Professional Education

  • Doctor of Philosophy, S.U.N.Y. State University at Buffalo (2015)
  • Bachelier, Shanghai University (2007)

Stanford Advisors

All Publications

  • Pro-neuronal activity of Myod1 due to promiscuous binding to neuronal genes. Nature cell biology Lee, Q. Y., Mall, M., Chanda, S., Zhou, B., Sharma, K. S., Schaukowitch, K., Adrian-Segarra, J. M., Grieder, S. D., Kareta, M. S., Wapinski, O. L., Ang, C. E., Li, R., Sudhof, T. C., Chang, H. Y., Wernig, M. 2020


    The on-target pioneer factors Ascl1 and Myod1 are sequence-related but induce two developmentally unrelated lineages-that is, neuronal and muscle identities, respectively. It is unclear how these two basic helix-loop-helix (bHLH) factors mediate such fundamentally different outcomes. The chromatin binding of Ascl1 and Myod1 was surprisingly similar in fibroblasts, yet their transcriptional outputs were drastically different. We found that quantitative binding differences explained differential chromatin remodelling and gene activation. Although strong Ascl1 binding was exclusively associated with bHLH motifs, strong Myod1-binding sites were co-enriched with non-bHLH motifs, possibly explaining why Ascl1 is less context dependent. Finally, we observed that promiscuous binding of Myod1 to neuronal targets results in neuronal reprogramming when the muscle program is inhibited by Myt1l. Our findings suggest that chromatin access of on-target pioneer factors is primarily driven by the protein-DNA interaction, unlike ordinary context-dependent transcription factors, and that promiscuous transcription factor binding requires specific silencing mechanisms to ensure lineage fidelity.

    View details for DOI 10.1038/s41556-020-0490-3

    View details for PubMedID 32231311

  • Differential Signaling Mediated by ApoE2, ApoE3, and ApoE4 in Human Neurons Parallels Alzheimer's Disease Risk. The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience Huang, Y. A., Zhou, B., Nabet, A. M., Wernig, M., Sudhof, T. C. 2019


    In blood, apolipoprotein E (ApoE) is a component of circulating lipoproteins and mediates the clearance of these lipoproteins from blood by binding to ApoE receptors. Humans express three genetic ApoE variants, ApoE2, ApoE3, and ApoE4, that exhibit distinct ApoE receptor-binding properties and differentially affect Alzheimer's disease (AD), such that ApoE2 protects against, and ApoE4 predisposes to AD. In brain, ApoE-containing lipoproteins are secreted by activated astrocytes and microglia, but their functions and role in AD pathogenesis are largely unknown. Ample evidence suggests that ApoE4 induces microglial dysregulation and impedes Abeta clearance in AD, but the direct neuronal effects of ApoE variants are poorly studied. Extending previous studies, we here demonstrate that the three ApoE variants differentially activate multiple neuronal signaling pathways and regulate synaptogenesis. Specifically, using human neurons (male embryonic stem cell-derived) cultured in the absence of glia to exclude indirect glial mechanisms, we show that ApoE broadly stimulates signal transduction cascades. Among others, such stimulation enhances APP synthesis and synapse formation with an ApoE4>ApoE3>ApoE2 potency rank order, paralleling the relative risk for AD conferred by these ApoE variants. Unlike the previously described induction of APP transcription, however, ApoE-induced synaptogenesis involves CREB activation rather than cFos activation. We thus propose that in brain, ApoE acts as a glia-secreted signal that activates neuronal signaling pathways. The parallel potency rank order of ApoE4>ApoE3>ApoE2 in AD risk and neuronal signaling suggests that ApoE4 may in an apparent paradox promote AD pathogenesis by causing a chronic increase in signaling, possibly via enhancing APP expression.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENTHumans express three genetic variants of apolipoprotein E (ApoE), ApoE2, ApoE3, and ApoE4. ApoE4 constitutes the most important genetic risk factor for Alzheimer's disease (AD), whereas ApoE2 protects against AD. Significant evidence suggests that ApoE4 impairs microglial function and impedes astrocytic Abeta clearance in brain, but the direct neuronal effects of ApoE are poorly understood, and the differences between ApoE variants in these effects are unclear. Here, we report that ApoE acts on neurons as a glia-secreted signaling molecule that, among others, enhances synapse formation. In activating neuronal signaling, the three ApoE variants exhibit a differential potency of ApoE4>ApoE3>ApoE2, which mirrors their relative effects on AD risk, suggesting that differential signaling by ApoE variants may contribute to AD pathogenesis.

