Professional Education

  • Doctor of Philosophy, University of North Dakota (2019)
  • Bachelor of Science, Huazhong University Of Science & Technology (2013)
  • Doctor of Philosophy, University of North Dakota, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (2019)
  • Bachelor of Science, Huazhong University of Science and Technology, Biological Science (2013)

Stanford Advisors

All Publications

  • Endothelial cell Notch signaling programs cancer-associated fibroblasts to promote tumor immune evasion. Research square Zhu, Y., Xiang, M., Brulois, K. F., Lazarus, N. H., Pan, J., Butcher, E. C. 2024


    Stromal cells within the tumor tissue promote immune evasion as a critical strategy for cancer development and progression, but the underlying mechanisms remain poorly understood. In this study, we explore the role of endothelial cells (ECs) in the regulation of the immunosuppressive tumor microenvironment. Using mouse pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) models, we found that canonical Notch signaling in endothelial cells suppresses the recruitment of antitumor T cells and promotes tumor progression by inhibiting the pro-inflammatory functions of cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAFs). Abrogation of endothelial Notch signaling modulates EC-derived angiocrine factors to enhance the pro-inflammatory activities of CAFs, which drive CXCL9/10-CXCR3-mediated T cell recruitment to inhibit tumor growth. Additionally, abrogation of endothelial Notch unleashed interferon gamma responses in the tumor microenvironment, upregulated PDL1 expression on tumor cells, and sensitized PDAC to PD1-based immunotherapy. Collectively, these data uncover a pivotal role of endothelial cells in shaping the immunosuppressive microenvironment, and suggest the potential of targeting EC-CAF interaction as a novel therapeutic modality to boost antitumor immunity.

    View details for DOI 10.21203/

    View details for PubMedID 38947054

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC11213189

  • Abnormal Lymphatic Sphingosine-1-Phosphate Signaling Aggravates Lymphatic Dysfunction and Tissue Inflammation. Circulation Kim, D., Tian, W., Wu, T. T., Xiang, M., Vinh, R., Chang, J. L., Gu, S., Lee, S., Zhu, Y., Guan, T., Schneider, E. C., Bao, E., Dixon, J. B., Kao, P., Pan, J., Rockson, S. G., Jiang, X., Nicolls, M. R. 2023


    Lymphedema is a global health problem with no effective drug treatment. Enhanced T-cell immunity and abnormal lymphatic endothelial cell (LEC) signaling are promising therapeutic targets for this condition. Sphingosine-1-phosphate (S1P) mediates a key signaling pathway required for normal LEC function, and altered S1P signaling in LECs could lead to lymphatic disease and pathogenic T-cell activation. Characterizing this biology is relevant for developing much needed therapies.Human and mouse lymphedema was studied. Lymphedema was induced in mice by surgically ligating the tail lymphatics. Lymphedematous dermal tissue was assessed for S1P signaling. To verify the role of altered S1P signaling effects in lymphatic cells, LEC-specific S1pr1-deficient (S1pr1LECKO) mice were generated. Disease progression was quantified by tail-volumetric and -histopathologic measurements over time. LECs from mice and humans, with S1P signaling inhibition, were then cocultured with CD4 T cells, followed by an analysis of CD4 T-cell activation and pathway signaling. Last, animals were treated with a monoclonal antibody specific to P-selectin to assess its efficacy in reducing lymphedema and T-cell activation.Human and experimental lymphedema tissues exhibited decreased LEC S1P signaling through S1P receptor 1 (S1PR1). LEC S1pr1 loss-of-function exacerbated lymphatic vascular insufficiency, tail swelling, and increased CD4 T-cell infiltration in mouse lymphedema. LECs, isolated from S1pr1LECKO mice and cocultured with CD4 T cells, resulted in augmented lymphocyte differentiation. Inhibiting S1PR1 signaling in human dermal LECs promoted T-helper type 1 and 2 (Th1 and Th2) cell differentiation through direct cell contact with lymphocytes. Human dermal LECs with dampened S1P signaling exhibited enhanced P-selectin, an important cell adhesion molecule expressed on activated vascular cells. In vitro, P-selectin blockade reduced the activation and differentiation of Th cells cocultured with shS1PR1-treated human dermal LECs. P-selectin-directed antibody treatment improved tail swelling and reduced Th1/Th2 immune responses in mouse lymphedema.This study suggests that reduction of the LEC S1P signaling aggravates lymphedema by enhancing LEC adhesion and amplifying pathogenic CD4 T-cell responses. P-selectin inhibitors are suggested as a possible treatment for this pervasive condition.

