Kwang Mook Jung

Associate Adjunct Professor, Anatomy & Neurobiology
School of Medicine

Ph.D., Chung-Ang University, South Korea, 1999, Pharmacy

M.S., Chung-Ang University, South Korea, 1995, Pharmacy

B.Pharm., Chung-Ang University, South Korea, 1993, Pharmacy

Phone: (949) 824-7080
Fax: (949) 824-6305, 4855

University of California, Irvine
Gillespie Neurosciences Reseach Facility
Room 3105
Mail Code: 1275
Irvine, CA 92697

picture of Kwang Mook Jung

endocannabinoids, lipid molecules, pathogenesis, neurological diseases
URLs Lab
See below for selected publications or click here for additional publication listings available via PubMed
Appointments 2000-2004, Columbia University, Postdoc, Molecular and Cell Biology
Statement of Research

Recent evidences on the endocannabinoids (eCB) indicate that the novel class of endogenous lipid molecules has fundamental roles in the regulation of various biological activities. I am interested in defining the molecular mechanism underlying the physiological regulation of eCB and, in particular, their relevance to the pathogenesis of certain neurological diseases.

The “endo-cannabinoids” are named after the main psychoactive ingredient in the cannabis plant, ?9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which hijacks the eCB system through its binding to type-1 cannabinoid (CB1) receptors, to exert its effects. In contrast to compounds such as THC, eCB molecules – anandamide and 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG) – are produced in the body upon demand and activate CB1 receptors. Previous work in our lab and others suggests that the brain eCBs serve important functions in the modulation of various long- and short-term changes in synaptic efficiency related to emotion, pain, appetite and memory. eCB signaling is also associated with several pathological conditions such as inflammation, drug addiction and neurodegenerative disorders, indicating a therapeutic potential of targeting this system. However, the mechanisms which cause these pathologies are mostly unknown. Therefore, elucidating the detailed mechanism underlying the regulation of eCBs in both normal as well as diseased conditions are important subjects for future studies.

The role of eCB in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s disease
Recent findings on the molecular pathology of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) converge on the idea that toxic species of soluble oligomeric forms of A? are responsible for the early cognitive impairment of AD, through the interference of synaptic modulation and spine morphology. However, the molecular mechanism by which this synaptic dysfunction is caused has not been elucidated.

Using a mass-spectrometry-based lipid quantification of post mortem brain of AD patients, I have examined whether changes in eCB signaling contribute to cognitive dysfunction in AD. I found that frontal and temporal cortex of AD patients contain significant less anandamide as well as its precursor NArPE, compared to controls. The decreased anandamide production was associated with the increase of brain A?42 and of area-specific cognitive impairments determined by clinical neuro-psychology tests. In a cellular model, increase in A? accumulation caused decreases in both anandamide and NArPE levels. These studies suggest that A?42-dependent suppression of anandamide production in the brain contributes to cognitive dysfunction in AD.

These studies open the door to further research in defining the mechanism by which deficits in eCB signaling contribute to A?-induced synaptic pathogenesis in AD. I will use a combination of biochemical and molecular biological approaches to (i) further identify the molecular mechanisms underlying the eCB deficits; and (ii) to determine whether alterations in the eCB system mediate A?-derived pathogenic changes in AD. To answer the latter question, I will specifically ask (a) what is the molecular mechanism of A?-triggered eCB deficits in a cellular model of AD; and (b) whether A?-induced synaptic abnormality, such as spine loss, is associated with the disruption of eCB signaling.

This research receives a three-year support from the Alzheimer’s Association Investigator-Initiated Research Grant, and after successful completion of the funded study, I will explore a possibility that therapeutic interventions targeting the eCB deficit is beneficial in AD.

The role of mGluR-dependent eCB signaling in drug addiction
Activation of group-I metabotropic glutamate receptors (mGluRs), as well as the scaffolding protein Homer, play a critical role in drug addiction. Furthermore, MPEP, a specific antagonist of mGluR5, has been reported to attenuate nicotine self-administration. On the other hand, activation of CB1 receptors is also known to contribute to drug addiction through the mesolimbic dopaminergic reward pathway, and, antagonism of CB1 receptors may facilitate smoking-cessation. However, the mechanisms responsible for these effects are not well understood.

Over the past several years, I have demonstrated that activation of mGluR5 increases the production of eCB 2-AG, which may activate the presynaptic CB1 receptors. The receptor-dependent biosynthesis of 2-AG is mediated by the ? isoform of diacylglycerol lipase (DGL-?). I also found that the scaffolding protein, Homer, interacts with DGL-?, recruiting it into the mGluR signaling complex.

