Honors & Awards

  • NIH Pathway to Independence Award (K99/R00), Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development
  • Simons Fellow of the Helen Hay Whitney Foundation, Helen Hay Whitney Foundation
  • Canadian Institutes of Health Research Fellowship, Canadian Institutes of Health Research

Education & Certifications

  • PhD, University of Toronto, Molecular Genetics (2014)
  • Hon BSc, University of Toronto, Molecular Genetics and Microbiology (2008)


  • Ribosomes and Regeneration: Defining the Role of Protein Synthesis in Tissue Development, Homeostasis and Repair.


    Stanford, CA

All Publications

  • Optogenetic manipulation of cellular communication using engineered myosin motors. Nature cell biology Zhang, Z., Denans, N., Liu, Y., Zhulyn, O., Rosenblatt, H. D., Wernig, M., Barna, M. 2021


    Cells achieve highly efficient and accurate communication through cellular projections such as neurites and filopodia, yet there is a lack of genetically encoded tools that can selectively manipulate their composition and dynamics. Here, we present a versatile optogenetic toolbox of artificial multi-headed myosin motors that can move bidirectionally within long cellular extensions and allow for the selective transport of GFP-tagged cargo with light. Utilizing these engineered motors, we could transport bulky transmembrane receptors and organelles as well as actin remodellers to control the dynamics of both filopodia and neurites. Using an optimized in vivo imaging scheme, we further demonstrate that, upon limb amputation in axolotls, a complex array of filopodial extensions is formed. We selectively modulated these filopodial extensions and showed that they re-establish a Sonic Hedgehog signalling gradient during regeneration. Considering the ubiquitous existence of actin-based extensions, this toolbox shows the potential to manipulate cellular communication with unprecedented accuracy.

    View details for DOI 10.1038/s41556-020-00625-2

    View details for PubMedID 33526902

  • Author Correction: Optogenetic manipulation of cellular communication using engineered myosin motors. Nature cell biology Zhang, Z. n., Denans, N. n., Liu, Y. n., Zhulyn, O. n., Rosenblatt, H. D., Wernig, M. n., Barna, M. n. 2021

    View details for DOI 10.1038/s41556-021-00650-9

    View details for PubMedID 33608689

  • Pervasive translational regulation of the cell signalling circuitry underlies mammalian development NATURE COMMUNICATIONS Fujii, K., Shi, Z., Zhulyn, O., Denans, N., Barna, M. 2017; 8


    The degree and dynamics of translational control during mammalian development remain poorly understood. Here we monitored translation of the mammalian genome as cells become specified and organize into tissues in vivo. This identified unexpected and pervasive translational regulation of most of the core signalling circuitry including Shh, Wnt, Hippo, PI3K and MAPK pathways. We further identify and functionally characterize a complex landscape of upstream open reading frames (uORFs) across 5'-untranslated regions (UTRs) of key signalling components. Focusing on the Shh pathway, we demonstrate the importance of uORFs within the major SHH receptor, Ptch1, in control of cell signalling and neuronal differentiation. Finally, we show that the expression of hundreds of mRNAs underlying critical tissue-specific developmental processes is largely regulated at the translation but not transcript levels. Altogether, this work reveals a new layer of translational control to major signalling components and gene regulatory networks that diversifies gene expression spatially across developing tissues.

    View details for DOI 10.1038/ncomms14443

    View details for Web of Science ID 000393859100001

    View details for PubMedID 28195124

  • T396I mutation of mouse Sufu reduces the stability and activity of Gli3 repressor. PloS one Makino, S., Zhulyn, O., Mo, R., Puviindran, V., Zhang, X., Murata, T., Fukumura, R., Ishitsuka, Y., Kotaki, H., Matsumaru, D., Ishii, S., Hui, C. C., Gondo, Y. 2015; 10 (3): e0119455


    Hedgehog signaling is primarily transduced by two transcription factors: Gli2, which mainly acts as a full-length activator, and Gli3, which tends to be proteolytically processed from a full-length form (Gli3FL) to an N-terminal repressor (Gli3REP). Recent studies using a Sufu knockout mouse have indicated that Sufu is involved in regulating Gli2 and Gli3 activator and repressor activity at multiple steps of the signaling cascade; however, the mechanism of specific Gli2 and Gli3 regulation remains to be elucidated. In this study, we established an allelic series of ENU-induced mouse strains. Analysis of one of the missense alleles, SufuT396I, showed that Thr396 residue of Sufu played a key role in regulation of Gli3 activity. SufuT396I/T396I embryos exhibited severe polydactyly, which is indicative of compromised Gli3 activity. Concomitantly, significant quantitative reductions of unprocessed Gli3 (Gli3FL) and processed Gli3 (Gli3REP) were observed in vivo as well as in vitro. Genetic experiments showed that patterning defects in the limb buds of SufuT396I/T396I were rescued by a constitutive Gli3REP allele (Gli3∆699), strongly suggesting that SufuT396I reduced the truncated Gli3 repressor. In contrast, SufuT396I qualitatively exhibited no mutational effects on Gli2 regulation. Taken together, the results of this study show that the Thr396 residue of Sufu is specifically required for regulation of Gli3 but not Gli2. This implies a novel Sufu-mediated mechanism in which Gli2 activator and Gli3 repressor are differentially regulated.

