Bradley E. Aouizerat


Bradley E. Aouizerat headshot

Bradley E. Aouizerat


Professor, College of Dentistry

Bradley E. Aouizerat's additional information

BS, Microbiology/ Molecular Genetics - University of California at Los Angeles
PhD, Microbiology/ Molecular Genetics/lmmunology - University of California at Los Angeles
MAS, Master of Advance Science Research in Clinical - University of California at San Francisco

Oral-systemic health

American Heart Association
American Liver Foundation
American Pain Society
American Society for Human Genetics
International Association for the Study of Pain

Faculty Honors Awards

Excellence in Research Mentoring Faculty Teaching Award (2013)
Excellence in Research Mentoring Faculty Teaching Award (Nominee) (2012)
Excellence in Research Mentoring Faculty Teaching Award (Nominee) (2011)
Most Dedicated Mentor Award, PMCTR Fellowship Program (2009)
Multidisciplinary Clinical Research Scholar, Roadmap K12 (2006)
Early Career Investigator Award, Bayer Healthcare International (2006)
Faculty Mentorship Award Nominee (2005)
Young Investigator Award, National Hemophilia Foundation (2005)
Early Career Faculty Award, Hellman Family (2005)
Faculty Mentorship Award Nominee (2004)
National Liver Scholar Award, American Liver Foundation (2004)
Irvine H. Page Young Investigator Award (Finalist), American Heart Association (2004)
Sam and Rose Gilbert Fellowship, UCLA (1998)
Warsaw Fellowship (1998)


Association of PTSD With Longitudinal COVID-19 Burden in a Mixed-Serostatus Cohort of Men and Women: Weathering the Storm

Jones, D. L., Zhang, Y., Rodriguez, V. J., Haberlen, S., Ramirez, C., Adimora, A. A., Merenstein, D., Aouizerat, B., Sharma, A., Wilson, T., Mimiaga, M. J., Sheth, A. N., Plankey, M., Cohen, M. H., Stosor, V., Kempf, M. C., & Friedman, M. R. (2022). Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes, 90(5), 567-575. 10.1097/QAI.0000000000003006
Objectives:This study of people with HIV (PWH) and those without HIV conducted during the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States in 2020 examines the impact of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) on COVID-19 burden, defined as pandemic-related disruptions.Methods:Data consisted of survey responses on PTSD among participants (N = 2434) enrolled in the Multicenter AIDS Cohort Study (MACS) and the Women's Interagency HIV (WIHS) cohorts. Unadjusted and adjusted regression models were used to examine the association of PTSD with COVID-19 burden (overall and domain-specific burdens). Quasi-Poisson regression models were used to assess associations with the COVID-19 burden score and 2 domain-specific burdens: (1) changes in resources and (2) interruptions in health care. Analyses was adjusted for age, race/ethnicity, HIV serostatus, current smoking status, number of comorbidities, education, and study regions.Results:Study participants were a median age of 58 (interquartile range, 52-65) years. In both bivariate and multivariable models, PTSD severity was associated with greater overall COVID-19 burden. PTSD severity was associated with the number of resource changes and number of interruptions in medical care. These findings were also consistent across cohorts (MACS/WIHS) and across HIV serostatus, suggesting a greater risk for COVID-19 burden with greater PTSD severity, which remained significant after controlling for covariates.Conclusions:This study builds on emerging literature demonstrating the impact of mental health on the burden and disruption associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, providing context specific to PWH. The ongoing pandemic requires structural and social interventions to decrease disruption to resources and health resource needs among these vulnerable populations.