I am interested to continue this project to two different directions. First, I will test the hypothesis that addiction drugs such as nicotine upregulates mGluR-dependent eCB signaling, which contributes, in turn, to the addiction. I will profile the effects of addiction drug (i) on the levels of various eCB and related lipids, as well as proteins responsible for the synthesis and deactivation of eCBs, in cultures of neuronal cells; and (ii) on eCBs and the related molecules in rat brain regions after acute and chronic administration in vivo. Second, I will research the receptor-dependent molecular changes or rearrangements in the proteins constituting mGluR signaling complex. Particular interest will be given to the expressional changes in the short- as well as long-form Homer proteins and posttranslational modifications of DGL-?.

Defining the unidentified molecular components of eCB synthesis and metabolism
Although many of the proteins importantly involved in the biosynthesis, inactivation and modulation of eCBs have been characterized and their genes cloned, some of the key players still await to be molecularly identified, including the brain form(s) of N-acyl transferase (NAT) and endocannabinoid transporter. One of my long-term goals includes the cloning and characterization of such proteins. I will use a combination of biochemical methods, such as anandamide affinity column chromatography, bioinformatics and state-of-the-art mass spectrometric analysis to achieve the goal.

My unique research expertise, which ranges from protein biochemistry and molecular biology to molecular pathology of neurological disorders, qualifies me as a competent scientist who can address the role of eCBs in brain disorders.
Publications Selected Publications:

Jung, K.M., and Kim, D.K. (2000) Purification and Characterization of a membrane-associated 48-kilodalton phospholipase A2 in leaves of bload bean. Plant Physiol, 123(3):1057-1067.

Lee, H.J.*, Jung, K.-M.*, Huang, Y.Z., Bennett, L.B., Lee, J.S., Mei, L., and Kim, T.-W. (2002) Presenilin-dependent gamma-secretase-like intramembrane cleavage of ErbB4. J. Biol. Chem., 277(8):6318-6323. (*; Equal contribution)

Jung, K.-M., Tan, S., Landman, N., Petrova, K., Murray, S., Lewis, R., Kim, P., Kim, D.S., Ryu, S.H., Chao, M.V., and Kim, T.-W. (2003) Regulated intramembrane proteolysis of the p75 neurotrophin receptor modulates its association with the TrkA receptor. J. Biol. Chem., 278(43):42161-42169.

Jung, K.-M., Mangieri, R., Stapleton, C., Kim, J., Fegley, D., Wallace, M., Mackie, K., Piomelli, D. (2005) Stimulation of endocannabinoid formation in brain slice cultures through activation of group I metabotropic glutamate receptors. Mol. Pharmacol. 68(5):1196-1202.

Jung, K.-M.*, Astarita, G.*, Zhu, C., Wallace, M., Mackie, K., Piomelli, D. (2007) A key role for diacylglycerol lipase-alpha in metabotropic glutamate receptor-dependent endocannabinoid mobilization. Mol. Pharmacol. 72(3):612-621. (*; Equal contribution)

Jung, K.-M., Astarita, G., Thongkham, D., Piomelli, D. (2011) Diacylglycerol lipase-a and -ß control neurite outgrowth in Neuro-2a cells through distinct molecular mechanisms. Mol. Pharmacol. 80:60-67.

Jung, K.-M., Clapper, J.R., Fu, J., D’Agostino, G., Guijarro, A., Thongkham, D., Avanesian, A., Astarita, G., DiPatrizio, N.V., Frontini, A., Cinti, S., Diano, S., Piomelli, D. (2012) 2-arachidonoylglycerol signaling in forebrain regulates systemic energy metabolism. Cell Metab. 15(3):299-310.

Gregg, L.C.*, Jung, K.-M.*, Spradley, J.M., Nyilas, R., Suplita II, R.L., Zimmer, A., Watanabe, M., Mackie, K., Katona, I., Piomelli, D., Hohmann, A.G. (2012) Activation of type-5 metabotropic glutamate receptors and diacylglycerol lipase-a initiates 2-arachidonoylglycerol formation and endocannabinoid-mediated analgesia. J. Neurosci. 32(28):9457-9468. (*; Equal contribution)

Jung, K.-M.*, Astarita, G.*, Yasar, S., Vasilevko, V., Cribbs, D.H., Head, E., Cotman, C.W., Piomelli, D. (2012) An amyloid ß42-dependent deficit in anandamide mobilization is associated with cognitive dysfunction in Alzheimer’s disease. Neurobiol. Aging, 33(8):1522-1532. (*; Equal contribution)

Jung, K.-M.*, Sepers, M.*, Henstridge, C.*, Lassalle, O., Neuhofe, D., Martin, H., Ginger, M., Frick, A., DiPatrizio, N.V., Mackie, K., Katona, I., Piomelli, D.#, Manzoni O.J. # (2012) Uncoupling of the endocannabinoid signaling complex in a mouse model of fragile X syndrome. Nat. Commun. 3:1080. doi: 10.1038/ncomms2045. (*,#; Equal contribution)

Wei, D., Lee, D., Li, D., Daglian, J., Jung, K.M., Piomelli, D. (2016) A role for the endocannabinoid 2-arachidonoyl-sn-glycerol for social and high-fat food reward in male mice. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 233(10):1911-9.