    View details for DOI 10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.123.064181

    View details for PubMedID 37609838

  • An NKX-COUP-TFII morphogenetic code directs mucosal endothelial addressin expression. Nature communications Dinh, T. T., Xiang, M., Rajaraman, A., Wang, Y., Salazar, N., Zhu, Y., Roper, W., Rhee, S., Brulois, K., O'Hara, E., Kiefel, H., Dinh, T. M., Bi, Y., Gonzalez, D., Bao, E. P., Red-Horse, K., Balogh, P., Gabris, F., Gaszner, B., Berta, G., Pan, J., Butcher, E. C. 2022; 13 (1): 7448


    Immunoglobulin family and carbohydrate vascular addressins encoded by Madcam1 and St6gal1 control lymphocyte homing into intestinal tissues, regulating immunity and inflammation. The addressins are developmentally programmed to decorate endothelial cells lining gut post-capillary and high endothelial venules (HEV), providing a prototypical example of organ- and segment-specific endothelial specialization. We identify conserved NKX-COUP-TFII composite elements (NCCE) in regulatory regions of Madcam1 and St6gal1 that bind intestinal homeodomain protein NKX2-3 cooperatively with venous nuclear receptor COUP-TFII to activate transcription. The Madcam1 element also integrates repressive signals from arterial/capillary Notch effectors. Pan-endothelial COUP-TFII overexpression induces ectopic addressin expression in NKX2-3+ capillaries, while NKX2-3 deficiency abrogates expression by HEV. Phylogenetically conserved NCCE are enriched in genes involved in neuron migration and morphogenesis of the heart, kidney, pancreas and other organs. Our results define an NKX-COUP-TFII morphogenetic code that targets expression of mucosal vascular addressins.

    View details for DOI 10.1038/s41467-022-34991-2

    View details for PubMedID 36460642

  • Endothelial HIF-2alpha as a Key Endogenous Mediator Preventing Emphysema. American journal of respiratory and critical care medicine Pasupneti, S., Tian, W., Tu, A. B., Dahms, P., Granucci, E., Gandjeva, A., Xiang, M., Butcher, E., Semenza, G. L., Tuder, R., Jiang, X., Nicolls, M. R. 2020


    RATIONALE: Endothelial injury may provoke emphysema, but molecular pathways of disease development require further discernment. Emphysema lungs exhibit decreased expression of hypoxia inducible factor-2alpha (HIF-2alpha)-regulated genes, and tobacco smoke decreases pulmonary HIF-2alpha levels. These findings suggest that decreased HIF-2alpha expression is important in the development of emphysema.OBJECTIVES: The objective of this study was to evaluate the roles of endothelial cell (EC) HIF-2alpha in the pathogenesis of emphysema in mice.METHODS: Mouse lungs were examined for emphysema following either the loss or overexpression of EC Hif-2alpha. Additionally, SU5416, a VEGFR2 inhibitor, was used to induce emphysema. Lungs were evaluated for hepatocyte growth factor (HGF), a protein involved in alveolar development and homeostasis. Patient emphysema lungs were measured for endothelial HIF-2alpha expression.MEASUREMENTS AND MAIN RESULTS: EC Hif-2alpha deletion resulted in emphysema, in association with fewer ECs and pericytes. Following SU5416 exposure, EC Hif-2alpha knockout mice developed more severe emphysema, whereas EC Hif-2alpha-overexpressing mice were protected. EC Hif-2alpha knockout mice demonstrated lower levels of HGF. Human emphysema lung samples exhibited reduced EC HIF-2alpha expression.CONCLUSIONS: Here, we demonstrate a unique, protective role for pulmonary endothelial HIF-2alpha and how decreased expression of this endogenous factor causes emphysema; its pivotal protective function is suggested by its ability to overcome VEGF antagonism. HIF-2alpha may maintain alveolar architecture by promoting vascular survival and associated HGF production. In summary, HIF-2alpha may be a key endogenous factor that prevents the development of emphysema, and its upregulation has the potential to foster lung health in at-risk patients.

