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College of
Health Sciences

Ying-Ju Sung, PhD

Director of Anatomical Sciences
Professor of Anatomy
Department of Medical Education 
Research & Scholarship 
North Campus

Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine
Medical Sciences Building
525 Pine St.
Office 2034
Scranton, PA 18509
Fax: 570-504-9618

Ying-Ju Sung, PhD

Research interests

Ying-Ju Sung, PhD, is professor of anatomy in the Department of Medical Education. She received her PhD from City University of New York. She completed her postdoctoral fellowship at Columbia University in New York, and received her bachelor’s degree from Taipei Medical University in Taipei, Taiwan. Dr. Sung joined Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine from Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons where she was assistant professor in the Department of Pathology and Cell Biology since 2006 and, prior to that, associate research scientist in the Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology since 2001. Dr. Sung was instrumental in identifying a molecular pathway that is activated in chronic pain states and recently headed a drug development program at Columbia University to synthesize analgesics by targeting one of the kinases in the pathway.

The goal of Dr. Sung’s current research is to advance our drug discovery program, which aims to alleviate chronic pain toward the IND and preclinical trial stage. Our efforts are based on the revelation that the activation of protein kinase G-1alpha (PKG-1_) is required to initiate and maintain several chronic pain syndromes of somatic and visceral origin. We use a combination of molecular biological, cellular and behavior approaches to this end.

Student research opportunities

Chronic pain is a disabling condition that is associated with many diseases and from which millions of patients suffer but fail to obtain relief. Identifying the signals and the genes expressed during the cascade of events resulting from nerve injury to primary sensory neurons is the current focus of Dr. Sung’s research. Our lab has elucidated a pathway that sensory neurons use to inform the brain that an injury has occurred, and activating this pathway alters the electrical property of neurons. A key enzyme in this pathway is called PKG (Protein Kinase G). PKG acts like an on/off switch—if the switch is left on and uncontrolled, it results in a persistent activation of the pathway, causing pain. In collaboration with colleagues from Columbia University, we have developed two lead compounds that are highly potent and selective against PKG. Therefore, these compounds have tremendous potential for use in treating chronic pain. Using various animal models of pain, we aim to evaluate the analgesic efficacy of these compounds.