    View details for DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0119455

    View details for PubMedID 25760946

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC4356511

  • Sufu and Kif7 in limb patterning and development. Developmental dynamics : an official publication of the American Association of Anatomists Zhulyn, O., Hui, C. C. 2015; 244 (3): 468-78


    The vertebrate digit pattern is defined by the morphogen Sonic hedgehog (Shh), which controls the activity of Gli transcription factors. Gli1, 2 and 3 are dynamically expressed during patterning. Downstream of Shh, their activity is regulated by Sufu and Kif7, core components of the Shh signaling cascade. The precise roles of these regulators during limb development have not been fully described. We analyze the role of Sufu and Kif7 in the limb and demonstrate that their loss has distinct and synergistic effects on Gli activity and digit pattern.Using a series of mouse mutants, we show that Sufu and Kif7 are expressed throughout limb development and their deletion has distinct effects on Gli levels and limb formation. Concomitant deletion of Sufu and Kif7 results in constitutive pathway activity and severe limb truncation. This is consistent with the recently published two-population model, which suggests that precocious activation of Shh signaling inhibits organizing center formation and limb outgrowth.Together, our findings demonstrate that perturbations of Sufu and Kif7 affect Gli activity and recapitulate the full spectrum of vertebrate limb defects, ranging from severe truncation to polydactyly.

    View details for DOI 10.1002/dvdy.24249

    View details for PubMedID 25581370

  • Ptch2 shares overlapping functions with Ptch1 in Smo regulation and limb development. Developmental biology Zhulyn, O., Nieuwenhuis, E., Liu, Y. C., Angers, S., Hui, C. C. 2015; 397 (2): 191-202


    Ptch1 and Ptch2 are highly conserved vertebrate homologs of Drosophila ptc, the receptor of the Hedgehog (Hh) signaling pathway. The vertebrate Ptch1 gene encodes a potent tumor suppressor and is well established for its role in embryonic development. In contrast, Ptch2 is poorly characterized and dispensable for embryogenesis. In flies and mice, ptc/Ptch1 controls Hh signaling through the regulation of Smoothened (Smo). In addition, Hh pathway activation also up-regulates ptc/Ptch1 expression to restrict the diffusion of the ligand. Recent studies have implicated Ptch2 in this ligand dependent antagonism, however whether Ptch2 encodes a functional Shh receptor remains unclear. In this report, we demonstrate that Ptch2 is a functional Shh receptor, which regulates Smo localization and activity in vitro. We also show that Ptch1 and Ptch2 are co-expressed in the developing mouse limb bud and loss of Ptch2 exacerbates the outgrowth defect in the limb-specific Ptch1 knockout mutants, demonstrating that Ptch1 and Ptch2 co-operate in regulating cellular responses to Shh in vivo.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.ydbio.2014.10.023

    View details for PubMedID 25448692

  • A switch from low to high Shh activity regulates establishment of limb progenitors and signaling centers. Developmental cell Zhulyn, O., Li, D., Deimling, S., Vakili, N. A., Mo, R., Puviindran, V., Chen, M. H., Chuang, P. T., Hopyan, S., Hui, C. C. 2014; 29 (2): 241-9


    The patterning and growth of the embryonic vertebrate limb is dependent on Sonic hedgehog (Shh), a morphogen that regulates the activity of Gli transcription factors. However, Shh expression is not observed during the first 12 hr of limb development. During this phase, the limb bud is prepatterned into anterior and posterior regions through the antagonistic actions of transcription factors Gli3 and Hand2. We demonstrate that precocious activation of Shh signaling during this early phase interferes with the Gli3-dependent specification of anterior progenitors, disturbing establishment of signaling centers and normal outgrowth of the limb. Our findings illustrate that limb development requires a sweet spot in the level and timing of pathway activation that allows for the Shh-dependent expansion of posterior progenitors without interfering with early prepatterning functions of Gli3/Gli3R or specification of anterior progenitors.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.devcel.2014.03.002

    View details for PubMedID 24726283