Areas of Interest
We are a sensory biology lab. We ask the following questions to better understand how animals sense their external and internal world through various sensory systems:
- How do animals detect and distinguish various sensory cues — such as temperature, touch, chemicals and light — via different types of sensory receptors and channels?
- What are the molecular identities of these sensory receptors and channels, and how do they regulate sensory signaling and behavior?
- How do neural circuits and synapses process sensory information to produce behavioral outputs, and how do genes and drugs regulate these processes?
- How do sensory cues regulate aging and longevity?
To address these questions, we primarily use the genetic model organism C. elegans because of its simple and well-characterized nervous system. Because many sensory receptors and channels are evolutionarily conserved, we also explore their roles in somatosensation and pain sensation in mammals, using mouse models. We take a multidisciplinary approach, combining molecular genetics, behavioral analysis, functional imaging and electrophysiology.
Ph.D., Johns Hopkins University, 2000
Gong, J., Liu, J., Ronan, E.A., He, F., Cai, W., Fatima, M., Zhang, W., Lee, H., Li, Z., Kim, G.H., Pipe, K.P., Duan, B., Liu, J., and Xu, X.Z.S. (2019) A cold-sensing receptor encoded by a glutamate receptor gene. Cell 178, 1375-86.
Gong, J., Yuan, Y., Ward, A., Kang, L., Zhang, B., Wu, Z., Peng, J., Feng, Z., Liu, J., and Xu, X.Z.S. (2016) The C. elegans taste receptor homolog LITE-1 is a photoreceptor. Cell 167, 1252-63.
Wang, X., Li, G., Liu, J., Liu, J., and Xu, X.Z.S. (2016) TMC-1 mediates alkaline sensation in C. elegans via nociceptive neurons. Neuron 91, 146-54
Li, Z., Liu, J., Zheng, M., and Xu, X.Z.S. (2014) Encoding of both analog- and digital-like behavioral outputs by one C. elegans interneuron. Cell 159, 751-765. (cover story)
Xiao, R., Zhang, B., Dong, Y., Gong, J., Xu, T., Liu, J., and Xu, X.Z.S. (2013) A genetic program promotes C. elegans longevity via a thermosensitive TRP channel. Cell 152, 806-817
Piggott, B.J., Liu, J., Feng, Z., Wescott, S.A., and Xu, X.Z.S. (2011) The neural circuits and synaptic mechanisms underlying motor initiation in C. elegans. Cell 147, 922-933
Kang, L., Gao, J., Schafer, W.R., Xie, Z., and Xu, X.Z.S. (2010) C. elegans TRP family protein TRP-4 is a pore-forming subunit of a native mechanosensory transduction channel. Neuron 67, 381-391
Liu, J., Ward, A., Gao, J., Dong, Y., Nishio, N., Inada, H., Kang, L., Yu, Y., Ma., D., Xu, T., Mori, I., Xie, Z., and Xu, X.Z.S. (2010) C. elegans phototransduction requires a G protein-dependent cGMP pathway and a taste receptor homolog. Nature Neuroscience 13, 715-722
Ward, A., Liu, J., Feng, Z., and Xu, X.Z.S. (2008) Light-sensitive neurons and channels mediate phototaxis in C. elegans. Nature Neuroscience 11, 916-922.
Feng, Z., Li, W., Ward, A., Piggott, B.J., Larkspur, E., Sternberg, P.W., and Xu, X.Z.S. (2006) A C. elegans model of nicotine-dependent behavior: regulation by TRP-family channels. Cell 127, 621-633
Li, W., Feng, Z., Sternberg, P.W., and Xu, X.Z.S. (2006) A C. elegans stretch receptor neuron revealed by a mechanosensitive TRP channel homologue. Nature 440, 684-687.