    View details for DOI 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2994-18.2019

    View details for PubMedID 31331998

  • Neuroligin-4 Regulates Excitatory Synaptic Transmission in Human Neurons. Neuron Marro, S. G., Chanda, S., Yang, N., Janas, J. A., Valperga, G., Trotter, J., Zhou, B., Merrill, S., Yousif, I., Shelby, H., Vogel, H., Kalani, M. Y., Sudhof, T. C., Wernig, M. 2019


    The autism-associated synaptic-adhesion gene Neuroligin-4 (NLGN4) is poorly conserved evolutionarily, limiting conclusions from Nlgn4 mouse models for human cells. Here, we show that the cellular and subcellular expression of human and murine Neuroligin-4 differ, with human Neuroligin-4 primarily expressed in cerebral cortex and localized to excitatory synapses. Overexpression of NLGN4 in human embryonic stem cell-derived neurons resulted in an increase in excitatory synapse numbers but a remarkable decrease in synaptic strength. Human neurons carrying the syndromic autism mutation NLGN4-R704C also formed more excitatory synapses but with increased functional synaptic transmission due to a postsynaptic mechanism, while genetic loss of NLGN4 did not significantly affect synapses in the human neurons analyzed. Thus, the NLGN4-R704C mutation represents a change-of-function mutation. Our work reveals contrasting roles of NLGN4 in human and mouse neurons, suggesting that human evolution has impacted even fundamental cell biological processes generally assumed to be highly conserved.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.neuron.2019.05.043

    View details for PubMedID 31257103

  • Modeling Alzheimer's disease with human iPS cells: advancements, lessons, and applications. Neurobiology of disease Essayan-Perez, S. n., Zhou, B. n., Nabet, A. M., Wernig, M. n., Huang, Y. A. 2019: 104503


    One in three people will develop Alzheimer's disease (AD) or another dementia and, despite intense research efforts, treatment options remain inadequate. Understanding the mechanisms of AD pathogenesis remains our principal hurdle to developing effective therapeutics to tackle this looming medical crisis. In light of recent discoveries from whole-genome sequencing and technical advances in humanized models, studying disease risk genes with induced human neural cells presents unprecedented advantages. Here, we first review the current knowledge of the proposed mechanisms underlying AD and focus on modern genetic insights to inform future studies. To highlight the utility of human pluripotent stem cell-based innovations, we then present an update on efforts in recapitulating the pathophysiology by induced neuronal, non-neuronal and a collection of brain cell types, departing from the neuron-centric convention. Lastly, we examine the translational potentials of such approaches, and provide our perspectives on the promise they offer to deepen our understanding of AD pathogenesis and to accelerate the development of intervention strategies for patients and risk carriers.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.nbd.2019.104503

    View details for PubMedID 31202913

  • The fragile X mutation impairs homeostatic plasticity in human neurons by blocking synaptic retinoic acid signaling. Science translational medicine Zhang, Z., Marro, S. G., Zhang, Y., Arendt, K. L., Patzke, C., Zhou, B., Fair, T., Yang, N., Sudhof, T. C., Wernig, M., Chen, L. 2018; 10 (452)


    Fragile X syndrome (FXS) is an X chromosome-linked disease leading to severe intellectual disabilities. FXS is caused by inactivation of the fragile X mental retardation 1 (FMR1) gene, but how FMR1 inactivation induces FXS remains unclear. Using human neurons generated from control and FXS patient-derived induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells or from embryonic stem cells carrying conditional FMR1 mutations, we show here that loss of FMR1 function specifically abolished homeostatic synaptic plasticity without affecting basal synaptic transmission. We demonstrated that, in human neurons, homeostatic plasticity induced by synaptic silencing was mediated by retinoic acid, which regulated both excitatory and inhibitory synaptic strength. FMR1 inactivation impaired homeostatic plasticity by blocking retinoic acid-mediated regulation of synaptic strength. Repairing the genetic mutation in the FMR1 gene in an FXS patient cell line restored fragile X mental retardation protein (FMRP) expression and fully rescued synaptic retinoic acid signaling. Thus, our study reveals a robust functional impairment caused by FMR1 mutations that might contribute to neuronal dysfunction in FXS. In addition, our results suggest that FXS patient iPS cell-derived neurons might be useful for studying the mechanisms mediating functional abnormalities in FXS.