    View details for DOI 10.1164/rccm.202001-0078OC

    View details for PubMedID 32515984

  • A Single-Cell Transcriptional Roadmap of the Mouse and Human Lymph Node Lymphatic Vasculature. Frontiers in cardiovascular medicine Xiang, M., Grosso, R. A., Takeda, A., Pan, J., Bekkhus, T., Brulois, K., Dermadi, D., Nordling, S., Vanlandewijck, M., Jalkanen, S., Ulvmar, M. H., Butcher, E. C. 2020; 7: 52


    Single-cell transcriptomics promise to revolutionize our understanding of the vasculature. Emerging computational methods applied to high-dimensional single-cell data allow integration of results between samples and species and illuminate the diversity and underlying developmental and architectural organization of cell populations. Here, we illustrate these methods in the analysis of mouse lymph node (LN) lymphatic endothelial cells (LEC) at single-cell resolution. Clustering identifies five well-delineated subsets, including two medullary sinus subsets not previously recognized as distinct. Nearest neighbor alignments in trajectory space position the major subsets in a sequence that recapitulates the known features and suggests novel features of LN lymphatic organization, providing a transcriptional map of the lymphatic endothelial niches and of the transitions between them. Differences in gene expression reveal specialized programs for (1) subcapsular ceiling endothelial interactions with the capsule connective tissue and cells; (2) subcapsular floor regulation of lymph borne cell entry into the LN parenchyma and antigen presentation; and (3) pathogen interactions and (4) LN remodeling in distinct medullary subsets. LEC of the subcapsular sinus floor and medulla, which represent major sites of cell entry and exit from the LN parenchyma respectively, respond robustly to oxazolone inflammation challenge with enriched signaling pathways that converge on both innate and adaptive immune responses. Integration of mouse and human single-cell profiles reveals a conserved cross-species pattern of lymphatic vascular niches and gene expression, as well as specialized human subsets and genes unique to each species. The examples provided demonstrate the power of single-cell analysis in elucidating endothelial cell heterogeneity, vascular organization, and endothelial cell responses. We discuss the findings from the perspective of LEC functions in relation to niche formations in the unique stromal and highly immunological environment of the LN.

    View details for DOI 10.3389/fcvm.2020.00052

    View details for PubMedID 32426372

  • Tbx5 inhibits hedgehog signaling in determination of digit identity. Human molecular genetics Xu, H., Xiang, M., Qin, Y., Cheng, H., Chen, D., Fu, Q., Zhang, K. K., Xie, L. 2019


    Dominant TBX5 mutation causes Holt-Oram syndrome (HOS), which is characterized by limb defects in humans, but the underlying mechanistic basis is unclear. We used a mouse model with Tbx5 conditional knockdown in Hh-receiving cells (marked by Gli1+) during E8 to E10.5, a previously established model to study atrial septum defects, displayed polydactyly or hypodactyly. The results suggested that Tbx5 is required for digit identity in a subset of limb mesenchymal cells. Specifically, Tbx5 deletion in this cell population decreased cell apoptosis and increased the proliferation of handplate mesenchymal cells. Furthermore, Tbx5 was found to negatively regulate the Hh-signaling activity through transcriptional regulation of Ptch1, a known Hh-signaling repressor. Repression of Hh-signaling through Smo co-mutation in Tbx5 heterozygotes rescued the limb defects, thus placing Tbx5 upstream of Hh-signaling in limb defects. This work reveals an important missing component necessary for understanding not only limb development but also the molecular and genetic mechanisms underlying HOS.

    View details for DOI 10.1093/hmg/ddz185

    View details for PubMedID 31373354

  • Gata4 regulates hedgehog signaling and Gata6 expression for outflow tract development. PLoS genetics Liu, J., Cheng, H., Xiang, M., Zhou, L., Wu, B., Moskowitz, I. P., Zhang, K., Xie, L. 2019; 15 (5): e1007711


    Dominant mutations of Gata4, an essential cardiogenic transcription factor (TF), were known to cause outflow tract (OFT) defects in both human and mouse, but the underlying molecular mechanism was not clear. In this study, Gata4 haploinsufficiency in mice was found to result in OFT defects including double outlet right ventricle (DORV) and ventricular septum defects (VSDs). Gata4 was shown to be required for Hedgehog (Hh)-receiving progenitors within the second heart field (SHF) for normal OFT alignment. Restored cell proliferation in the SHF by knocking-down Pten failed to rescue OFT defects, suggesting that additional cell events under Gata4 regulation is important. SHF Hh-receiving cells failed to migrate properly into the proximal OFT cushion, which is associated with abnormal EMT and cell proliferation in Gata4 haploinsufficiency. The genetic interaction of Hh signaling and Gata4 is further demonstrated to be important for OFT development. Gata4 and Smo double heterozygotes displayed more severe OFT abnormalities including persistent truncus arteriosus (PTA). Restoration of Hedgehog signaling renormalized SHF cell proliferation and migration, and rescued OFT defects in Gata4 haploinsufficiency. In addition, there was enhanced Gata6 expression in the SHF of the Gata4 heterozygotes. The Gata4-responsive repressive sites were identified within 1kbp upstream of the transcription start site of Gata6 by both ChIP-qPCR and luciferase reporter assay. These results suggested a SHF regulatory network comprising of Gata4, Gata6 and Hh-signaling for OFT development.