Class-Based Antiretroviral Exposure and Cognition Among Women Living with HIV

Spence, A. B., Liu, C., Rubin, L., Aouizerat, B., Vance, D. E., Bolivar, H., Lahiri, C. D., Adimora, A. A., Weber, K., Gustafson, D., Sosanya, O., Turner, R. S., & Kassaye, S. (2022). AIDS Research and Human Retroviruses, 38(7), 561-570. 10.1089/aid.2021.0097
Neurologic complications of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) are common in treated individuals, and toxicity of certain antiretroviral therapies (ART) may contribute to cognitive impairment. We investigated exposures to specific ART and cognition among women living with HIV (WLWH). Virologically suppressed (viral load <200 copies/mL during at least two semi-annual visits) WLWH and age/race matched HIV-seronegative controls enrolled in the Women's Interagency HIV Study who completed at least two biennial cognitive assessments were included. Analysis of WLWH was restricted to those with exposure to the drug class of interest and a nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor (NRTI) backbone. Generalized estimating equations were used to evaluate repeated measures of cognition over time in association with ART class exposure. Among 1,242 eligible WLWH, 20% (n = 247) had isolated drug exposure to non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NNRTI), 18% (n = 219) to protease inhibitors (PIs), and 6% (n = 79) to integrase inhibitors with a NRTI backbone. Cognitive assessments were performed at a median of 3 biennial visits {IQR 2-4 visits}. At the index assessment, 21% of WLWH demonstrated global cognitive impairment versus 29% at their last cognitive assessment. In multivariable analyses adjusted for hypertension, depression, diabetes mellitus, history of AIDS-defining illness, alcohol use, number of medications, and time on ART, WLWH exposed to NNRTIs demonstrated verbal learning improvements (mean T-score change 1.3, p = .020) compared to other treated women. Compared to HIV-seronegative women, WLWH exposed to PIs had worse verbal learning (mean T-score difference -2.62, p = .002) and verbal memory performance (mean T-score difference -1.74, p = .032) at baseline. Compared to HIV-seronegative women, WLWH exposed to PIs had improvements in verbal learning (mean T-score slope difference 0.36, p = .025) and verbal memory (mean T-score slope difference 0.32, p = .042). The index T-score and slope of change in the T-score were similar among other treated groups and the HIV-seronegative group. We noted emerging trends in cognition in WLWH exposed to specific drug classes. Ongoing study of this relatively young group is important to characterize long-term cognitive outcomes and effect of antiretrovirals as treatment guidelines evolve.

Co-expressed microRNAs, target genes and pathways related to metabolism, inflammation and endocrine function in individuals at risk for type 2 diabetes

Flowers, E., Asam, K., Allen, I. E., Kanaya, A. M., & Aouizerat, B. E. (2022). Molecular Medicine Reports, 25(5). 10.3892/mmr.2022.12672
Micrornas (mirnas) may be considered impor- tant regulators of risk for type 2 diabetes (T2d). The aim of the present study was to identify novel sets of mirnas associ- ated with T2d risk, as well as their gene and pathway targets. circulating mirnas (n=59) were measured in plasma from participants in a previously completed clinical trial (n=82). an agnostic statistical approach was applied to identify novel sets of mirnas with optimal co-expression patterns. In silico analyses were used to identify the messenger rna and biolog- ical pathway targets of the mirnas within each factor. a total of three factors of miRNAs were identified, containing 18, seven and two mirnas each. eight biological pathways were revealed to contain genes targeted by the mirnas in all three factors, 38 pathways contained genes targeted by the mirnas in two factors, and 55, 18 and two pathways were targeted by the mirnas in a single factor, respectively (all q<0.05). The pathways containing genes targeted by mirnas in the largest factor shared a common theme of biological processes related to metabolism and inflammation. By contrast, the pathways containing genes targeted by mirnas in the second largest factor were related to endocrine function and hormone activity. The present study focused on the pathways uniquely targeted by each factor of mirnas in order to identify unique mecha- nisms that may be associated with a subset of individuals. Further exploration of the genes and pathways related to these biological themes may provide insights about the subtypes of T2D and lead to the identification of novel therapeutic targets.

Gut Microbiota, Plasma Metabolomic Profiles, and Carotid Artery Atherosclerosis in HIV Infection

