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Xiang Yu




Xiang Yu 

E-mail: yuxiang@pku.edu.cn 


Research Area

The normal functioning of the brain relies on its intricate and complex circuits. Natural sensory experience is critical to the neuronal morphogenesis, synaptogenesis and the formation of functional neural circuits. In previous work, we showed the early developing brain exhibits different plasticity rules, as compared to the mature brain. Specifically, we showed: 1) early sensory experience globally and cross-modally regulates the development of multiple sensory cortices, in a mechanism mediated by the neuropeptide oxytocin; 2) during early neuroinflammation, perivascular pericytes rapidly sense the inflammatory signal and release the cytokine CCL2, which in turn, increase excitatory synaptic transmission in multiple brain regions; 3) during neural circuit maturation in the adolescent brain, sensory experience coordinately regulates the maturation of “useful” spines and the pruning of “less used” spines, in a mechanism dependent on the limited resource, the cadherin/catenin cell adhesion complex. 

Based on these results, we proposed the “early global cross-modal neural circuit development hypothesis”. It is well known that the early developing brain is more plastic, and that some brain regions have critical periods. However, the underlying mechanisms are not well understood. We use a combination of single cell expression profiling, molecular biology, genetics and immunohistochemistry to investigate the molecular mechanisms underlying this type of plasticity. We also use electrophysiology, optical imaging and behavioral assays to identify the cellular and circuit mechanisms through which sensory experience and environmental factors regulates the early development of neurons, glial cells and the neurovascular unit. Understanding early global cross-modal plasticity mechanisms in the developing brain is critical to our understanding of the basic mechanism of brain wiring. Developmental neurological disorders, such as autism spectrum disorders and intellectual disabilities, have devastating impacts on the well-being of affected children. By understanding the operating principles of the young brain, early individualized interventions, through either drug therapies or behavioral training, can be developed, with important clinical and social implications.


Selected Publications

1.        Duan, L., Zhang, X.D., Miao, W.Y., Sun, Y.J., Xiong, G., Wu, Q., Li, G., Yang, P., Yu, H., Li, H., Wang, Y., Zhang, M., Hu, L.Y., Tong, X., Zhou, W.H., Yu, X.* (2018) PDGFRβ cells rapidly relay inflammatory signal from the circulatory system to neurons via chemokine CCL2. Neuron 100(1):183-200. (highlighted by same issue Preview 100(1):11-13)
2.        Hu C.C., Xu X.*, Xiong G.L., Xu Q., Zhou B.R., Li C.Y., Qin Q., Liu C.X., Li H.P., Sun Y.J.*, Yu X.* (2018) Alterations in plasma cytokine levels in Chinese children with autism spectrum disorder. Autism Research11(7):989-999
3.        Li M.Y., Miao W.Y., Wu Q.Z., He S.J., Yan G., Yang Y., Liu J.J., Taketo M.M. and Yu, X.* (2017) A critical role of presynaptic Cadherin/Catenin/p140cap complexes in stabilizing spines and functional synapses in the neocortex. Neuron 94(6):1155-1172
4.        Zhang S.X., Duan L.H., He S.J., Zhuang G.F. and Yu X.* (2017) Phosphatidylinositol 3,4-bisphosphate regulates neurite initiation and dendrite morphogenesis via actin aggregation. Cell Res. 27(2):253-273.
5.        Bian W.J., Miao W.Y., He S.J., Qiu Z. and Yu, X.* (2015) Coordinated spine pruning and maturation mediated by inter-spine competition for cadherin/catenin complexes. Cell 162(4): 808-822 (highlighted by Nat. Rev. Neurosci. 16(10):577)
6.        Zheng J.J., Li S.J., Zhang X.D., Miao W.Y., Zhang D., Yao H. and Yu, X.* (2014) Oxytocin mediates early experience–dependent cross-modal plasticity in the sensory cortices. Nat. Neurosci. 17(3):391-399 [highlighted by same issue News and Views 17(3), 340 and by Nat. Rev. Neurosci. 15(3):139]
7.        He S., Ma J., Liu N. and Yu, X.* (2010) Early enriched environment promotes neonatal GABAergic neurotransmission and accelerates synapse maturation. J. Neurosci. 30(23):7910-7916.
8.        Tan Z.J., Peng Y., Song H.L. and Yu X.* (2010) N-cadherin dependent neuron-neuron interaction is required for the maintenance of activity-induced dendrite growth. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 107(21):9873-9878, cover story.



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