    View details for PubMedID 30068571

  • Myt1l safeguards neuronal identity by actively repressing many non-neuronal fates NATURE Mall, M., Kareta, M. S., Chanda, S., Ahlenius, H., Perotti, N., Zhou, B., Grieder, S. D., Ge, X., Drake, S., Ang, C. E., Walker, B. M., Vierbuchen, T., Fuentes, D. R., Brennecke, P., Nitta, K. R., Jolma, A., Steinmetz, L. M., Taipale, J., Sudhof, T. C., Wernig, M. 2017; 544 (7649): 245-?


    Normal differentiation and induced reprogramming require the activation of target cell programs and silencing of donor cell programs. In reprogramming, the same factors are often used to reprogram many different donor cell types. As most developmental repressors, such as RE1-silencing transcription factor (REST) and Groucho (also known as TLE), are considered lineage-specific repressors, it remains unclear how identical combinations of transcription factors can silence so many different donor programs. Distinct lineage repressors would have to be induced in different donor cell types. Here, by studying the reprogramming of mouse fibroblasts to neurons, we found that the pan neuron-specific transcription factor Myt1-like (Myt1l) exerts its pro-neuronal function by direct repression of many different somatic lineage programs except the neuronal program. The repressive function of Myt1l is mediated via recruitment of a complex containing Sin3b by binding to a previously uncharacterized N-terminal domain. In agreement with its repressive function, the genomic binding sites of Myt1l are similar in neurons and fibroblasts and are preferentially in an open chromatin configuration. The Notch signalling pathway is repressed by Myt1l through silencing of several members, including Hes1. Acute knockdown of Myt1l in the developing mouse brain mimicked a Notch gain-of-function phenotype, suggesting that Myt1l allows newborn neurons to escape Notch activation during normal development. Depletion of Myt1l in primary postmitotic neurons de-repressed non-neuronal programs and impaired neuronal gene expression and function, indicating that many somatic lineage programs are actively and persistently repressed by Myt1l to maintain neuronal identity. It is now tempting to speculate that similar 'many-but-one' lineage repressors exist for other cell fates; such repressors, in combination with lineage-specific activators, would be prime candidates for use in reprogramming additional cell types.

    View details for DOI 10.1038/nature21722

    View details for PubMedID 28379941

  • Carbonic anhydrase-related protein CA10 is an evolutionarily conserved pan-neurexin ligand. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America Sterky, F. H., Trotter, J. H., Lee, S., Recktenwald, C. V., Du, X., Zhou, B., Zhou, P., Schwenk, J., Fakler, B., Südhof, T. C. 2017; 114 (7): E1253-E1262


    Establishment, specification, and validation of synaptic connections are thought to be mediated by interactions between pre- and postsynaptic cell-adhesion molecules. Arguably, the best-characterized transsynaptic interactions are formed by presynaptic neurexins, which bind to diverse postsynaptic ligands. In a proteomic screen of neurexin-1 (Nrxn1) complexes immunoisolated from mouse brain, we identified carbonic anhydrase-related proteins CA10 and CA11, two homologous, secreted glycoproteins of unknown function that are predominantly expressed in brain. We found that CA10 directly binds in a cis configuration to a conserved membrane-proximal, extracellular sequence of α- and β-neurexins. The CA10-neurexin complex is stable and stoichiometric, and results in formation of intermolecular disulfide bonds between conserved cysteine residues in neurexins and CA10. CA10 promotes surface expression of α- and β-neurexins, suggesting that CA10 may form a complex with neurexins in the secretory pathway that facilitates surface transport of neurexins. Moreover, we observed that the Nrxn1 gene expresses from an internal 3' promoter a third isoform, Nrxn1γ, that lacks all Nrxn1 extracellular domains except for the membrane-proximal sequences and that also tightly binds to CA10. Our data expand the understanding of neurexin-based transsynaptic interaction networks by providing further insight into the interactions nucleated by neurexins at the synapse.