Recent publications


  • Ying-Ju Sung, Richard T. Ambron, Chapter 7 - Protein kinase G is a molecular switch for pain, Editor(s): Rajkumar Rajendram, Vinood B. Patel, Victor R. Preedy, Colin R. Martin, The Neurobiology, Physiology, and Psychology of Pain, Academic Press, 2022, Pages 67-77, ISBN 9780128205891, Full Text
  • Li ZS, Hung LY, Margolis KG, Ambron RT, Sung YJ, Gershon MD. The α isoform of cGMP-dependent protein kinase 1 (PKG1α) is expressed and functionally important in intrinsic primary afferent neurons of the guinea pig enteric nervous system. Neurogastroenterol Motil. 2021 Mar 3:e14100. doi: 10.1111/nmo.14100. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 33655600.
  • Sung, Y.J., Nkamany,M, Sofoluke, N, Deng, S, Xie, Y, Greenwood, J, Farid, R, Landry, DW and Ambron, RT (2017) A novel. Inhibitor of active protein kinase G attenuates chronic inflammatory and osteoarthritic pain. Pain, 158(5):822-832.
  • Holt, JT, Ghormoz, J, Sung, YJ, White, MV, Szarek, JL. Medical Student Benefit from Learning Objectives Correlates to Specific Myers-Briggs Types. Medical Science Educator April 25, 2015. Full Text
  • Hu, J., Levine, A., Sung, YJ, Schacher, S. (2015) cJun and CREB2 in the postsynaptic neuron contribute to persistent long-term facilitation at a behaviorally relevant synapse. Journal of Neuroscience 35(1) 386-395.
  • Holt, JT, Ghormoz, J., Sung, YJ, Szarek, JL, White, MW (2014) Targeting pedagogies for appropriate learners: downloading learning objectives increases exam scores for men. Medical Science Educator, Nov. 14, DOI 10.1007/s40670-014-0094-2
  • Denman RB, Xie W, Merz G, Sung YJ. GABAAergic stimulation modulates intracellular protein arginine methylation. Neuroscience Letter, (2014) 572(20) pp38-43.
  • Alaedini, A, Xiang, Z, Kim, H, Sung, YJ and Latov, N. (2008) Up-regulation of apoptosis and regeneration genes in the dorsal root ganglia during cisplatin treatment. Experimental Neurology 210(2) 368-374.
  • Sung, YJ, Wu, F, Schacher, S and Ambron, RT (2006) Synaptogenesis regulates axotomy-induced activation of c-Jun-activator protein-1 transcription. Journal of Neuroscience 26 (24):6439-6449.
  • Sung, YJ, Chiu, DT & Ambron, RT (2006) Activation and retrograde transport of protein kinase G in rat nociceptive neurons after nerve injury and inflammation. Neuroscience 141:697-709.
  • Colby, GP, Sung, YJ & Ambron, RT (2005) mRNAs encoding the Aplysia homologues of fasciclin-I and beta-thymosin are expressed only in the second phase of nerve injury and are differentially segregated in axons regenerating in vitro and in vivo. J Neurosci Res. 82(4):484-498.
  • Sung, YJ & Ambron, RT (2004) PolyADP-ribose polymerase-1 (PARP-1) and the evolution of learning and memory. Bioessays 26(12):1268-1271.
  • Sung, YJ, Walters, ET & Ambron, RT (2004) A neuronal isoform of protein kinase G couples mitogen-activated protein kinase nuclear import to axotomy-induced long-term hyperexcitability in Aplysia sensory neurons. Journal of Neuroscience 24(34):7583-7595.
  • Denman, R. B. Dolzhanskaya, N. & Sung,YJ (2004) Regulating a translational regulator: mechanisms by which cells control the activity of the fragile X mental retardation protein. Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences 61(14): 1714-1728.
  • Sung, YJ, Weiler, IJ, Greenough, WT & Denman, RB (2004) Selectively enriched mRNAs in rat synaptoneurosomes. Molecular Brain Research 126(1): 81-7.
  • Sung, YJ & Ambron, RT (2004) Pathways that elicit long-term changes in gene expression in nociceptive neurons following nerve injury: contributions to neuropathic pain. Neurological Research 26(2): 195-203.
  • Lin, H, Bao, J, Sung, YJ, Walters, ET & Ambron, RT (2003) Rapid electrical and delayed molecular signals regulate the serum response element after nerve injury: convergence of injury and learning signals. Journal of Neurobiology 57(2): 204-20.
  • Dolzhanskaya, N, Sung, YJ, Merz, G, Brown, WT, Nolin, S, El Idrissi, A, Dobkin, C & Denman, RB. (2003) Elevated nuclear Tip60a and NF-kBp65 levels in fragile X syndrome results from altered mRNA binding to FMRP. Current Trends in Peptides and Protein Research 5:201-220.
