Yun Zhang

Yun Zhang

On Leave Fall 2022
Professor of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology
Yun Zhang

Faculty Support: Shuli Bigelow

We are interested in understanding how the structure and function of neural circuits regulate experience-dependent behavioral plasticity, particularly olfactory learning. 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 small and well-characterized and because it is accessible to genetic, molecular and imaging methods. Our research has primarily focused on olfactory plasticity. In the past few years, our work has yielded new knowledge about the function of the underlying neural circuits. We have mapped a neuronal network that encodes both the naive and learned olfactory preferences. Intriguingly, we have recently identified and characterized compartmentalized activity in the key neuron of the learning circuit that resembles corollary discharge, a major means that the nervous system uses to monitor self-generated motion. We have also characterized circuit function of a set of neuromodulators that regulate learning through ligand-receptor interactions.

Recent Publications

* denotes the publications for which Zhang is a correspondent.

* Luo, L., Wen, Q. , Ren, J. , Hendricks, M. , Gershow, M., Qin, Y., Greenwood, J., Soucy, E., Klein, M., Smith, H.K., Calvo, A., Colon-Ramos, D.A., Samuel, A.D. and Zhang, Y. Dynamic encoding of perception, memory and movement in a C. elegans chemotaxis circuit. Neuron, in press (2014). : co-first authors.

* Fernandes de Abreu, D.A., Caballero, A., Fardel, P., Stroustrup, N., Chen, Z., et al., Antebi, A., Blanc, E., Apfeld, J., Zhang, Y., Alcedo, J. and Ch’ng, Q.L. An insulin-to-insulin regulatory network orchestrates phenotypic specificity in development and physiology. PLoS Genetics, 10(3):e1004225 (2014).

* Luo, L., Cook, N., Venkatachalam, V., Martinez-Velazquez, L.A., Zhang, X., Calvo, A.C., Hawk, J., Macinnis, B.L., Frank, M., Ng, J.H., Klein, M., Gershow, M., Hammarlund, M., Goodman, M.B., Colon-Ramos, D.A., Zhang, Y. and Samuel, A.D. Bidirectional thermotaxis in Caenorhabditis elegans is mediated by distinct sensorimotor strategies driven by the AFD thermosensory neurons. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA, 111(7): 2776-2781 (2014).

* Bahrami, A. and Zhang, Y. When females produce sperm: genetics of C. elegans hermaphrodite reproductive choice. Genes, Genomes, Genetics 3(10):1851-1859 (2013).

* Hendricks, M. and Zhang, Y. Complex RIA calcium dynamics and its function in navigational behavior. Worm 2(3): e25546 (2013).

* Chen, Z., Hendricks, M., Cornils, A., Maier, W., Alcedo, J. and Zhang, Y. Two insulin-like peptides antagonistically regulate aversive olfactory learning in C. elegans.Neuron 77(3), 572-585 (2013).

* Qin, Y., Zhang, X. and Zhang, Y. A neuronal signaling pathway of CaMKII and Gqa regulates experience-dependent transcription of tph-1. Journal of Neuroscience 33(3): 925-935 (2013).

Lee, H., Crane, M.M., Zhang, Y. and Lu, H. Quantitative screening of genes regulating tryptophan hydroxylase transcription in Caenorhabditis elegans using microfluidics and an adaptive algorithm. Integrative Biology 5(2): 372-380 (2013).

* Alcedo, J. and Zhang, Y. Molecular and cellular circuits underlying Caenorhabditis elegans olfactory plasticity. Invertebrate Learning and Memory, Chapter 10, edited by Randolf Menzel and Paul Benjamin, Elsevier, ISBN: B978-0-12-415823-8 (2013).

* Hendricks, M., Ha, H-I., Maffey, N. and Zhang, Y. Compartmentalized calcium dynamics in a C. elegans interneuron encode head movement. Nature 487, 99–103 (2012).

* Zhang, X. and Zhang, Y. DBL-1, a TGF-β, is essential for Caenorhabditis elegans aversive olfactory learning. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 109(42):17081-17086 (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), 1183-1193 (2011).

* Ha, H-I., Hendricks, M., Shen, Y., Gabel, C.V., Fang-Yen, C.M., Qin, Y., Colón-Ramos, D.A., Shen, K., Samuel, A.D. and Zhang, Y. Functional organization of a neural network for aversive olfactory learning in Caenorhabditis elegans. Neuron 68(6), 1173-1186 (2010). The featured article of the issue.

* Zhang, X. and Zhang, Y. Neural-immune communication in Caenorhabditis elegans. Cell Host & Microbe 5(5): 425-429 (2009). * Zhang, Y. Neural mechanisms of Caenorhabditis elegans and pathogenic bacteria interactions. Current Opinion in Microbiology 11(3), 257-261 (2008).

Luo, L., Gabel, C.V., Ha, H-I., Zhang, Y. and Samuel, A.D. Olfactory behavior of swimming C. elegans analyzed by measuring motile responses to temporal variations of odorants. Journal of Neurophysiology 99(5), 2617-2625 (2008).

Pradel, E., Zhang, Y. , Pujol, N., Matsuyama, T., Bargmann, C.I. and Ewbank, J.J. Detection and avoidance of a natural product from the pathogenic bacterium Serratia marcescens by Caenorhabditis elegans. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 104(7), 2295-2300 (2007). : co-first author.

Zhang, Y., Lu, H. and Bargmann, C.I. Pathogenic bacteria induce aversive olfactory learning in Caenorhabditis elegans. Nature 438, 179-184 (2005).

Zhang, Y. and Chalfie, M. MTD-1, a touch-cell-specific membrane protein with a subtle effect on touch sensitivity. Mechanisms of Development 119(1), 3-7 (2002).

Zhang, Y., Ma, C., Delohery, T., Nasipak, B., Foat, B.C., Bounoutas, A., Bussemaker, H.J., Kim, S.K. and Chalfie, M. Identification of genes expressed in C. elegans touch receptor neurons. Nature 418, 331-335 (2002).


Contact Information

Northwest Building
52 Oxford Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
p: 617-495-1107


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