    View details for DOI 10.1371/journal.pgen.1007711

    View details for PubMedID 31120883

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC6550424

  • Gata4 potentiates second heart field proliferation and Hedgehog signaling for cardiac septation. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America Zhou, L., Liu, J., Xiang, M., Olson, P., Guzzetta, A., Zhang, K., Moskowitz, I. P., Xie, L. 2017; 114 (8): E1422-E1431


    GATA4, an essential cardiogenic transcription factor, provides a model for dominant transcription factor mutations in human disease. Dominant GATA4 mutations cause congenital heart disease (CHD), specifically atrial and atrioventricular septal defects (ASDs and AVSDs). We found that second heart field (SHF)-specific Gata4 heterozygote embryos recapitulated the AVSDs observed in germline Gata4 heterozygote embryos. A proliferation defect of SHF atrial septum progenitors and hypoplasia of the dorsal mesenchymal protrusion, rather than anlage of the atrioventricular septum, were observed in this model. Knockdown of the cell-cycle repressor phosphatase and tensin homolog (Pten) restored cell-cycle progression and rescued the AVSDs. Gata4 mutants also demonstrated Hedgehog (Hh) signaling defects. Gata4 acts directly upstream of Hh components: Gata4 activated a cis-regulatory element at Gli1 in vitro and occupied the element in vivo. Remarkably, SHF-specific constitutive Hh signaling activation rescued AVSDs in Gata4 SHF-specific heterozygous knockout embryos. Pten expression was unchanged in Smoothened mutants, and Hh pathway genes were unchanged in Pten mutants, suggesting pathway independence. Thus, both the cell-cycle and Hh-signaling defects caused by dominant Gata4 mutations were required for CHD pathogenesis, suggesting a combinatorial model of disease causation by transcription factor haploinsufficiency.

    View details for DOI 10.1073/pnas.1605137114

    View details for PubMedID 28167794

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC5338429

  • Gene network and familial analyses uncover a gene network involving Tbx5/Osr1/Pcsk6 interaction in the second heart field for atrial septation. Human molecular genetics Zhang, K. K., Xiang, M., Zhou, L., Liu, J., Curry, N., Heine Suñer, D., Garcia-Pavia, P., Zhang, X., Wang, Q., Xie, L. 2016; 25 (6): 1140-51


    Atrial septal defects (ASDs) are a common human congenital heart disease (CHD) that can be induced by genetic abnormalities. Our previous studies have demonstrated a genetic interaction between Tbx5 and Osr1 in the second heart field (SHF) for atrial septation. We hypothesized that Osr1 and Tbx5 share a common signaling networking and downstream targets for atrial septation. To identify this molecular networks, we acquired the RNA-Seq transcriptome data from the posterior SHF of wild-type, Tbx5(+/) (-), Osr1(+/-), Osr1(-/-) and Tbx5(+/-)/Osr1(+/-) mutant embryos. Gene set analysis was used to identify the Kyoto Encyclopedia of Genes and Genomes pathways that were affected by the doses of Tbx5 and Osr1. A gene network module involving Tbx5 and Osr1 was identified using a non-parametric distance metric, distance correlation. A subset of 10 core genes and gene-gene interactions in the network module were validated by gene expression alterations in posterior second heart field (pSHF) of Tbx5 and Osr1 transgenic mouse embryos, a time-course gene expression change during P19CL6 cell differentiation. Pcsk6 was one of the network module genes that were linked to Tbx5. We validated the direct regulation of Tbx5 on Pcsk6 using immunohistochemical staining of pSHF, ChIP-quantitative polymerase chain reaction and luciferase reporter assay. Importantly, we identified Pcsk6 as a novel gene associated with ASD via a human genotyping study of an ASD family. In summary, our study implicated a gene network involving Tbx5, Osr1 and Pcsk6 interaction in SHF for atrial septation, providing a molecular framework for understanding the role of Tbx5 in CHD ontogeny.

    View details for DOI 10.1093/hmg/ddv636

    View details for PubMedID 26744331

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC4764195