    View details for DOI 10.1073/pnas.1621321114

    View details for PubMedID 28154140

  • ApoE2, ApoE3, and ApoE4 Differentially Stimulate APP Transcription and Aß Secretion. Cell Huang, Y. A., Zhou, B., Wernig, M., Südhof, T. C. 2017; 168 (3): 427-441 e21


    Human apolipoprotein E (ApoE) apolipoprotein is primarily expressed in three isoforms (ApoE2, ApoE3, and ApoE4) that differ only by two residues. ApoE4 constitutes the most important genetic risk factor for Alzheimer's disease (AD), ApoE3 is neutral, and ApoE2 is protective. How ApoE isoforms influence AD pathogenesis, however, remains unclear. Using ES-cell-derived human neurons, we show that ApoE secreted by glia stimulates neuronal Aβ production with an ApoE4 > ApoE3 > ApoE2 potency rank order. We demonstrate that ApoE binding to ApoE receptors activates dual leucine-zipper kinase (DLK), a MAP-kinase kinase kinase that then activates MKK7 and ERK1/2 MAP kinases. Activated ERK1/2 induces cFos phosphorylation, stimulating the transcription factor AP-1, which in turn enhances transcription of amyloid-β precursor protein (APP) and thereby increases amyloid-β levels. This molecular mechanism also regulates APP transcription in mice in vivo. Our data describe a novel signal transduction pathway in neurons whereby ApoE activates a non-canonical MAP kinase cascade that enhances APP transcription and amyloid-β synthesis.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.cell.2016.12.044

    View details for PubMedID 28111074

  • Loss of NFIX Transcription Factor Biases Postnatal Neural Stem/Progenitor Cells Toward Oligodendrogenesis. Stem cells and development Zhou, B., Osinski, J. M., Mateo, J. L., Martynoga, B., Sim, F. J., Campbell, C. E., Guillemot, F., Piper, M., Gronostajski, R. M. 2015; 24 (18): 2114-2126


    Murine postnatal neural stem cells (NSCs) give rise to neurons, astrocytes, or oligodendrocytes (OLs); however, our knowledge of the genes that control this lineage specification is incomplete. In this study, we show that nuclear factor I X (NFIX), a transcription factor known to regulate NSC quiescence, also suppresses oligodendrogenesis (ODG) from NSCs. Immunostaining reveals little or no expression of NFIX in OL lineage cells both in vivo and in vitro. Loss of NFIX from subventricular zone (SVZ) NSCs results in enhanced ODG both in vivo and in vitro, while forced expression of NFIX blocks NSC differentiation into OLs in vitro. RNA-seq analysis shows that genes previously shown to be differentially expressed in OL progenitors are significantly enriched in RNA from Nfix(-/-) versus wild-type NSCs. These data indicate that NFIX influences the lineage specification of postnatal SVZ NSCs, specifically suppressing ODG.

    View details for DOI 10.1089/scd.2015.0136

    View details for PubMedID 26083238

  • NFIX Regulates Proliferation and Migration Within the Murine SVZ Neurogenic Niche. Cerebral cortex (New York, N.Y. : 1991) Heng, Y. H., Zhou, B. n., Harris, L. n., Harvey, T. n., Smith, A. n., Horne, E. n., Martynoga, B. n., Andersen, J. n., Achimastou, A. n., Cato, K. n., Richards, L. J., Gronostajski, R. M., Yeo, G. S., Guillemot, F. n., Bailey, T. L., Piper, M. n. 2015; 25 (10): 3758–78