Wang, Z., Peters, B. A., Usyk, M., Xing, J., Hanna, D. B., Wang, T., Post, W. S., Landay, A. L., Hodis, H. N., Weber, K., French, A., Golub, E. T., Lazar, J., Gustafson, D., Kassaye, S., Aouizerat, B., Haberlen, S., Malvestutto, C., Budoff, M., Wolinsky, S. M., Sharma, A., Anastos, K., Clish, C. B., Kaplan, R. C., Burk, R. D., & Qi, Q. (2022). Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology, 42(8), 1081-1093. 10.1161/ATVBAHA.121.317276
Background: Alterations in gut microbiota and blood metabolomic profiles have been implicated in HIV infection and cardiovascular disease. However, it remains unclear whether alterations in gut microbiota may contribute to disrupted host blood metabolomic profiles in relation to atherosclerosis, especially in the context of HIV infection. Methods: We analyzed cross-sectional associations between gut microbiota features and carotid artery plaque in 361 women with or at high risk of HIV (67% HIV+), and further integrated plaque-associated microbial features with plasma lipidomic/metabolomic profiles. Furthermore, in 737 women and men, we examined prospective associations of baseline gut bacteria-associated lipidomic and metabolomic profiles with incident carotid artery plaque over 7-year follow-up. Results: We found 2 potentially pathogenic bacteria, Fusobacterium and Proteus, were associated with carotid artery plaque; while the beneficial butyrate producer Odoribacter was inversely associated with plaque. Fusobacterium and Proteus were associated with multiple lipids/metabolites which were clustered into 8 modules in network. A module comprised of 9 lysophosphatidylcholines and lysophosphatidylethanolamines and a module comprised of 9 diglycerides were associated with increased risk of carotid artery plaque (risk ratio [95% CI], 1.34 [1.09-1.64] and 1.24 [1.02-1.51] per SD increment, respectively). Functional analyses identified bacterial enzymes in lipid metabolism associated with these plasma lipids. In particular, phospholipase A1 and A2 are the key enzymes in the reactions producing lysophosphatidylcholines and lysophosphatidylethanolamines. Conclusions: Among individuals with or at high risk of HIV infection, we identified altered gut microbiota and related functional capacities in the lipid metabolism associated with disrupted plasma lipidomic profiles and carotid artery atherosclerosis.

Incorporating local ancestry improves identification of ancestry-associated methylation signatures and meQTLs in African Americans

Li, B., Aouizerat, B. E., Cheng, Y., Anastos, K., Justice, A. C., Zhao, H., & Xu, K. (2022). Communications Biology, 5(1), 401. 10.1038/s42003-022-03353-5
Here we report three epigenome-wide association studies (EWAS) of DNA methylation on self-reported race, global genetic ancestry, and local genetic ancestry in admixed Americans from three sets of samples, including internal and external replications (Ntotal = 1224). Our EWAS on local ancestry (LA) identified the largest number of ancestry-associated DNA methylation sites and also featured the highest replication rate. Furthermore, by incorporating ancestry origins of genetic variations, we identified 36 methylation quantitative trait loci (meQTL) clumps for LA-associated CpGs that cannot be captured by a model that assumes identical genetic effects across ancestry origins. Lead SNPs at 152 meQTL clumps had significantly different genetic effects in the context of an African or European ancestry background. Local ancestry information enables superior capture of ancestry-associated methylation signatures and identification of ancestry-specific genetic effects on DNA methylation. These findings highlight the importance of incorporating local ancestry for EWAS in admixed samples from multi-ancestry cohorts.

Neurotrophin Pathway Receptors NGFR and TrkA Control Perineural Invasion, Metastasis, and Pain in Oral Cancer

Doan, C., Aouizerat, B. E., Ye, Y., Dang, D., Asam, K., Bhattacharya, A., Howard, T., Patel, Y. K., Viet, D. T., Figueroa, J. D., Zhong, J. F., Thomas, C. M., Morlandt, A. B., Yu, G., Callahan, N. F., Allen, C. T., Grandhi, A., Herford, A. S., Walker, P. C., Nguyen, K., Kidd, S. C., Lee, S. C., Inman, J. C., Slater, J. M., & Viet, C. T. (2022). Advanced Biology, 6(9). 10.1002/adbi.202200190
Oral squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC) patients suffer from poor survival due to metastasis or locoregional recurrence, processes that are both facilitated by perineural invasion (PNI). OSCC has higher rates of PNI than other cancer subtypes, with PNI present in 80% of tumors. Despite the impact of PNI on oral cancer prognosis and pain, little is known about the genes that drive PNI, which in turn drive pain, invasion, and metastasis. In this study, clinical data, preclinical, and in vitro models are leveraged to elucidate the role of neurotrophins in OSCC metastasis, PNI, and pain. The expression data in OSCC patients with metastasis, PNI, or pain demonstrate dysregulation of neurotrophin genes. TrkA and nerve growth factor receptor (NGFR) are focused, two receptors that are activated by NGF, a neurotrophin expressed at high levels in OSCC. It is demonstrated that targeted knockdown of these two receptors inhibits proliferation and invasion in an in vitro and preclinical model of OSCC, and metastasis, PNI, and pain. It is further determined that TrkA knockdown alone inhibits thermal hyperalgesia, whereas NGFR knockdown alone inhibits mechanical allodynia. Collectively the results highlight the ability of OSCC to co-opt different components of the neurotrophin pathway in metastasis, PNI, and pain.

