Xin Zhao

Professor - Animal Physiology; James McGill Professor

T: 514-398-7975  | xin.zhao [at] (Email) |  Macdonald-Stewart Building, MS1-084


BSc, MSc (Nanjing Agricultural University, China)
PhD (Cornell)

Short Bio

Xin Zhao obtained a bachelor degree in Animal Science in 1982 and a Master Degree in Nutritional Physiology and Biochemistry in 1985 from Nanjing Agricultural University, China. Then, he went to US for his PhD study. After completing his PhD study in 1989 from Cornell University, he went to Canada for his postdoctoral study first in the University of Guelph and then in the University of Toronto. He started working at McGill University as an Assistant Professor in 1993 and was promoted to full professor in 2006.

Awards and Recognitions

  • 2016  West Agro, Inc. Award, American Dairy Science Association
  • 2014-2021  James McGill Professor, McGill University
  • 2011   Canadian Society of Animal Science Fellowship Award
  • 2007-2014  James McGill Professor, McGill University
  • 2006   Canadian Society of Animal Science's award for Technical Innovation in Enhancing Production of Safe Affordable Food
  • 2002-2006  William Dawson Scholar, McGill University

Research Interests

My research interests pertain to the interaction between microorganisms and hosts (Dairy cows and poultry). In dairy research, we focus on reactions of the bovine immune system during intra-mammary infection, pathogenesis of mastitis, genetic determination of milk fatty acids and milk protein allergy. In poultry research, we work on prebiotics, probiotics and gut microbiome.

Current Research

Antimicrobial resistance of staphylococci from mastitic milk

We are working on (a) to reveal organizational and structural characteristics of antibiotic resistant genes in milk staphylococcal isolates; (b) to determine whether and how regulatory RNAs regulate expression of antibiotic resistant genes; (c) to study the horizontal gene transfer of antibiotic resistance genes among staphylococcal isolates.

Prebiotics and probiotics for poultry production

We are systematically investigating effects of potential prebiotics on production parameters, immune responses and gut microbiota in chickens, in order to reduce usage of antibiotics as growth promoters in poultry production. We also work with industrial partners to develop high vitamin D eggs.

Lactation physiology

We are working on (a) to develop new strategies to speed up the mammary gland involution during early dry periods, in order to reduce the incidence of mastitis during the early dry period; (b) to investigate genetic influence of milk fatty acids, in order to contribute to the knowledge base about milk fatty acids and provide potential targets for animal breeding programs.

Current Research Projects

The genetics of bovine milk cholesterol content: Identification of molecular determinants and biomarkers of milk cholesterol (NSERC and Canadian Dairy Network)

Dairy cow management for the next generation (Dairy Farmers of Canada and AAFC)

Investigation of antibiotic resistance genes in staphylococcal isolates from bovine milk (NSERC)


ANSC 324 Devel. Biology & Reproduction 3 Credits
    Offered in the:
  • Fall
  • Winter
  • Summer

ANSC 551 Carbohydrate&Lipid Metabolism 3 CreditsTaught only in alternate years
    Offered in the:
  • Fall
  • Winter
  • Summer

ANSC 552 Protein Metabolism&Nutrition 3 CreditsTaught only in alternate years
    Offered in the:
  • Fall
  • Winter
  • Summer

Selected Publications

Review Papers

(170).   Ibeagha-Awemu, E. and X. Zhao. 2015. Epigenetic marks: valuable players in defining livestock phenotypes and conceivable sources of missing variation in livestock improvement programs. Frontiers in Genetics 6:302.

(169).   Pourabedin, M. and X. Zhao. 2015. Prebiotics and gut microbiota in chickens. FEMS Microbiol Lett. 362:fnv122.