Brindisi, M., Maramai, S., Gemma, S., Brogi, S., Grillo, A., Di Cesare Mannelli, L., Gabellieri, E., Lamponi, S., Saponara, S., Gorelli, B., Tedesco, D., Bonfiglio, T., Landry, C., Jung, K.M., Armirotti, A., Luongo, L., Ligresti, A., Piscitelli, F., Bertucci, C., Dehouck, M.P., Campiani, G., Maione, S., Ghelardini, C., Pittaluga, A., Piomelli, D., Di Marzo, V., Butini, S. (2016) Development and Pharmacological Characterization of Selective Blockers of 2-Arachidonoyl Glycerol Degradation with Efficacy in Rodent Models of Multiple Sclerosis and Pain. J Med Chem. 59 (6):2612-32.

Jung K.M.#, Piomelli D. (2016) Assay of Monoacylglycerol Lipase Activity. Methods Mol Biol. 1412:157-168. (#: corresponding author)

Migliore, M., Pontis, S., Fuentes de Arriba, A.L., Realini, N., Torrente, E., Armirotti, A., Romeo, E., Di Martino, S., Russo, D., Pizzirani, D., Summa, M., Lanfranco, M., Ottonello, G., Busquet, P., Jung, K.M., Garcia-Guzman, M., Heim, R., Scarpelli, R., Piomelli, D. (2016) Second-Generation Non-Covalent NAAA Inhibitors are Protective in a Model of Multiple Sclerosis. Angewandte Chemie (International ed. in English). 55(37):11193-7.

Scalvini, L., Vacondio, F., Bassi, M., Pala, D., Lodola, A., Rivara, S., Jung, K.M., Piomelli, D., Mor, M. (2016) Free-energy studies reveal a possible mechanism for oxidation-dependent inhibition of MGL. Scientific reports. 6:31046.

Wang, W., Trieu, B.H., Palmer, L.C., Jia, Y., Pham, D.T., Jung, K.M., Karsten, C.A., Merrill, C.B., Mackie, K., Gall, C.M., Piomelli, D., Lynch, G. (2016) A Primary Cortical Input to Hippocampus Expresses a Pathway-Specific and Endocannabinoid-Dependent Form of Long-Term Potentiation. eNeuro. 3(4).

Lee, S.H., Dudok, B., Parihar, V.K., Jung, K.M., Zöldi, M., Kang, Y.J., Maroso, M., Alexander, A.L., Nelson, G.A., Piomelli, D., Katona, I., Limoli, C.L., Soltesz, I. (2017) Neurophysiology of space travel: energetic solar particles cause cell type-specific plasticity of neurotransmission. Brain Struct Funct. 222(5):2345-2357.

Igarashi, M., Narayanaswami, V., Kimonis, V., Galassetti, P.M., Oveisi, F., Jung, K.M., Piomelli, D. (2017) Dysfunctional oleoylethanolamide signaling in a mouse model of Prader-Willi syndrome. Pharmacol Res. 117:75-81.

Wang W, Jia Y, Pham DT, Palmer LC, Jung KM, Cox CD, Rumbaugh G, Piomelli D, Gall CM, Lynch G. (2017) Atypical Endocannabinoid Signaling Initiates a New Form of Memory-Related Plasticity at a Cortical Input to Hippocampus. Cerebral cortex (New York, N.Y. : 1991). in press.

* Book Chapter
Jung, K.M. and Piomelli, D. (2016) Chapter 58. Cannabinoids and endocannabinoids, in Neuroscience in the 21st Century (Springer New York, 2016, D.W. Pfaff, N.D. Volkow (eds.);, p.1811-1841
Grant Alzheimer's Association, IIRG-08-92000, 09/01/08-08/31/11, $217,922 direct costs, Deficits in anandamide signaling underlie cognitive dysfunction in Alzheimer's Disease (Role: P.I.)
2001-present, Society for Neuroscience
Other Experience Assistant Project Scientist
UC Irvine 2004—2009

Assistant Adjunct Professor
University of California, Irvine 2009—2016

Link to this profile
Last updated 10/09/2017