Xinyu Zhao

Xinyu Zhao
Jenni and Kyle Professor, Waisman Center, Department of Neuroscience
(608) 263-9906


Ph.D. University of Washington, Seattle

Lab Website:

Research Focus:

Molecular Mechanisms that Regulate Neural Stem Cells and Neurodevelopment

Research Strength:

Development, Plasticity, and Repair

Research Description:

The research in our laboratory focuses on understanding the molecular mechanisms that regulate neural stem cells and neurodevelopment with the goal of applying this knowledge in the treatment of neurological disorders and injuries.

Stem cells have two fundamental properties: self-renewal and multipotency. During development, stem cells and resulting progenitor cells are responsible for generating all the tissues and cells of an organism. In the adult, stem cells exist in many tissues throughout life and may play critical roles in physiological functions and tissue regeneration. The maintenance of their "stemness" state and commitment to differentiation are tightly controlled by both intrinsic genetic and epigenetic programs and extrinsic stimuli.

Neural stem cells in the postnatal brain have significant roles in both normal brain functions, such as learning, memory and the brain's response to injuries. We are investigating the mechanisms governing the behaviors and functions of neural stem cells in both healthy conditions and in neurological diseases.

Epigenetic mechanisms, including DNA methylation, chromatin remodeling, and noncoding RNAs have profound regulatory roles in controlling mammalian gene expression. Disturbance of these interacting systems can lead to inappropriate expression or silencing of genes, causing an array of multi-system disorders. A main focus of our research is to understand the epigenetic basis of cell fate specification and neurodevelopment.

Neurodevelopmental disorders are highly heterogeneous constellation of disorders, both in terms of etiology and clinical manifestations. Using neural stem cells as model systems, we are investigating the molecular mechanisms that regulate postnatal neuronal development during postnatal period and their implications in human neurodevelopmental disorders such as Rett Syndrome, Autism, and Fragile X syndrome.


Please click here for most recent publications.

  • Szulwach KE, Li X, Smrt RD, Li Y, Luo Y, Li L, Lin L, Santistevan NJ, Li W, Zhao X#., and Jin P# (#, co-corresponding authors). Cross talk between microRNA and epigenetic regulation in adult neurogenesis. J. Cell Biol., 2010 189 (1) 127-41.

  • Wang F, Tidei JJ, Polich ED, Gao Y, Zhao H, Perrone-Bizzozero NI, Weixiang Guo , Zhao X. Positive feedback between RNA-binding protein HuD and transcription factor SATB1 promotes neurogenesis. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A plus (2015)