Publications in Refereed Journals:

(168).   Ibeagha-Awemu, E. M., S. O. Peters, K.A. Akwanji, I.G. Imumorin, Xin Zhao. 2016. High density genome wide genotyping-by-sequencing and association identifies common and low frequency SNPs, and novel candidate genes influencing cow milk traits. Sci. Rep. (accepted)

(167).   Ponchon, B., S. Ollier, X. Zhao, and P. Lacasse. 2016. Relationship between glucocorticoids and prolactin during mammary gland stimulation in dairy cows. J. Dairy Sci. (accepted)

(166).   Zhang, W.W., M.M. Yang, Y.D. Yang, J. Zhan, Y.Q. Zhou and X. Zhao. 2016. Optimal secretion of alkali-tolerant xylanase in Bacillus subtilis by signal peptide screening. Appl. Microbiol. Biot. doi:10.1007/s00253-016-7615-4. 

(165).  Li, R., P. Dudemaine, X. Zhao, C. Lei, and E. Ibeagha-Awemu. 2016. Comparative analysis of the miRNome of bovine milk fat, whey and cells. PLoS ONE 11:e0154129

(164).   Ammah, A.A, F. Beaudoin, C. Benchaar,  N. Bissonnette,  X. Zhao, N. Gévry and E.M. Ibeagha-Awemu. 2016. Treatment and post-treatment effects of dietary supplementation with safflower oil and linseed oil on blood metabolites, milk components and fatty acid profiles of Canadian Holstein cows. J. Dairy Sci. (accepted).

(163).   Liu, P.  Z. Wu, J. Ma,  H. Xue and X. Zhao. 2016. Effect of bla regulators on the susceptible phenotype and phenotypic conversion for oxacillin-susceptible mecA-positive staphylococcal isolates. J. Antimicrobial Chemother.  71:2105-2112.

(162).   Ibeagha-Awemu, E. R. Li, A.A. Ammah, P. Dudemaine, N. Bissonnette, C. Benchaar and X. Zhao. 2016. Transcriptome adaptation of the bovine mammary gland to diets rich in unsaturated fatty acids shows greater impact of linseed oil over safflower oil on gene expression and metabolic pathways. BMC Genomics 17:104.

(161).  Feng, J.C, L.H. Wang, L.X. Zhou, X. Yang and X. Zhao. 2016. Using in vitro immunomodulatory properties of lactic acid bacteria for selection of probiotics against Salmonella infection in broiler chicks. PLoS ONE 11: e0147630.

(160).  Feng, J.C, P.L. Liu, X. Yang and X. Zhao.  2015. Screening of immunomodulatory and adhesive lactobacillus with antagonistic activities against Salmonella from fermented vegetables. World. J. Microbiol. Biot. 31:1947–1954.

(159).  Sun, X.Q,Y.P., Wang,  B. Chen,  and X. Zhao. 2015. Partially replacing cornstarch in a high-concentrate diet with sucrose inhibited the ruminal trans-10 biohydrogenation pathway in vitro by changing populations of specific bacteria. J. Anim. Sci. Biotechnol. 6:57.

(158).   Wu, Z., F. Li, D. Liu, H. Xue and X. Zhao. 2015. A novel type XII staphylococcal cassette chromosome mec harbouring a new cassette chromosome recombinase, CcrC2. Antimicrob Agents Chemother. 59:7597-7601.

(157).   Li, R., F. Beaudoin, A. A. Ammah, N. Bissonnette, C. Benchaar, X. Zhao, C. Lei, and E. Ibeagha-Awemu. 2015. Deep sequencing shows microRNA involvement in bovine mammary gland adaptation to diets supplemented with linseed oil or safflower oil. BMC Genomics 16:884.

(156).   Li, L., W. Feng, Z. Zhang, H. Xue and X. Zhao. 2015. Macrolide-lincosamide-streptogramin resistance phenotypes and genotypes of coagulase-positive Staphylococcus aureus and coagulase-negative staphylococcal isolates from bovine mastitis. BMC Vet. Res. 11:168.

(155).   Li, L. and X. Zhao. 2015. Comparative analyses of fecal microbiota in Tibetan and Chinese Han living at low or high altitude by barcoded 454 pyrosequencing. Sci. Rep. 5:14682.

