Zhao Xuan

Assistant Professor of NeurobiologyZhao Xuan

Degree: Ph.D. 2014 Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai
Phone:  207.581.2470
Website:  https://sites.google.com/maine.edu/xuan-lab/home
Email:  zhao.xuan@maine.edu
Location: Office 288 Hitchner/Lab 255 Hitchner

Research Topic:  Cellular and molecular biology of the neuron; synapse development; invertebrate genetics

Research Program:  Neurons communicate with each other through specific structures called synapses. Many neurodevelopmental and neurodegenerative diseases (e.g., Alzheimer’s) are
associated with synaptic defects. Our laboratory is interested in understanding the
mechanisms of synapse formation and function, intending to reveal novel
mechanisms underlying synaptic deficits in neurological diseases. We primarily
use molecular and genetic techniques and advanced live-animal imaging in the nematode
Caenorhabditis elegans (C. elegans) to study the following areas.

1) The assembly and function of the active zone. The active zone is the site of
neurotransmitter release at the presynaptic terminals. Active zones are highly
specialized microdomains composed of the presynaptic membrane and a dense
collection of proteins. Recently we reported a novel active zone protein in C. elegans
called Clarinet (CLA-1). We will investigate how CLA-1 interacts with other active zone
proteins to orchestrate neurotransmitter release. We will also carry out unbiased genetic
screens to identify novel molecules required for presynaptic assembly.

2) The assembly and function of the periactive zone. Adjacent to the active zone is a
much less studied presynaptic domain called the periactive zone. Our recent findings
that the periactive zone interacts with the active zone to regulate synaptic autophagy
open new opportunities to examine the periactive zone and its role in maintaining
synaptic performance. We will investigate the assembly of the periactive zone during
development in vivo, its interaction with the active zone, and its potential role in coupling
axon guidance, synapse formation, and neurotransmission.

1) Zhao Xuan#, Sisi Yang#, Sarah E Hill, Benjamin Clark, Laura Manning, Daniel Colon-Ramos.The active zone protein Clarinet regulates ATG-9 trafficking at synapses and presynaptic autophagy. PLoS Biol. 2023 Apr 13;21(4):e3002030. doi: 10.1371/journal.pbio.3002030. #: equal contribution

2) Zhao Xuan#, Laura Manning#, Jessica Nelson, Janet E. Richmond, Daniel Colón-Ramos, Kang Shen, Peri T. Kurshan. Clarinet (cla-1), a novel active zone protein required for synaptic vesicle clustering and release. eLife. 2017 Nov 21;6. pii: e29276.
doi: 10.7554/eLife.29276. #: equal contribution

3) Zhao Xuan, Gael Barthet, Junichi Shioi, Jindong Xu, Anastasios Georgakopoulos, Julien Bruban, Nikolaos K. Robakis. Presenilin-1/γ-secretase controls glutamate release, tyrosine phosphorylation, and surface expression of N-Methyl-D-aspartate Receptor (NMDAR) subunit GluN2B. J Biol Chem. 2013 Oct 18, 288(42):30495-501.

A complete listing of my articles can be found here: