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Last Name

Yang Xiang PhD

TitleAssistant Professor
InstitutionUniversity of Massachusetts Medical School
AddressUniversity of Massachusetts Medical School
364 Plantation Street, LRB 725
Worcester MA 01605
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    InstitutionUMMS - School of Medicine

    InstitutionUMMS - School of Medicine
    DepartmentNeuroNexus Institute

    InstitutionUMMS - Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences

    Collapse Biography 
    Collapse education and training
    Nanjing University, Nanjing, , ChinaBSBiochemistry
    Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, , ChinaPHDNeurobiology

    Collapse Overview 
    Collapse overview


    Yang Xiang received his B.S. in Biochemistry from Nanjing University in 1999. He carried out his doctoral training in the laboratory of Dr. Mu-ming Poo at the institute of Neuroscience, Chinese Academy of Sciences, where he studied axonal guidance, obtained his Ph.D in Neurobiology in 2003. Yang Xiang then received the Human Frontiers Science Program fellowship to work as a postdoctoral associate with Dr. Yuh-Nung Jan at HHMI, University of California San Francisco from 2004-2012, studying sensory neuron function in Drosophila. He started his laboratory in the Department of Neurobiology at The University of Massachusetts Medical School in 2012.

    Molecular and neural circuit mechanisms underlying behavior

    Our lab is interested in understanding how the nervous system detects and processes sensory stimuli to generate appropriate behavior, a central question in neurobiology. We work on the genetically tractable organism Drosophila. Specifically, our research focuses on the innate escape behavior triggered by harmful light in Drosophila larvae. We found that a specific class of sensory neurons (namely, class IV dendritic arborization (da) neurons) are novel photoreceptors activated by intense harmful short wavelength light, with spectral sensitivity UV>violet>blue>>green~red, and mediate larval escape behavior when illuminated by UV, violet and blue light. Classical phototransduction molecules are not required in class IV da neurons. Instead, gustatory receptor 28b (Gr28b), G protein signaling and dTRPA1 are critical. Beyond harmful light, class IV da neurons also sense noxious heat (>40oC) and the irritant chemical AITC, a major component of wasabi.

    Applying molecular genetics, GCaMP-based functional imaging, electrophysiology, and behavioral assay, our goal is to dissect the molecular, cellular and neural circuit mechanisms underlying sensory stimuli-induced behavior in Drosophila larvae. Specifically, we aim to (1) identify the phototransduction mechanism in class IV da neurons; (2) define and characterize the neural circuits underlying light-induced escape behavior. 

    People in the lab

    Postdoctoral Fellows


    Pengyu Gu, Ph.D.(Nanjing University)





    Kendra Takle, B.S.(University of Wisconsin, Madison)


    Yang Xiang photo 1


    Figure 1 Dorsal view of a 3rd instar Drosophila larva (5 mm in length) with class IV da neurons marked by ppk-CD4TdGFP. en-GAL4 in red marks the posterior epidermal cells of each segment. Each larva has 11 segments and there are 3 class IV da neurons in each hemi-segment. Dendrites of class IV da neurons cover the entire larval body wall in a complete but non-overlapping fashion, a phenomenon called dendritic tiling. This organization will ensure that larvae can detect strong harmful light exposure over their entire bodies. (Image Credit: Dr. Chun Han, UCSF)



    Yang Xiang photo 2


    Figure 2 class IV da neurons detect harmful UV to initiate the escape behavior. Our working model is that Gr28b absorbs photon, and leads to dTRPA1 channels opening and action potential firing in class IV da neurons. Electrical signals encoded by class IV da neurons will be decoded by neural circuits in the CNS into escape behavior.



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    Movie 1 Upon 5 s light stimulation of the anterior region (0.57 mW/mm2 white light, comparable to sunlight intensity), a 3rd instar larva of wt (left) exhibits avoidance behavior, while a larva with class IV da neurons genetically ablated (right) doesn’t avoid light.


