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YU, Xiang
E-mail: yuxiang01(AT)pku.edu.cn
Office Address: LUI CHE WOO BUILDING,Peking University, No.5 Yiheyuan Road, Haidian District,Beijing, P.R.China 100871
Lab Address: LUI CHE WOO BUILDING,Peking University, No.5 Yiheyuan Road, Haidian District,Beijing, P.R.China 100871
Lab Homepage:
Personal Homepage:
1995-1999,Ph.D., MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology and Trinity College, University of
Cambridge, UK.
1999,M.A. Cantab., Trinity College, University of Cambridge, UK.
1992-1995,B.A. Cantab., Trinity College, University of Cambridge, UK.
Professional Experience
2019-present,Professor, School of Life Sciences, Peking University
2019-present,Investigator, Peking University-Tsinghua University Center for Life Sciences
2019-present,Investigator, IDG/McGovern Institute for Brain Research at Peking University
2019-present,Director, Autism Research Center, Peking University Health Science Center
2014-2019,Senior Investigator, Institute of Neuroscience, Chinese Academy of Sciences
2005-2014, Investigator, Institute of Neuroscience, Chinese Academy of Sciences
2005,Grass Fellow, Marine Biological Laboratory
1999-2005, Post-doctoral fellow, Stanford University Medical Center
Honors and Awards
2022, Changjiang Scholar
2020, CIBR Scholar
2019, Hsiang-tung Chang Young Neuroscientist Award
2018. Ten Thousand Talent Program, Science and Technology Innovation Leader
2017, Shanghai Leading Talent
2017, Excellent Graduate Advisor of the Chinese Academy of Sciences
2016, Shanghai Subject Chief Scientist
2016, Young Science and Technology Innovation Leader, Ministry of Science and Technology of China
2014, China Young Women Scientists’ Award
2014, Shanghai Talented Young Scientist Award
2012, Excellent Graduate Advisor of the Chinese Academy of Sciences
2011, National Science Fund for Distinguished Young Scholars
2005, Hundred Talent Program, Chinese Academy of Sciences
2005, Grass Fellow, Marine Biological Laboratory, Woods Hole, MA.
1999, Wellcome Prize Travelling Research Fellowship
Professional Society Affiliations
2022-2023 Member, Program Committee, 2023 IBRO World Congress in Granada, Spain
2022- Member, Scientific Standards Committee, International Society for Autism Research (INSAR)
2021-2023 Peter Seeburg Integrative Neuroscience Prize Selection Committee, Society for Neuroscience
2019-2023 Program Committee, Society for Neuroscience
Editorial Activities
2023- , Neuron, Advisory Board
2022- , Science China Life Sciences, Editorial Board Member
2022- , National Science Review, Editorial Group
2021- , eLife, Board of Reviewing Editors
2020- , Autism Research, Editorial Board Member
2019- , Journal of Cell Biology, Editorial Board Member
2017- , Developmental Neurobiology, Editorial Board Member
2014- , Frontiers in Cellular Neuroscience,Reviewing Editor
Research Interests
Mechanisms underlying neural circuit development and plasticity

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: 1) showed that early sensory experience globally and cross-modally regulates the development of multiple sensory cortices, in a mechanism mediated by the neuropeptide oxytocin; 2)identified a dipeptidergic circuit, involving PAG Tac1 neurons and PVH oxytocin neurons, through which pleasant touch experience promotes social interactions and preference for the touch context; 3) found that 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; 4) show that 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.
Representative Peer-Reviewed Publications
1. Yu H., Miao W., Ji E., Huang S., Jin S., Zhu X., Liu M.Z., Sun Y.G., Xu F., and Yu X.* (2022) Social touch-like tactile stimulation activates a tachykinin 1-oxytocin pathway to promote social interactions. Neuron 110(6):1051-1067. (highlighted by same issue Preview 110(6):909-911)
2. Zhang J.*, Li S.J., Miao W., Zhang X., Zheng J.J., Wang C., and Yu X.* (2021) Oxytocin Regulates Synaptic Transmission in the Sensory Cortices in a Developmentally Dynamic Manner. Front. Cell Neurosci. 15:673439. doi: 10.3389/fncel.2021.673439.
3. Yu X.* (2021) Q&A Xiang Yu. Neuron 109(19):3022-3024.
4. Zheng J.J., Zou R, Huang S, Song T.J*., and Yu X.* (2020) Enriched environment rearing from birth reduced anxiety, improved learning and memory, and promoted social interactions in adult male mice. Neuroscience 442:138-150.
5. Cao H., Li M., Li G., Wen B., Lu Y., and Yu X.* (2020) Retinoid X receptor α regulates DHA-dependent spinogenesis and functional synapse formation in vivo. Cell Reports 31(7):107649.
6. Wang M., Yu Z., Li G., and Yu X.* (2020) Multiple morphological factors underlie experience-dependent cross-modal plasticity in the developing sensory cortices. Cerebral Cortex, 30(4):2418–2433.
7. 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)
8. 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 Research 11(7):989-999.
9. 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
10. Wang L., Li M.Y., Qu C., Miao W.Y., Yin Q, Liao J., Cao H.T., Huang M., Wang K., Zuo E., Peng G., Zhang S.X., Chen G., Li Q., Tang K., Yu Q., Li Z., Wong CCL, Xu G., Jing N., Yu X.*, and Li J*. (2017) CRISPR-Cas9-mediated genome editing in one blastomere of two-cell embryos reveals a novel Tet3 function in regulating neocortical development. Cell Res. 27(6):815-829
11. Wang M., Li H., Takumi T., Qiu Z., Xu X.*, Yu X.* and Bian W.J.* (2017) Distinct Defects in Spine Formation or Pruning in Two Gene Duplication Mouse Models of Autism Neurosci. Bull. 33(2):143-152
12. Yu X.*, Qiu Z.* and Zhang D.* (2017) Recent Research Progress in Autism Spectrum Disorder. Neurosci. Bull. 33(2):125-129 (editorial)
13. Stoop R.* and Yu X.* (2017) Special issue on: “Oxytocin in development and plasticity”. Developmental Neurobiology 77(2):125-127 (editorial)
14. 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; selected as “exceptional” by Faculty 1000]
15. 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; selected as “exceptional” by Faculty 1000]
16. Peng Y.R., Zeng S.Y., Song H.L., Li M.Y., Yamada M.K., and Yu X.* (2010) Postsynaptic spiking homeostatically induces cell-autonomous regulation of inhibitory inputs via retrograde signaling J. Neurosci. 30(48):16220-16231, cover story.
17. 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.
18. 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.
19. Peng Y.R., He S., Marie H., Zeng S.Y., Ma J., Tan Z.J., Lee S., Malenka R.C.*, and Yu X.* (2009) Coordinated changes in dendritic arborization and synaptic strength during neural circuit development. Neuron 61(1):71-84. (Selected by Faculty 1000).
20. Yu X.* and Malenka R.C.* (2003) β¬-catenin is critical for dendritic morphogenesis. Nature Neurosci. 6(11): 1169-¬1177, cover story.

Neural Development and Plasticity (Fall Semester, Undergraduate and Graduate Combined, English)
Fundamental Psychology/ Neurobiology/ Brain Sciences Track (Fall Semester, Graduate)
The Basic Principles of Modern Biology (II) (Spring, Graduate)
Laboratory Introduction