(154).   Wu, Z., W. Si, H. Xue, M. Yang and X. Zhao. 2015. Molecular characterization and expression profiling of novel laccase isoenzymes from Fusarium solani X701, a wood-rotting ascomycete. Int. Biodeterior. Biodegr. 104:123–128.

(153).   Xue, H., L. Li, Z. Wu, Y. Wang and X. Zhao. 2015. Coexistence of heavy metal and antibiotic resistance within a novel composite Staphylococcal cassette chromosome in a Staphylococcus haemolyticus isolate from bovine mastitis milk. Antimicrob Agents Chemother 59:5788-5792.

(152).   Si, W., Z. Wu, L. Wang, M. Yang and X. Zhao. 2015. Atm, the first recombinant laccase from Agrobacterium sp. isolate S5-1, enhances in vitro digestibility of maize straw. PLoS ONE 10: e0128204.

(151).   Wang, L., H. Xue, L. Li and X. Zhao. 2015. Evolutionary relationship of a mobile element ISSau2 in Staphylococcus aureus of livestock and human origins. PLoS ONE 10: e0127183

(150).   Pourabedin, M., L.L. Guan and X. Zhao. 2015. Xylo-oligosaccharides and virginiamycin differentially modulate gut microbial composition in chickens. Microbiome 3:15.

(149).   Thang, C.L. and X. Zhao. 2015. Effects of orally administered immunodominant T-cell epitope peptides on cow's milk protein allergy in a mouse model. Food Res Int. 71:126–131.

(148).   Ollier, S., X. Zhao and P. Lacasse. 2015. Effects of feed restriction and prolactin-release inhibition at drying-off on susceptibility to new intramammary infection in cows.  J. Dairy Sci. 98:1–8.

(147).   Li, L., L. Zhou, L. Wang, H. Xue and X. Zhao. 2015. Characterization of methicillin-resistant and -susceptible staphylococcal isolates from bovine milk in Northwestern China. PLoS ONE 10:e0116699.

(146).   Zhao, L.L., G.S. Yang and X. Zhao. 2014. Rho-associated protein kinases play a critical role in the differentiation of rat adipose-derived stromal cells into cardiomyocytes in vitro.  PLoS ONE. 9: e115191.

(145).   Li, L., H. Wang, and X. Zhao. 2014. Effects of Rhodiola on production, health and gut development of broilers reared at high altitude in Tibet. Sci. Rep.  4:7166.

(144).   Zhang, L., S. Jia, M. Yang, Y. Xu., C. Li, J. Sun, Y. Huang, X. Lan, C. Lei, Y. Zhou, C. Zhang, X. Zhao  and  H. Chen. 2014. Detection of copy number variations and their effects in Chinese bulls. BMC Genomics 15:480.

(143).   Zhou Y, J. Sun, C. Li, Y. Wang, L. Li, H. Cai, X. Lan, C. Lei, X. Zhao and H. Chen. 2014. Characterization of transcriptional complexity during adipose tissue development in bovines of different ages and sexes. PLoS ONE 9: e101261.

(142).   Ollier, S., X. Zhao and P. Lacasse. 2014. Effects of feed restriction and prolactin-release inhibition at drying-off on cow’s metabolism, immunity, and mammary gland involution.  J. Dairy Sci. 97: 4942–4954.

(141).   Pourabedin, M., Z. Xu, B. Baurhoo, E. Chevaux and X. Zhao. 2014. Effects of mannan oligosaccharide and virginiamycin on the cecal microbial community and intestinal morphology of chickens raised under sub-optimal conditions. Can J. Microbiol. 60:255–266.

(140).   Huang, Y., L. Zhang, X. Lai, M. Li, Y. Sun, C. Li, X. Lan, C. Lei, C. Zhang, X. Zhao  and  H. Chen. 2014. Transcription factor ZBED6 mediates IGF2 gene expression by regulating promoter activity and DNA methylation in myoblasts. Sci. Rep 4:4570.