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    Movie 2 Class IV da neurons are specifically activated by UV (365 nm) and blue (470 nm), but not green (546 nm) light. Shown here are larval peripheral sensory neurons in a dorsal cluster expressing GCaMP3, with the arrow pointing to the class IV da neuron. 5 s light stimulation is indicated in the upper-right corner. GCaMP3 fluorescence is marked by pseudo-color, with red indicating high and blue indicating low intensity. Similar light activation of class IV da neurons is observed in lateral and ventral clusters across the entire larval body wall.








    Collapse Rotation Projects

    One rotation student is expected in the lab to characterize the expression and function of Drosophila gustatory receptor 28b (Gr28b) in phototransduction and taste sensation. Please contact Dr. Yang Xiang for details.


    Yang Xiang, Ph.D.
    University of Massachusetts Medical School
    Department of Neurobiology, LRB 725
    364 Plantation Street
    Worcester, MA 01605 USA
    phone: 508-856-6816 (office)

    Collapse Bibliographic 
    Collapse selected publications
    Publications listed below are automatically derived from MEDLINE/PubMed and other sources, which might result in incorrect or missing publications. Faculty can login to make corrections and additions.
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    1. Woolums BM, McCray BA, Sung H, Tabuchi M, Sullivan JM, Ruppell KT, Yang Y, Mamah C, Aisenberg WH, Saavedra-Rivera PC, Larin BS, Lau AR, Robinson DN, Xiang Y, Wu MN, Sumner CJ, Lloyd TE. TRPV4 disrupts mitochondrial transport and causes axonal degeneration via a CaMKII-dependent elevation of intracellular Ca2. Nat Commun. 2020 May 29; 11(1):2679. PMID: 32471994.
      View in: PubMed
    2. Gu P, Gong J, Shang Y, Wang F, Ruppell KT, Ma Z, Sheehan AE, Freeman MR, Xiang Y. Polymodal Nociception in Drosophila Requires Alternative Splicing of TrpA1. Curr Biol. 2019 Oct 22. PMID: 31735672.
      View in: PubMed
    3. Song Y, Li D, Farrelly O, Miles L, Li F, Kim SE, Lo TY, Wang F, Li T, Thompson-Peer KL, Gong J, Murthy SE, Coste B, Yakubovich N, Patapoutian A, Xiang Y, Rompolas P, Jan LY, Jan YN. The Mechanosensitive Ion Channel Piezo Inhibits Axon Regeneration. Neuron. 2019 Feb 15. PMID: 30819546.
      View in: PubMed
    4. Yan C, Wang F, Peng Y, Williams CR, Jenkins B, Wildonger J, Kim HJ, Perr JB, Vaughan JC, Kern ME, Falvo MR, O'Brien ET, Superfine R, Tuthill JC, Xiang Y, Rogers SL, Parrish JZ. Microtubule Acetylation Is Required for Mechanosensation in Drosophila. Cell Rep. 2018 10 23; 25(4):1051-1065.e6. PMID: 30355484.
      View in: PubMed
    5. Zhang P, Li M, Chiang CW, Wang L, Xiang Y, Cheng L, Feng W, Schleyer TK, Quinney SK, Wu HY, Zeng D, Li L. Three-Component Mixture Model-Based Adverse Drug Event Signal Detection for the Adverse Event Reporting System. CPT Pharmacometrics Syst Pharmacol. 2018 Aug; 7(8):499-506. PMID: 30091855.
      View in: PubMed
    6. Guntur AR, Gou B, Gu P, He R, Stern U, Xiang Y, Yang CH. H2O2-Sensitive Isoforms of Drosophila melanogaster TRPA1 Act in Bitter-Sensing Gustatory Neurons to Promote Avoidance of UV During Egg-Laying. Genetics. 2017 02; 205(2):749-759. PMID: 27932542.
      View in: PubMed