  • Dolzhanskaya, N, Sung, YJ, Conti, J. & Denman, RB (2003) The fragile X mental retardation protein FMRP interacts with U-rich target mRNAs in a yeast-3-hybrid system. Biochemical Biophysical Research Communications 305: 434-441.
  • Sung, YJ, Dolzhanskaya, N, Nolin, S, Brown, WT & Denman, RB (2003) The fragile X mental retardation protein FMRP binds elongation factor 1A mRNA and negatively regulates its translation in vivo. Journal of Biological Chemistry 278: 15669-15678.
  • Denman, RB & Sung, YJ (2002) Species-specific and isoform-specific RNA binding of the fragile X mental retardation protein, FMRP. Biochemical Biophysical Research Communications 292: 1063-1069.
  • Sung, YJ & Denman, RB (2001) RNA binding properties of the fragile X syndrome mental retardation protein FMRP. Recent Research Developments in Biophysics and Biochemistry 1, 109-123.
  • Sung, YJ, Povelones, M. & Ambron, RT (2001) RISK-1: A novel MAPK homologue in axoplasm that is activated and retrogradely transported after nerve injury. Journal of Neurobiology 47(1): 67-79.
  • Sung, YJ, Conti, J, Currie, JR, Brown, WT & Denman, RB (2000) RNAs that interact with the fragile X syndrome RNA binding protein FMRP. Biochemical Biophysical Research Communications 275: 973-980.
  • Sung, YJ & Denman, R. (1999) Using two Reverse Transcriptases to Eliminate False Positive Results in Differential Display. Expression Genetics: Differential Display, BioTechniques Books (A. Pardee and M. McCelland eds.) pp. 201-207, Eaton Publishing, Natick MA.
  • Sung, YJ & Denman, R.B. (1997) Using two reverse transcriptases to eliminate false positive results in differential display. Biotechniques 23 (3): 462-468.
  • Sung, YJ, Chen-Hwang, MC & Hwang, YW (1996) The dominant negative effects of Ras p21 harboring the Gly-60 to Ala mutation. Journal of Biological Chemistry 271(48): 30537-30543.
  • Hwang, M.C., Sung, Y.J. & Hwang, Y.W. (1996) The differential effects of the Gly 60 to Ala mutation on the interaction of H-ras p21 with different downstream targets. Journal of Biological Chemistry 271(14): 8196-8202.
  • Drugan, J, Khosravi-Far, R, White, M, Der, C, Sung YJ, Hwang, YW & Campbell, S (1996) Ras interaction with two distinct binding domains in Raf-1 may be required for Ras transformation. Journal of Biological Chemistry 271(1): 233-237.
  • Sung, YJ, Carter, M, Zhong, JM & Hwang, YW (1995) Mutagenesis of H-ras p21 at Glycine-60 residue disrupts GTP-induced conformational change. Biochemistry 34(10): 3470 3477.
  • Hu, SC, Chang, FW, Sung, YJ, Hsu, WM & Lee, EHY (1991) Neurotoxic effects of 1-methyl-4-phenyl-1,2,3,6-tetrahydropyridine in the substantia nigra and the locus coeruleus in Balb/C mice. The Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics 259(3): 1379-1387.
  • Lee, EHY, Huang, JL, Sung, YJ & Chai, CY (1990) Multiple inhibitory actions of the paramedian reticular nucleus-effects on blood pressure and motor activities in rats. Chinese Journal of Physiology 33(1): 49-61.
  • Lee, EHY & Sung, YJ (1989) Corticotropin releasing factor injected into the amygdala affects memory retention of aversive learning and appetitive learning differentially in rats. Behavioral and Neural Biology 52: 285-294.


  • US patent 8252754 “Neuronal pain pathway,” Ambron, R, Sung, YJ, Landry, DW, and Deng, SX, August 28, 2012
  • US patent 8846742 “Neuronal pain pathway modulators,” Ambron, R, Sung, YJ, Greenwood, J, Frye, L, Deng, SX, Xie, Y, and Landry, DW, September 30, 2014
  • US patent 20150320761 “Neuronal pain pathway,” Ambron, R, Sung, YJ, Landry, DW, and Deng, SX, November 12, 2015
  • US patent 20150126576 “Neuronal pain pathway modulators,” Ambron, R, Sung, YJ, Greenwood, J, Frye, L, Deng, SX, Xie, Y, and Landry, DW, May 7, 2015


Bachelor – Taipei Medical University, Taipei, Taiwan
Master – City University of New York, NY
PhD – City University of New York, NY
Postdoctoral – Columbia University, NY

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