Wei Xu

Contact Information 

608-265-5540 (office); 608-262-9834 (lab)
7457 WI Institute Medical Research


BS, 1991, Chemistry, Beijing University, China
MS, 1994, Biophysics, Institute of Biophysics, Beijing, China
PhD, 1999, Biochemistry, University of Iowa
Postdoctoral Research, The Salk Institute for Biological Studies, La Jolla, CA


Professor of Oncology
Marian A. Messerschmidt Professor of Cancer Research
Genetics Program Co-Leader, UW Carbone Cancer Center


My laboratory is focused on the transcriptional regulation of estrogen receptor (ER) signaling pathways by nuclear receptor co-factors. We identified a natural plant product that significantly decreased ERa but increased ERb stability. Via distinct mechanism from the existing agents for endocrine therapy, this compound also significantly promoted degradation of mutant ERa that is found in ~25% of patients with metastatic ERa-positive breast cancers.  Biological functions of these estrogenic compounds have been investigated in cell-based and breast cancer mouse models. The bioactive derivatives may be developed as novel agents for treating metastatic, endocrine-resistant breast cancers caused by ERa mutations. Furthermore, we investigated the crosstalk between ERa pathways and other growth factors (e.g., HER2) and kinase networks, as these mechanisms account for the intrinsic or acquired endocrine resistance.

The second focus of our lab is to elucidate epigenetic regulation of cell signaling and transcription by CARM1-mediated methylation of histone and non-histone substrates, and to reveal how arginine methylation contributes to diverse biological functions. Global profiling of CARM1 substrates identified over 130 bona fide CARM1 protein substrates. We have shown that methylation of discreate cancer-relevant substrates regulates distinct hallmarks of cancer. The study of MED12 methylation by CARM1 in regulating chemosensitivity and BAF155 methylation in promoting metastasis are funded by two NIH R01. BAF155 methylation drives cancer metastasis, providing the foundation for employing CARM1 inhibitors in cancer therapy. Overall, our systematic work elucidates mechanistic foundations of cancer dependencies on aberrant epigenetic programs and exploits this vulnerability to develop novel therapies.

Honors and Awards

  • Shaw Scientist Award, 2008
  • DOD ERA of HOPE Scholar, 2010
  • Society of Toxicology Achievement Award, 2013
  • Villas Distinguished Achievement Professor, University of Wisconsin, 2014
  • Romnes Faculty Fellowship, University of Wisconsin, 2016
  • Marian A. Messerschmidt Professorship, 2016
  • AACR-Bayer Innovation and Discovery Grant Awardee, 2019
  • Kellett Mid-Career Award, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2019


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