Xianhua Piao, MD, PhD


Research Description

Dr. Piao’s lab focuses on investigating the role of adhesion G protein-coupled receptors (aGPCRs) in several neuronal processes. Although, the lab investigates many aGPCRs, GPR56, shows the greatest potential for involvement in these processes thus far. GPR56 was first discovered by Dr. Piao to be directly involved in the regulation of brain patterning. Specifically, it was found that upon mutation of GPR56, an autosomal recessive brain malformation called “bilateral frontoparietal polymicrogyria” (BFPP) resulted. Since then, Dr. Piao’s lab has found GPR56 to be highly expressed in neural progenitor cells, oligodendrocytes, astrocytes, and microglia, all of which are key players in neuronal development and functioning. Currently, the lab focuses on exploring aGPCR mediated cell-cell and cell-matrix interactions in the following processes, each of which is governed in part by the cell-type-specific expression and function of specific aGPCRs.

Current Projects

  • CNS myelin formation and repair (neurodevelopmental and neurodegenerative disorders): GPR56 has been shown to regulate developmental myelin formation through a remarkable tripartite signaling complex composed of a microglial-derived ligand, an oligodendrocyte receptor and an extracellular matrix component. Ongoing research is aiming to target this pathway in promoting myelin repair.
  • Synapses and circuits (neurodevelopmental disorders): Unpublished work from the lab demonstrates a novel player in microglia-mediated developmental synaptic refinement. The lab is collaborating with investigators at UCSF and Harvard Medical School to decipher the molecular mechanisms by which glial cells regulate neural circuit formation during perinatal development and associated disease processes.
  • Maternal immune activation (neuropsychiatric disorders): Along with collaborator Jun Huh at Harvard Medical School, the lab is investigating how MIA deranges fetal and neonatal brain development through innate immune mechanisms.

Together, the ongoing investigation of these research fronts provides immense promise for application in understanding and treating neurodevelopmental, neurodegenerative, and neuropsychiatric disorders.

Lab Members

Tao Li, PhD
Postdoctoral Fellow

Brian Chiou, PhD
Postdoctoral Fellow

Beika Zhu, PhD
Postdoctoral Fellow

Diankun Yu, PhD
Postdoctoral Fellow

Dario Tejera, PhD
Postdoctoral Fellow

Khalida Sabeur, PhD
Lab Manager

Priya Kishore, BS
Staff Research Associate

Caitlyn Oak, BS
Staff Research Associate