Eric Ma, Ph.D.

Staff Scientist
Eric Ma, Ph.D.
Staff scientist


Dr. Eric Ma earned his B.Sc. in biochemistry (first-class honors) and his Ph.D. in physiology from McGill University, focusing on immunometabolism and cancer metabolism. His graduate work explored alterations in cellular metabolism and energy use and how metabolism affects immune responses. He has extensive experience in stable-isotope tracer analysis (SITA), GC/LC-MS expertise, Seahorse bioanalyzer, and the Listeria monocytogenes infection model. In 2018, he joined the lab of Dr. Russell Jones at Van Andel Institute as a postdoctoral fellow and, in 2020, he was promoted to staff scientist.

Research focus

The use of metabolic profiling techniques, particularly stable-isotope tracers coupled with mass spectrometry has helped elucidate the complex metabolic networks in T lymphocytes. This has led to an abundance of evidence illustrating the importance of metabolism in supporting T lymphocyte functions. The majority of metabolism research is done in vitro, which does not capture the complexity of the nutrient environment in vivo. We utilize stable-isotope tracer analysis in vivo through tail vein 13C metabolite infusions to define the metabolic profile of CD8+ T effector cells in vivo. Additionally, we apply in vivo and ex vivo stable-isotope tracer analysis to other cell types; explore whole-body metabolism, communication between organs, and cells; and investigate the metabolic profiles of many cell types (i.e., microglia, cardiomyocytes, cancer cells, etc.).

Selected publications

Roy DR, Kaymak I, Williams KS, Ma EH, Jones RG. 2020. Immunometabolism in the tumor microenvironment. Ann Rev Can Biol. (Review)

Balmer ML, Ma EH, Thompson A, Epple R, Unterstab G, Lotscher J, Dehio P, Schurch CM, Warncke JD, Perrin G, Woischnig AK, Grahlert J, Loliger J, Assmann N, Bantug GR, Scharen OP, Khanna N, Egli A, Bubendorf L, Rentsch K, Hapfelmeier S, Jones RG, Hess C. 2020. Memory CD8+ T cells balance pro- and anti-inflammatory activity by reprogramming cellular acetate handling at sites of infection. Cell Metb.

Papadopoli DJ, Ma EH, Roy D, Russo M, Bridon G, Avizonis D, Jones RG, St-Pierre J. 2020. Methotrexate elicits pro-respiratory and anti-growth effects by promoting AMPK signaling. Sci Rep.

Roy DG*, Chen J*, Mamane V, Ma EH, Muhire BM, Sheldon RD, Shorstova T, Koning R, Johnson RM, Esaulova E, Williams KS, Hayes S, Steadman M, Samborska B, Swain A, Daigneault A, Chubukov V, Roddy TP, Foulkes W, Pospisilik JA, Dourgeois-Daigneualt, Artyomov MN, Witcher M, Krawczyk CM, Larochelle C, Jones RG. 2020. Methionine metabolism shapes helper T helper cell responses through regulation of epigenetic reprogrammingCell Metab 31(2):250–266.
*Co-first authors
Highlighted in a preview in Cell Metabolism

Ma EH, Verway MJ, Johnson RM, Roy DG, Steadman M, Hayes S, Williams KS, Sheldon RD, Samborska B, Kosinski PA, Kim H, Griss T, Faubert B, Condotta SA, Krawczyk CM, DeBerardinis RJ, Marsh K, Richer MJ, Chubukov V, Roddy T, Jones RG. 2019. Metabolic profiling using stable isotope tracing reveals distinct patterns of glucose utilization by physiologically activated CD8+ T cellsImmunity 51:856–870.

Burgener AV, Bantug GR, Meyer BJ, Higgins R, Ghosh A, Bignucolo O, Ma EH, Loeliger J, Unterstab G, Geigges M, Steiner R, Enamorado M, Ivanek R, Hunziker D, Schmidt A, Müller-Durovic B, Grählert J, Epple R, Dimeloe S, Lötscher J, Sauder U, Ebnöther M, Burger B, Heijnen I, Martínez-Cano S, Cantoni N, Brücker R, Kahlert CR, Sancho D, Jones RG, Navarini A, Recher M, Hess C. 2019. SDHA gain-of-function engages inflammatory mitochondrial retrograde signaling via KEAP1-Nrf2. Nat Immun.

Hsu BE, Tabariès S, Johnson RM, Andrzejewski S, Senecal J, Lehuédé C, Annis MG, Ma EH, Völs S, Ramsay L, Froment R, Monast A, Watson IR, Granot Z, Jones RG, St-Pierre J, Siegel PM. 2019. Immature low-density neutrophils exhibit metabolic flexibility that facilitates breast cancer liver metastasis. Cell Rep.

El-Houjeiri L, Possik E, Vijayaraghavan T, Paquette M, Martina JA, Kazan JM, Ma EH, Jones R, Blanchette P, Puertollano R, Pause A. 2019. The transcription factors TFEB and TFE3 link the FLCN-AMPK signaling axis to innate immune response and pathogen resistance. Cell Rep.

Hulea L, Gravel SP, Morita M, Cargnello M, Uchenunu , Im YK, Lehuédé C, Ma EH, Leibovitch M, McLaughlan S, Blouin MJ, Parisotto M, Papavasiliou V, Lavoie C, Larsson O, Ohh M, Ferreira T, Greenwood C, Bridon G, Avizonis D, Ferbeyre G, Siegel P, Jones RG, Muller W, Ursini-Siegel J, St-Pierre J, Pollak M, Topisirovic I. 2018. Translational and HIF-1α-dependent metabolic reprogramming underpin metabolic plasticity and responses to kinase inhibitors and biguanides. Cell Metab 28(6):817-832.e8.

Poffenberger MC, Metcalfe-Roach A, Aguilar E, Chen J, Hsu BE, Wong AH, Johnson RM, Flynn B,  Samborska B, Ma EH, Gravel SP, Tonelli L, Devorkin L, Kim P, Hall A, Izreig S, Loginicheva E, Beauchemin N, Siegel P, Artyomov MN, Lum JJ, Zogopoulos G, Blagih J, Jones RG. 2018. LKB1 deficiency in T cells promotes the development of gastrointestinal polyposis. Science 361(6400):406–411.

Raud B, Roy DG, Divakaruni AS, Tarasenko TN, Franke R, Ma EH, Samborska B, Hsieh WY, Wong AH, Stüve P, Arnold-Schrauf C, Guderian M, Lochner M, Rampertaap S, Romito K, Monsale J, Brönstrup M, Bensinger SJ, Murphy AN, McGuire PJ, Jones RG, Sparwasser T, Berod L. 2018. Etomoxir actions on regulatory and memory T cells are independent of Cpt1a-mediated fatty acid oxidation. Cell Metab 28(3):504-515.e7.

Guak H, Habyan SA, Ma EH, Aldossary H, Al-Masri M, Won SY, Ying T, Fixman ED, Jones RG,  McCaffrey   LM,   Krawczyk   CM.  2018. Glycolytic metabolism is essential for CCR7 oligomerization and dendritic cell migration. Nat Comm.

Tzelepis F, Blagih J, Khan N, Gillard J, Mendonca L, Roy DG, Ma EH, Joubert P, Jones RG, Divangahi M. 2018. Mitochondrial cyclophilin D regulates T cell metabolic responses and disease tolerance to tuberculosis. Sci Immunol 3(23).

Robichaud N, Hsu BE, Istomine R, Alvarez F, Blagih J, Ma EH, Morales SV, Dai DL, Li G, Souleimanova M, Guo Q, Del Rincon SV, Miller WH Jr, Ramón Y Cajal S, Park M, Jones RG, Piccirillo CA, Siegel PM, Sonenberg N. 2018. Translational control in the tumor microenvironment promotes lung metastasis: Phosphorylation of eIF4E in neutrophils. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 115(10):E2202–E2209. 

Rabinovitch RC, Samborska B, Faubert B, Ma EH, Gravel SP, Andrzejewski S, Raissi TC, Pause A, St-Pierre J, Jones RG. 2017. AMPK maintains cellular metabolic homeostasis through regulation of mitochondrial reactive oxygen species. Cell Rep 21(1):1–9. 

Ma EH, Poffenberger MC, Wong AH, Jones RG. 2017. The role of AMPK in T cell metabolism and function. Curr Opin Immunol.

Ma EH, Bantug G, Griss T, Verway MJ, Johnson RM, Condotta S, Raissi TC, Tsui H, Samborska B, Boukhaled G, Balmer M, Henriques da Costa S, Frezza C, Krawczyk CM, Richer MJ, Hess C, Jones RG. 2017. Serine is an essential metabolite for effector T cell expansion. Cell Metab.

Izreig S, Samborska B, Johnson R, Sergushichev A, Ma EH. Lussier C, Loginicheva E, Donayo A, Poffenberger M, Sagan S, Vincent E, Artyomov M, Duchaine T Jones RG. 2016. The miR-17 ∼ 92 microRNA cluster is a global regulator of tumor metabolism. Cell Rep 16(7):1915–1928.

Ma EH, Jones RG. 2016. (TORC)ing up purine biosynthesis. Science.

Balmer ML, Ma EH, Bantug GR, Grählert J, Pfister S, Glatter, T, Jauch A, Dimeloe S, Slack E, Dehio P, Krzyzaniak MA, King CG, Burgener AV, Fischer M, Develioglu L, Belle R, Recher M, Bonilla WV, Macpherson AJ, Hapfelmeier S, Jones RG, Hess C. 2016. Memory CD8+ T cells require increased concentrations of acetate induced by stress for optimal function. Immunity.

Griss T, Vincent EE, Egnatchik R, Chen J MA HE, Faubert B, Biollet B, DeBerardinis RJ, Jones RG. 2015. Metformin antagonizes cancer cell proliferation by suppressing mitochondrial-dependent biosynthesis. PLoS Biol 13(12):e1002309.

Awuah E, Ma E, Hoegl A, Vong K, Habib E, Auclair K. 2014. Exploring structural motifs necessary for substrate binding in the active site of Escherichia coli pantothenate kinase. Bioorg Med Chem.