(139).   Sun, J.,  Y.  Zhou, T. S. Sonstegard, C. Li, H. Cai, X. Lan, C. Lei, X. Zhao, C.  Zhang and H. Chen. 2014. Discovery of novel and differentially expressed microRNAs between fetal and adult bovine  backfat in cattle. PLoS ONE 9: e90244.

(138).   Jin, W., E.M. Ibeagha-Awemu, G. Liang, F. Beaudoin, X. Zhao and L.L. Guan. 2014. Transcriptome microRNA profiling of bovine mammary epithelial cells challenged with Escherichia coli or Staphylococcus aureus bacteria reveals pathogen directed microRNA expression profiles. BMC Genomics 15:181.

(137).   Hua, L., J. Wang, M. Li, X. Sun, L. Zhang, C. Lei, X. Lan, X. Fang, X. Zhao and H. Chen. 2014. An Asp7Gly substitution in PPARG is associated with decreased transcriptional activation activity. PLoS ONE 9:e86954.

(136).  Ibeagha-Awemu, E. M., K.A. Akwanji, F. Beaudoin and X. Zhao.  2014. Associations between variants of FADS genes and omega-3 and omega-6 milk fatty acids of Canadian Holstein cows. BMC Genetics 15:25.

(135).   Ponchon, B., P. Lacasse, N. Silanikove., S. Ollier, and X. Zhao. 2014. Effects of intra-mammary infusions of casein hydrolysate, EGTA and lactose at drying-off on mammary gland involution. J. Dairy Sci. 97: 779-788.

(134).   Olaniyan, B.A., X. Zhao, A. F. Mustafa. 2013.  Determination of caprine serum albumin in milk using bromocresol green dye. Open Journal of Animal Sciences. 3:261-267.

(133).   Thang, C.L., J. I. Boye, H.N. Shi and X. Zhao. 2013. Effects of supplementing different ratios of omega-3 and omega-6 in western-style diets on cow’s milk protein allergy in a mouse model. Mol. Nutr. Food Res. 57:2029-2038.

(132).   Yang, M.M., W.W. Zhang, S.Y. Ji, P.H. Cao, Y.L. Chen and X. Zhao. 2013. Generation of an artificial double promoter for protein expression in Bacillus subtilis through a promoter trap system. PLoS ONE. 8:e56321

(131).   Thang, C.L., J. I. Boye and X. Zhao. 2013. Low doses of allergen and probiotic supplementation separately or in combination alleviate allergic reactions to cow’s β-lactoglobulin in mice. J. Nutr. 143:136-141.

(130).   Ollier, S., X. Zhao and P. Lacasse. 2013. Effect of prolactin-release inhibition on milk production and mammary gland involution at drying-off in cows.  J. Dairy Sci. 96: 335-343.

(129).  Pan, X., B.K. Lei, B.W. Feng, W. Yao, X. Zhao, Y. Yu and H. Lu. 2012. Identification of novel genes involved in DNA damage response by screening a genome-wide Schizosaccharomyces pombe deletion library. BMC Genomics 13:662.

(128).   Cheng, J., H.P. Xue and X. Zhao. 2012. Variation of serine-aspartate repeats in membrane proteins possibly contributes to staphylococcal microevolution. PLoS ONE. 7: e34756.

(127).   Ibeagha-Awemu, E., A. Ibeagha and X. Zhao. 2012. The influence of different anticoagulants and sample preparation methods on measurement of mCD14 on bovine monocytes and polymorphonuclear neutrophil leukocytes. BMC Research Notes 5:93. 

(126).   Malmuthuge, N. M. Li, Y. Chen, P. Fries, P. Griebel, B. Baurhoo, X. Zhao and L.L. Guan. 2012. Distinct commensal bacteria associate with ingesta and mucosal epithelium throughout the gastro-intestinal tract. FEMS Microbiol. Ecol. 79:337–347.