The biochemistry of metabolism undergoes significant remodeling during a) physiological stages associated with growth and development and b) onset and progressive stages of obesity, fatty liver and type II diabetes mellitus (T2DM). Our lab is interested in identifying the critical pathways involved in metabolic regulation during growth and development, and also identifying shared metabolic defects contributing to the onset of obesity, type II diabetes mellitus and fatty liver disease. Our specific interest is in understanding various mechanisms through which hepatic mitochondria integrates substrate flux, oxidative phosphorylation, ATP synthesis and inflammation, to maintain normal cell function. Strategies or agents targeting to alleviate mitochondrial dysfunction could be a promising strategy to a) enhance growth and development and b) for treatment of metabolic diseases.

We utilize various in vitro cell culture systems together with in vivo animal models to tease out mechanisms regulating mitochondrial function. These animal models include diet-induced/ transgenic mice models to probe mitochondrial dysfunction during fatty liver disease and developing chicken embryo/ neonatal chick to probe metabolic transition of mitochondrial networks during growth and development.  Towards profiling of shared metabolic networks, we utilize stable isotope based techniques for metabolic flux analysis, together with targeted metabolomics of plasma and tissue metabolites. These mass spectrometry and/or nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) based approaches in combination with standard measures in molecular biology provide us a functional index of tissue-specific metabolism.

Our research is currently funded by a grant from the National Institutes of Health,  National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, R01DK112865.

For graduate student and post-doctoral fellowship and other opportunities in the Sunny lab, contact us at

Accepting graduate students for Spring 2019 and Fall 2019


Lab News

Chaitra_2018 Bioscience posterChaitra Surugihalli a first year doctoral student won the poster competition for the Bioscience Day 2018 which was conducted at the University of Maryland, on Nov 13th. Chaitra’s poster was entitled, “Adaptation of hepatic mitochondrial metabolism and lipogenesis during embryonic to post-hatch transition in chicken.”  Bioscience Day is held annually by the College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences.


Chaitra Surugihalli has been awarded one of the Graduate School’s Outstanding Research Assistants Awards (AY 2018-19). Chaitra has been a doctoral student in Dr. Nishanth Sunny’s laboratory since Spring 2018. This award is a testimony to Chaitra’s excellent progress and contributions towards the research program, investigating mechanisms regulating mitochondrial metabolism and lipogenesis in embryonic to post-hatch chicken.