Jianning Tao, PhD, Lab

Kristi Egland Lab

Primary Research Focus

Dr. Tao Bio

Jianning Tao, PhD, and his team at Sanford Health in Sioux Falls investigate the genetic pathways that affect skeletal health and diseases. In particular, the team is focused on understanding the role of Notch signaling pathway in the maintenance of bone cancer stem cells and metastasis. The goal is to better understand how the genetic pathways work together to promote spread of cancer cells and then to find a way to treat the disease.

Jianning Tao, PhD
  • Assistant scientist in the Children's Health Research Center
  • Assistant professor for the University of South Dakota School of Medicine, Department of Pediatrics 
  • Doctorate degree in biochemistry at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, Memphis, TN
  • Postdoctoral fellowship at Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX


Behind the research

Osteosarcoma (OS) is the most common form of bone cancer, usually affecting adolescents and young adults. The survival rate for OS patients has not improved substantially over the past four decades. The understanding of the genetic factors and pathways critical for OS formation and metastasis is still limited. 

Evolutionarily conserved genetic pathways are central mechanisms in embryogenesis and postnatal homeostasis, and they are frequently hijacked during tumorigenesis at various stages including tumor initiation, progression, maintenance of cancer stem cells and metastasis. For example, Notch signaling pathway controls cell fate determination, proliferation, differentiation and apoptosis whereas deregulation of Notch signaling characterizes several types of human cancers. 

The recent work in Dr. Tao’s lab at Sanford Health in Sioux Falls, reveals a critical role for Notch activation as a cause of murine OS and advances our understanding of osteosarcomagenesis. The lab uses genetically engineered animal models that recapitulate the development of human OS to address two fundamental questions: 

  1. How does the genetic pathway such as Notch initiates and promotes tumor formation? 
  2. What is the mechanism that maintains bone cancer stem cells and promotes metastasis? 

Mouse tumors and primary cell lines derived from these models will be studied and expression profiling, sequencing and proteomic analyses will be employed. At the same time, Dr. Tao’s lab is also interested in investigating tumor cells of origin and genetic interaction among evolutionarily conserved pathways. 

The long-term goal is to better understand requirement for critical genetic factors and pathways in tumorigenesis, to advance our knowledge of cancer stem cell, and to provide novel diagnostic biomarkers and more effective targeted therapies against childhood cancer.

Resources Positions Available
Access Jianning Tao’s publications here Join a dedicated team of researchers and help shape the future of cancer treatments. See open positions here
Meet members of the Tao lab here.  


Lab Projects Contact Us
The Role of Notch Pathway in Bone Development and Osteosarcoma Phone: (605) 312-6419
Fax: (605) 328-0401
  Email: jianning.tao@sanfordhealth.org
Lab News

January 2017 Dr. Jianning Tao received a research grant from BioSNTR for engineering a biomimetic nan-structured 3D bone niche to model cancer bone metastasis.

November 2016, The Tao laboratory published a paper entitled "Molecular genetics of osteosarcoma" in the journal Bone. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=27760307

November 2016, Dr. Tao co-authored an article with Dr. Hongli Sun from the University of South Dakota entitled "Hypoxia-mimicking nanofibrous scaffolds promote endogenous bone regeneration" in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=27809470

November 2016, The Tao laboratory presented a poster entitled "Analysis of osteogenic and adipogenic differentiation potention of osteosarcoma cells transformed by Notch1 oncogene" at the 2016 American Society for Bone and Mineral Research meeting in Atlanta, GA.

August 2016, Using the genetically engineered animals, the Tao lab has shown that gain of function of Notch signaling in bone cells induced murine osteosarcoma and the causal role of Notch pathway functions through a Notch transcription complex that triggers downstream events to form bone tumor. The known components in the Notch complex include nuclear proteins such as NICD, Rbpj and MAML1 proteins. Ongoing studies by the team will identify novel components in the complex using the BioID approach and determine whether one of them may serves as a druggable target for cancer therapeutic intervention.

October 2015, Dr. Jianning Tao represented Sanford Research at the 2015 Annual Meeting of American Society for Bone and Mineral Research (ASBMR) at Seattle, WA.