Associate Professor of Biology
Office: NW 357.10, 52 Oxford Street
We are interested in understanding how the structure and function of neural circuits regulate behavior, and how this process is modified by experience and environment. One way to address this question is to elucidate evolutionarily conserved features in the fundamental underlying mechanisms. For this purpose, I exploit Caenorhabditis elegans, because its nervous system is relatively simple and well-characterized and because it is accessible to genetic, molecular and imaging methods.
Our research has primarily focused on olfactory behavior and plasticity. In the past few years, we have characterized three types of underlying neural circuits. First, we have functionally mapped a neuronal network that encodes both the naive and learned olfactory preferences. Intriguingly, we have recently identified a new type of circuits, “topographic circuits”, which is organized by the subcellular localization of the synapses. We have also characterized a set of “invisible circuits”, which regulate olfactory behavior through ligand-receptor interactions. Our research has yielded new knowledge about the functional organization of neural circuits and how it regulates olfactory sensorimotor response.
I am also interested in understanding how behavior evolves. Behaviors evolve through adaptation to the environment, which is driven by the changes in the molecular and cellular underpinnings. We use ecological isolates of C. elegans that exhibit inheritable behavioral variances to dissect how the genomic architecture shapes behavior and its neural basis.
1. The Zhang lab is accepting applications for postdoctoral positions. The candidates with a background in neuroscience or molecular genetics who may be interested in joining our team should contact Dr. Yun Zhang via email.
2. The Zhang lab also has positions for graduate students who are interested in studying the function and development of neural circuits underlying behaviors. Please send your inquiry to Dr. Yun Zhang via email.
Chen, Z., Hendricks, M., Maier, W., Cornils, A., Alcedo, J. and Zhang, Y. Two insulin-like peptides antagonistically regulate aversive olfactory learning. Neuron, 77, 572-585 (2013).
Qin, Y., Zhang, X. and Zhang, Y. A neuronal circuit of C. elegans CaMKII regulates serotonergic modulatory signaling for aversive olfactory learning. Journal of Neuroscience, 33(3): 925-35 (2013).
Lee, H., Zhang, Y. and Lu, H. Quantitative screening of genes regulating tryptophan hydroxylase transcription in C. elegans using microfluidics and adaptive algorithm. Integrative Biology, 5(2):372-80 (2013).
Zhang, X. and Zhang, Y. A TGF-β, DBL-1, is essential for aversive olfactory learning. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 109(42):17081-6 (2012).
Alcedo, J. and Zhang, Y. Molecular and cellular circuits underlying C. elegans olfactory plasticity. Invertebrate learning and memory, edited by Randolf Menzel and Paul Benjamin, in press (2012).
Hendricks, M., Ha, H., Maffey, N. and Zhang, Y. Compartmentalized calcium dynamics in a C. elegans interneuron encode head movement. Nature, 487, 99–103 (2012).
Cornils, A., Gloeck, M., Chen, Z., Zhang, Y. and Alcedo, J. Specific insulin-like peptides encode sensory information to regulate distinct developmental processes. Development, 138(6):1183-93 (2011).
Ha, H., Hendricks, M., Shen, Y., Gabel, C., Fang-Yen, C. M., Qin, Y., Colón-Ramos, D., Shen, K., Samuel, A.D.T. and Zhang, Y. Functional organization of a neural network that regulates aversive olfactory learning in Caenorhabditis elegans. Neuron 68, 1173-1186 (2010). Selected as the only featured article of the issue.
Zhang, X. and Zhang, Y. Neural-immune communication in Caenorhabditis elegans. Cell Host & Microbe 5(5): 425-9 (2009).
Zhang, Y. Neural mechanisms of Caenorhabditis elegans and pathogenic bacteria interactions. Current Opinion in Microbiology 11, 257-261 (2008).
Luo, L., Gabel, C. L., Ha, H., Zhang, Y. and Samuel, A.D.T. Olfactory behavior of swimming C. elegans analyzed by measuring motile responses to temporal variations of odorants. J. Neurophysiology 99, 2617-2625 (2008).
Pradel E*, Zhang Y*, Pujol N, Matsuyama T, Bargmann CI & Ewbank,
JJ (2007). Detection and avoidance of a natural product from the pathogenic
bacterium Serratia marcescens by Caenorhabditis elegans. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA104: 2295-2300.
Zhang Y, Lu H & Bargmann CI (2005). Pathogenic bacteria induce aversive olfactory learning in C. elegans. Nature 438: 179-184.
Zhang Y, Ma C, Delohery T, Nasipak B, Foat BC, Bounoutas A, Bussemaker HJ, Kim SK & Chalfie M (2002). Identification of genes expressed in C. elegans touch receptor neurons. Nature 418: 331-335.
Zhang Y & Chalfie M (2002). MTD-1, a touch-cell-specific membrane protein with a subtle effect on touch sensitivity. Mechanisms of Development 119: 3-7.
Neurobiology 95a: Can We Learn About How We Learn? - Learning and Memory
OEB 145: Genes and Behavior
OEB 223: Topics in Neurogenetics
OEB 369: Molecular Genetics of Neuroscience
Honors and Awards
American Heart Association Postdoctoral Research Award
F. M. Kirby Postdoctoral Fellowships in Sensory Neuroscience
Klingenstein Fellowship Awards in the Neurosciences
Capranica Neuroethology Prize (one of the two recipients nationwide)
March of Dimes Basil O'Connor Starter Scholar Research Award
Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellowship
John Merck Scholars Program Award (one of the two recipients nationwide)
Adam Bahrami <adambahrami at yahoo dot com>
Michael Hendricks <s dot Michael dot Hendricks at gmail dot com>
Gareth Harris <gazalad2 at Hotmail dot com>
Xiaodong Zhang (MCB) <zxdangela at gmail dot com>
Yuqi Qin (OEB) <yqqinzju at gmail dot com>
Zhunan Chen (OEB) <zchen at oeb dot Harvard dot edu>
Yu Shen (OEB) <shenyupku at gmail dot com>
Jingyi Yu (OEB) <jingyiyu at fas dot harvard dot edu>
Shane Smith, Technician, <shanesmith at fas dot Harvard dot edu>
Shuli Bigelow, Faculty Assistant, <sbigelow at oeb dot Harvard dot edu>