Claudio J. Villanueva, Ph. D.

Department of Integrative Biology & Physiology

LOCATION  Los Angeles, CA

TITLE  Associate Professor

PHD  UCSF, Robert Farese Jr.

POSTDOC  UCLA, Peter Tontonoz

RESEARCH  Lipid metabolism, adipocyte development, transcription, and physiology.


Phone: (310) 825-4369


Twitter: @ClaudioVillanu

Completed undergraduate training  at Cal State San Bernardino where I studied how frogs regulate sodium uptake across the abdominal epithelium. During this early stage in my career I was fascinated by the way multicellular organisms sense and adapt to the surrounding environment.  This experience in the lab led to my decision to pursue a career in science.  As an undergraduate I was also shaped by the McNair scholars program that provided mentoring for minority students interested in pursuing doctoral degrees.  As a Ph.D. student at UCSF I had the wonderful opportunity to work with Robert Farese Jr. at the Gladstone Institute of Cardiovascular Disease.  My dissertation focused on understanding the different requirements of DGAT enzymes on fatty liver disease.  Ultimately, we were trying to understand how mice lacking the enzyme DGAT1, were protected against fatty liver, a risk factor for non-alcoholic steatohepatitis and cirrhosis of the liver.  I had a great experience in Bob’s lab, and learned about mouse genetics, lipid biochemistry, and developing skills as a diabetes researcher.  After completing my Ph.D. I returned to southern California to work with Peter Tontonoz, a Howard Hughes Investigator at UCLA.  At the time, I wanted to expand on my previous studies on enzymes involved in lipid biosynthesis, to understanding how these enzymes were regulated at the transcriptional level.  In Peter’s lab I identified TLE3 and showed that it stimulated adipogenesis by coactivating the transcription factor PPARgamma.  After a successful postdoc I was recruited to the Department of Biochemistry in the University of Utah School of Medicine, but have now move my lab to UCLA.  I’m looking forward to the years to come and the discoveries that we will make in understanding the transcriptional mechanisms that regulate adipocyte development and biology.  

Interview about fat biology on Scope Radio.