A new monocyte epigenetic clock reveals nonlinear effects of alcohol consumption on biological aging in three independent cohorts (N = 2242)

Liang, X., Sinha, R., Justice, A. C., Cohen, M. H., Aouizerat, B. E., & Xu, K. (2022). Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 46(5), 736-748. 10.1111/acer.14803
Background: Assessing the effect of alcohol consumption on biological age is essential for understanding alcohol use-related comorbidities and mortality. Previously developed epigenetic clocks are mainly based on DNA methylation in heterogeneous cell types, which provide limited knowledge on the impacts of alcohol consumption at the individual cellular level. Evidence shows that monocytes play an important role in both alcohol-induced pathophysiology and the aging process. In this study, we developed a novel monocyte-based DNA methylation clock (MonoDNAmAge) to assess the impact of alcohol consumption on monocyte age. Methods: A machine learning method was applied to select a set of chronological age-associated DNA methylation CpG sites from 1202 monocyte methylomes. Pearson correlation was tested between MonoDNAmAge and chronological age in three independent cohorts (Ntotal = 2242). Using the MonoDNAmAge clock and four established clocks (i.e., HorvathDNAmAge, HannumDNAmAge, PhenoDNAmAge, GrimDNAmAge), we then evaluated the effect of alcohol consumption on epigenetic aging in the three cohorts [i.e., Yale Stress Center Community Study (YSCCS), Veteran Aging Cohort Study (VACS), Women's Interagency HIV Study (WIHS)] using linear and quadratic models. Results: The MonoDNAmAge, comprised of 186 CpG sites, was moderately to strongly correlated with chronological age in the three cohorts (r = 0.90, p = 3.12E−181 in YSCCS; r = 0.54, p = 1.75E−96 in VACS; r = 0.66, p = 1.50E−60 in WIHS). More importantly, we found a nonlinear association between MonoDNAmAge and alcohol consumption (pmodel = 4.55E−08, (Formula presented.) = 7.80E−08 in YSCCS; pmodel = 1.85E−02, (Formula presented.) = 3.46E−02 in VACS). Heavy alcohol consumption increased EAAMonoDNAmAge up to 1.60 years while light alcohol consumption decreased EAAMonoDNAmAge up to 2.66 years. These results were corroborated by the four established epigenetic clocks (i.e., HorvathDNAmAge, HannumDNAmAge, PhenoDNAmAge, GrimDNAmAge). Conclusions: The results suggest a nonlinear relationship between alcohol consumption and its effects on epigenetic age. Considering adverse effects of alcohol consumption on health, nonlinear effects of alcohol use should be interpreted with caution. The findings, for the first time, highlight the complex effects of alcohol consumption on biological aging.

A novel graph-based k-partitioning approach improves the detection of gene-gene correlations by single-cell RNA sequencing

