, Guo Deliang, Masui Kenta, Li Bing, Zhu Shaojun, Gu Yuchao, Villa Genaro R, Akhavan David, Nathanson David, Gini Beatrice, Mareninov Sergey, Li Rui, Camacho Carolina Espindola, Kurdistani Siavash K, Eskin Ascia, Nelson Stanley F, Yong William H, Cavenee Webster K, Cloughesy Timothy F, Christofk Heather R, Black Douglas L, Mischel Paul S   EGFR mutation-induced alternative splicing of Max contributes to growth of glycolytic tumors in brain cancer Cell metabolism, 2013; 17(6): 1000-8.
Wang Jun, Hwang Kiwook, Braas Daniel, Dooraghi Alex, Nathanson David, Campbell Dean O, Gu Yuchao, Sandberg Troy, Mischel Paul, Radu Caius, Chatziioannou Arion F, Phelps Michael E, Christofk Heather, Heath James R   Fast metabolic response to drug intervention through analysis on a miniaturized, highly integrated molecular imaging system Journal of nuclear medicine : official publication, Society of Nuclear Medicine, 2013; 54(10): 1820-4.
McBrian Matthew A, Behbahan Iman Saramipoor, Ferrari Roberto, Su Trent, Huang Ta-Wei, Li Kunwu, Hong Candice S, Christofk Heather R, Vogelauer Maria, Seligson David B, Kurdistani Siavash K   Histone acetylation regulates intracellular pH Molecular cell, 2013; 49(2): 310-21.
Smith Kathleen B, Tran Linh M, Tam Brenna M, Shurell Elizabeth M, Li Yunfeng, Braas Daniel, Tap William D, Christofk Heather R, Dry Sarah M, Eilber Fritz C, Wu Hong   Novel dedifferentiated liposarcoma xenograft models reveal PTEN down-regulation as a malignant signature and response to PI3K pathway inhibition The American journal of pathology, 2013; 182(4): 1400-11.
Nagaraj Raghavendra, Gururaja-Rao Shubha, Jones Kevin T, Slattery Matthew, Negre Nicolas, Braas Daniel, Christofk Heather, White Kevin P, Mann Richard, Banerjee Utpal   Control of mitochondrial structure and function by the Yorkie/YAP oncogenic pathway Genes & development, 2012; 26(18): 2027-37.
Braas Daniel, Ahler Ethan, Tam Brenna, Nathanson David, Riedinger Mirielle, Benz Matthias R, Smith Kathleen B, Eilber Fritz C, Witte Owen N, Tap William D, Wu Hong, Christofk Heather R   Metabolomics strategy reveals subpopulation of liposarcomas sensitive to gemcitabine treatment Cancer discovery, 2012; 2(12): 1109-17.
Bensinger Steven J, Christofk Heather R   New aspects of the Warburg effect in cancer cell biology Seminars in cell & developmental biology, 2012; .
Anastasiou Dimitrios, Yu Yimin, Israelsen William J, Jiang Jian-Kang, Boxer Matthew B, Hong Bum Soo, Tempel Wolfram, Dimov Svetoslav, Shen Min, Jha Abhishek, Yang Hua, Mattaini Katherine R, Metallo Christian M, Fiske Brian P, Courtney Kevin D, Malstrom Scott, Khan Tahsin M, Kung Charles, Skoumbourdis Amanda P, Veith Henrike, Southall Noel, Walsh Martin J, Brimacombe Kyle R, Leister William, Lunt Sophia Y, Johnson Zachary R, Yen Katharine E, Kunii Kaiko, Davidson Shawn M, Christofk Heather R, Austin Christopher P, Inglese James, Harris Marian H, Asara John M, Stephanopoulos Gregory, Salituro Francesco G, Jin Shengfang, Dang Lenny, Auld Douglas S, Park Hee-Won, Cantley Lewis C, Thomas Craig J, Vander Heiden Matthew G   Pyruvate kinase M2 activators promote tetramer formation and suppress tumorigenesis Nature chemical biology, 2012; 8(10): 839-47.
Vlashi Erina, Lagadec Chann, Vergnes Laurent, Matsutani Tomoo, Masui Kenta, Poulou Maria, Popescu Ruxandra, Della Donna Lorenza, Evers Patrick, Dekmezian Carmen, Reue Karen, Christofk Heather, Mischel Paul S, Pajonk Frank   Metabolic state of glioma stem cells and nontumorigenic cells Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 2011; 108(38): 16062-7.
Christofk Heather R, Wu Ning, Cantley Lewis C, Asara John M   Proteomic screening method for phosphopeptide motif binding proteins using peptide libraries Journal of proteome research, 2011; 10(9): 4158-64.
Vander Heiden Matthew G, Locasale Jason W, Swanson Kenneth D, Sharfi Hadar, Heffron Greg J, Amador-Noguez Daniel, Christofk Heather R, Wagner Gerhard, Rabinowitz Joshua D, Asara John M, Cantley Lewis C   Evidence for an alternative glycolytic pathway in rapidly proliferating cells Science (New York, N.Y.), 2010; 329(5998): 1492-9.
Vander Heiden Matthew G, Christofk Heather R, Schuman Eli, Subtelny Alexander O, Sharfi Hadar, Harlow Edward E, Xian Jun, Cantley Lewis C   Identification of small molecule inhibitors of pyruvate kinase M2 Biochemical pharmacology, 2009; .
Christofk Heather R, Vander Heiden Matthew G, Wu Ning, Asara John M, Cantley Lewis C   Pyruvate kinase M2 is a phosphotyrosine-binding protein Nature, 2008; 452(7184): 181-6.
Christofk Heather R, Vander Heiden Matthew G, Harris Marian H, Ramanathan Arvind, Gerszten Robert E, Wei Ru, Fleming Mark D, Schreiber Stuart L, Cantley Lewis C   The M2 splice isoform of pyruvate kinase is important for cancer metabolism and tumour growth Nature, 2008; 452(7184): 230-3.