    Transcription factors of the nuclear factor one (NFI) family play a pivotal role in the development of the nervous system. One member, NFIX, regulates the development of the neocortex, hippocampus, and cerebellum. Postnatal Nfix(-/-) mice also display abnormalities within the subventricular zone (SVZ) lining the lateral ventricles, a region of the brain comprising a neurogenic niche that provides ongoing neurogenesis throughout life. Specifically, Nfix(-/-) mice exhibit more PAX6-expressing progenitor cells within the SVZ. However, the mechanism underlying the development of this phenotype remains undefined. Here, we reveal that NFIX contributes to multiple facets of SVZ development. Postnatal Nfix(-/-) mice exhibit increased levels of proliferation within the SVZ, both in vivo and in vitro as assessed by a neurosphere assay. Furthermore, we show that the migration of SVZ-derived neuroblasts to the olfactory bulb is impaired, and that the olfactory bulbs of postnatal Nfix(-/-) mice are smaller. We also demonstrate that gliogenesis within the rostral migratory stream is delayed in the absence of Nfix, and reveal that Gdnf (glial-derived neurotrophic factor), a known attractant for SVZ-derived neuroblasts, is a target for transcriptional activation by NFIX. Collectively, these findings suggest that NFIX regulates both proliferation and migration during the development of the SVZ neurogenic niche.

    View details for DOI 10.1093/cercor/bhu253

    View details for PubMedID 25331604

  • Epigenomic enhancer annotation reveals a key role for NFIX in neural stem cell quiescence GENES & DEVELOPMENT Martynoga, B., Mateo, J. L., Zhou, B., Andersen, J., Achimastou, A., Urban, N., van den Berg, D., Georgopoulou, D., Hadjur, S., Wittbrodt, J., Ettwiller, L., Piper, M., Gronostajski, R. M., Guillemot, F. 2013; 27 (16): 1769-1786


    The majority of neural stem cells (NSCs) in the adult brain are quiescent, and this fraction increases with aging. Although signaling pathways that promote NSC quiescence have been identified, the transcriptional mechanisms involved are mostly unknown, largely due to lack of a cell culture model. In this study, we first demonstrate that NSC cultures (NS cells) exposed to BMP4 acquire cellular and transcriptional characteristics of quiescent cells. We then use epigenomic profiling to identify enhancers associated with the quiescent NS cell state. Motif enrichment analysis of these enhancers predicts a major role for the nuclear factor one (NFI) family in the gene regulatory network controlling NS cell quiescence. Interestingly, we found that the family member NFIX is robustly induced when NS cells enter quiescence. Using genome-wide location analysis and overexpression and silencing experiments, we demonstrate that NFIX has a major role in the induction of quiescence in cultured NSCs. Transcript profiling of NS cells overexpressing or silenced for Nfix and the phenotypic analysis of the hippocampus of Nfix mutant mice suggest that NFIX controls the quiescent state by regulating the interactions of NSCs with their microenvironment.

    View details for DOI 10.1101/gad.216804.113

    View details for Web of Science ID 000323416000004

    View details for PubMedID 23964093

  • Modulation by BNP of GABA receptors on ON-type rod bipolar cells is dependent on subcellular sites BRAIN RESEARCH Cao, L., Zhou, B., Yang, X. 2008; 1216: 46-52


    Brain natriuretic peptide (BNP) suppresses GABA(A) receptor-mediated current of ON-type rod-dominant bipolar cells (RBCs) in the rat retina. Here we report that such BNP-induced modulation is dependent on subcellular sites. Whole-cell currents could be induced by GABA focally applied to both dendrites/somata and axon terminals of isolated ON-type RBCs. Whilst the GABA currents induced at the axon terminal were significantly suppressed by BNP (50 nM), those at the dendrites/somata were hardly changed or slightly suppressed. Similar results were obtained when such experiments were performed in rat retinal slices. Calcium imaging showed that application of BNP (50 nM) caused a prominent increase in intracellular calcium concentrations ([Ca(2+)](i)) at the axon terminal, and the increase monotonically decayed when the acting site of BNP was moved away from the axon terminal along the cell: more distant, less significant. No detectable increase in [Ca(2+)](i) was found at the dendrites. Such increase in [Ca(2+)](i) could be completely blocked by pre-incubation with anantin, an antagonist of the NP-receptor-A (NPR-A). On the other hand, caffeine, an agonist of the ryanodine receptor, caused a similar subcellular site-dependent changes in [Ca(2+)](i), thus mimicking the BNP effect. All these results suggest that BNP-induced modulation of the activity of GABA receptors may be largely restricted to the inner retina.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.brainres.2008.04.004

    View details for Web of Science ID 000257421700005

    View details for PubMedID 18499087