Xu, H., Hu, Y., Zhang, X., Aouizerat, B. E., Yan, C., & Xu, K. (2022). BMC Genomics, 23(1). 10.1186/s12864-021-08235-4
Background: Gene expression is regulated by transcription factors, cofactors, and epigenetic mechanisms. Coexpressed genes indicate similar functional categories and gene networks. Detecting gene-gene coexpression is important for understanding the underlying mechanisms of cellular function and human diseases. A common practice of identifying coexpressed genes is to test the correlation of expression in a set of genes. In single-cell RNA-seq data, an important challenge is the abundance of zero values, so-called “dropout”, which results in biased estimation of gene-gene correlations for downstream analyses. In recent years, efforts have been made to recover coexpressed genes in scRNA-seq data. Here, our goal is to detect coexpressed gene pairs to reduce the “dropout” effect in scRNA-seq data using a novel graph-based k-partitioning method by merging transcriptomically similar cells. Results: We observed that the number of zero values was reduced among the merged transcriptomically similar cell clusters. Motivated by this observation, we leveraged a graph-based algorithm and develop an R package, scCorr, to recover the missing gene-gene correlation in scRNA-seq data that enables the reliable acquisition of cluster-based gene-gene correlations in three independent scRNA-seq datasets. The graphically partitioned cell clusters did not change the local cell community. For example, in scRNA-seq data from peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs), the gene-gene correlation estimated by scCorr outperformed the correlation estimated by the nonclustering method. Among 85 correlated gene pairs in a set of 100 clusters, scCorr detected 71 gene pairs, while the nonclustering method detected only 4 pairs of a dataset from PBMCs. The performance of scCorr was comparable to those of three previously published methods. As an example of downstream analysis using scCorr, we show that scCorr accurately identified a known cell type (i.e., CD4+ T cells) in PBMCs with a receiver operating characteristic area under the curve of 0.96. Conclusions: Our results demonstrate that scCorr is a robust and reliable graph-based method for identifying correlated gene pairs, which is fundamental to network construction, gene-gene interaction, and cellular omic analyses. scCorr can be quickly and easily implemented to minimize zero values in scRNA-seq analysis and is freely available at

Predictors and Consequences of Prescription Opioid Use in Women Living With and Without HIV: 20-Year Follow-Up

Cohen, M. H., Benning, L., Weber, K. M., Sharma, A., Plankey, M., Kempf, M. C., Wilson, T. E., Aouizerat, B., Milam, J., Adimora, A. A., Wingood, G., & Carrico, A. W. (2022). Journal of Women’s Health, 31(8), 1188-1196. 10.1089/jwh.2021.0231
Objective: To examine predictors and consequences of prescription opioid use among a cohort of women living with HIV (WLWH) and women without HIV from 2000 to 2019. Materials and Methods: The Women's Interagency HIV Study is a multisite, prospective cohort study. Cumulative proportion of visits with prescription opioid use was categorized as follows: minimal (0%-9%), intermediate (10%-39%), and chronic (>40%). Logistic regression examined independent predictors, and proportional hazards regression estimated unadjusted and adjusted hazards of all-cause mortality, comparing intermediate and chronic prescription opioid use with minimal use. Results: Annual prevalence of prescription opioid use significantly increased from 12.6% to 19.3% from 2000 to 2019 (p < 0.0001). Prescription opioid use was minimal in 75%, intermediate in 16%, and chronic in 9% of women. WLWH had 56% higher odds of chronic prescription opioid use compared with women without HIV. Even after adjusting for quality-of-life scores including ratings of pain, women with intermediate and chronic prescription opioid use had greater odds of being sexual minorities (lesbian or bisexual), unemployed, and were more likely to report benzodiazepine and nonprescription substance use compared with those with minimal use. Intermediate and chronic prescription opioid use were each associated with an almost 1.5-fold increased risk of all-cause mortality. Conclusions: Despite federally mandated opioid prescribing guidelines, prescription opioid use and related mortality significantly increased in women experiencing physical and psychosocial vulnerabilities. The higher mortality rate found among prescription opioid users may reflect the many underlying chronic medical and psychosocial conditions for which these opioids were prescribed, as well as complications of opioids themselves. Findings underscore the need for non-opioid and nonpharmacological interventions for chronic pain, particularly in sexual minorities and WLWH. Avoiding concurrent use of opioids with benzodiazepines and nonprescription drugs might reduce mortality.

The Role of Racial and Ethnic Factors in MicroRNA Expression and Risk for Type 2 Diabetes

Flowers, E., Kanaya, A. M., Zhang, L., & Aouizerat, B. E. (2022). Frontiers in Genetics, 13. 10.3389/fgene.2022.853633
Prior studies focused on circulating microRNAs and the risk for complex diseases have shown inconsistent findings. The majority of studies focused on European and East Asian racial or ethnic groups, however, ancestry was not typically reported. We evaluated the risk for type 2 diabetes as an exemplar to show that race and ethnic group may contribute to inconsistent validation of previous findings of associations with microRNAs.