Fei Zhao

Credentials: PhD

Position title: Assistant Professor

Email: fei.zhao@wisc.edu

Phone: (608) 890-2610

2015 Linden Dr - Rm 4152
Madison WI 53706

Zhao Lab


PhD – University of Georgia – Toxicology
Postdoctoral Training – National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences – Reproductive and Developmental Biology


Our lab aims to understand cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying sexual differentiation of reproductive tracts.


Before sexual differentiation, both primitive male and female reproductive tracts co-exist in an embryo. During sexual differentiation, the embryo eliminates one of the two primitive tracts and maintains exclusively the one matching to its sex. The retained sex-specific tract eventually differentiates into a functional organ in the adult reproductive system. Sexual differentiation and function of reproductive tracts are regulated/influenced by actions of sex hormones. Therefore, during differentiation, the male and female reproductive tract must acquire/develop proper responsiveness to sex hormones; environmental chemicals mimicking sex hormones can have adverse effects on reproductive tract differentiation. We are particularly interested in and focus on understanding mechanisms underlying the above phenomena:

  1. How are sex-specific fates of two primitive reproductive tracts regulated?
  2. How does the male and female reproductive tract acquire/develop proper responsiveness to male and female sex hormones, respectively?
  3. How do environmental chemicals that interfere with sex hormone signaling affect reproductive tract differentiation?

We address these questions by utilizing transgenic and conditional knockout mouse models, ex vivo organ culture, gene/protein expression analyses, genomic and single-cell technologies. Disruptions in reproductive tract differentiation can lead to disorders of sex development and jeopardize an individual’s future reproductive potential. Our research will provide fundamental knowledge for the development of better strategies for prevention, diagnosis and treatment of related disorders of sex development and reproductive diseases.