    7. Wu X, Zhang Y, Takle K, Bilsel O, Li Z, Lee H, Zhang Z, Li D, Fan W, Duan C, Chan EM, Lois C, Xiang Y, Han G. Dye-Sensitized Core/Active Shell Upconversion Nanoparticles for Optogenetics and Bioimaging Applications. ACS Nano. 2016 Jan 26; 10(1):1060-6. PMID: 26736013.
      View in: PubMed
    8. Im SH, Takle K, Jo J, Babcock DT, Ma Z, Xiang Y, Galko MJ. Tachykinin acts upstream of autocrine Hedgehog signaling during nociceptive sensitization in Drosophila. Elife. 2015 Nov 17; 4:e10735. PMID: 26575288.
      View in: PubMed
    9. Guntur AR, Gu P, Takle K, Chen J, Xiang Y, Yang CH. Drosophila TRPA1 isoforms detect UV light via photochemical production of H2O2. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2015 Oct 20; 112(42):E5753-61. PMID: 26443856.
      View in: PubMed
    10. Yang L, Li R, Kaneko T, Takle K, Morikawa RK, Essex L, Wang X, Zhou J, Emoto K, Xiang Y, Ye B. Trim9 regulates activity-dependent fine-scale topography in Drosophila. Curr Biol. 2014 May 5; 24(9):1024-30. PMID: 24746793.
      View in: PubMed
    11. Yan Z, Zhang W, He Y, Gorczyca D, Xiang Y, Cheng LE, Meltzer S, Jan LY, Jan YN. Drosophila NOMPC is a mechanotransduction channel subunit for gentle-touch sensation. Nature. 2013 Jan 10; 493(7431):221-5. PMID: 23222543.
      View in: PubMed
    12. Yan, Z. *, Zhang, W. *, He, Y., Gorczyca, D., Xiang, Y., Cheng, L., Meltzer, S., Jan, L.Y., & Jan, Y.N. NompC is a pore-forming subunit of a mechanotransduction channel for sensing gentle touch in Drosophila. Nature. 2012; (In press).
    13. Yuan Q, Xiang Y, Yan Z, Han C, Jan LY, Jan YN. Light-induced structural and functional plasticity in Drosophila larval visual system. Science. 2011 Sep 9; 333(6048):1458-62. PMID: 21903815.
      View in: PubMed
    14. Yuan, Q., Xiang, Y., Yan, Z.Q., Han, C., Jan, L.Y., & Jan, Y.N. Light induced structural and functional plasticity in Drosophila larval visual System. Science. 2011; 333:1458-1462.
    15. Xiang Y, Yuan Q, Vogt N, Looger LL, Jan LY, Jan YN. Light-avoidance-mediating photoreceptors tile the Drosophila larval body wall. Nature. 2010 Dec 16; 468(7326):921-6. PMID: 21068723.
      View in: PubMed
    16. Xiang, Y., Yuan, Q., Vogt, N., Looger, L. L., Jan, L. Y. and Jan, Y. N. Light-avoidance-mediating photoreceptors tile the Drosophila larval body wall. Nature. 2010; 468:921-926. (research article).
    17. Yang CH, Rumpf S, Xiang Y, Gordon MD, Song W, Jan LY, Jan YN. Control of the postmating behavioral switch in Drosophila females by internal sensory neurons. Neuron. 2009 Feb 26; 61(4):519-26. PMID: 19249273.
      View in: PubMed
    18. Yang, C., Rumpf, S., Xiang, Y., Gordon, M. D., Song, W., Scott, K., Jan, L. Y. and Jan, Y. N. . Control of post-mating behavior switch in Drosophila females by internal sensory neurons. Neuron. 2009; 61:519-526.
    19. Xiang Y, Rybin VO, Steinberg SF, Kobilka B. Caveolar localization dictates physiologic signaling of beta 2-adrenoceptors in neonatal cardiac myocytes. J Biol Chem. 2002 Sep 13; 277(37):34280-6. PMID: 12097322.
      View in: PubMed
    20. Xiang, Y., Li, Y., Zhang, Z., Cui, K., Wang, S., Yuan, X., Wu, C., Poo, M. and Duan, S. Nerve growth cone guidance mediated by G protein-coupled receptors. Nature Neuroscience. 2002; 5:843-848.
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