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Yunlei Yang, MD, PhD

Yunlei Yang, MD, PhD
Appointed 08/13/12
3609 Institute For Human Performance
505 Irving Ave.
Syracuse, NY 13210

315 464-7733

Current Appointments

Hospital Campus

  • Downtown

Research Programs and Affiliations

  • Biomedical Sciences Program
  • Neuroscience Program
  • Neuroscience and Physiology
  • Research Pillars

Research Interests

  • Deciphering and manipulating the cellular signaling circuits for feeding behaviors using approaches including electrophysiology, pharmacogenetics and optogenetics.


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Dr. Yang's laboratory seeks to dissect and manipulate the intracellular and intercellular signaling circuits controlling food intake in normal and obese animals using a bunch of approaches, including electrophysiology, opto-genetics, chemical-genetics, pharmacology, imaging and molecular biology as well as behavioral assays. Obesity and its associated complications impose a huge burden to our society, and its associated pathologies constitute a major cause of death. Also, obesity may increase the risks of many other disorders, such as type 2 diabetes.  However, the mechanisms and the effective treatments of obesity still remain unclear. At its core, the obesity results from an imbalance between food intake and energy expenditure, so it is critical to study the mechanisms of food intake. Food intake is complex and multimodal. They focus on studying the neural processes controlling food intake.

Dr. Yang's lab has demonstrated that food deprivation up-regulated excitatory synaptic inputs onto AGRP neurons and down-regulated excitatory synaptic inputs onto POMC neurons in the arcuate nucleus (ARC) of hypothalamus. However, the origins of the neurons projecting to AGRP neurons or POMC neurons are still unknown. They will first explore the neuron populations and then study their functions in food intake and obesity.        

Besides the neuronal regulations of food intake, he is also interested in studying the glial roles in food intake and obesity. Glial cells have long been ignored until recently it is increasingly clear that glial cells are involved in physiological and pathological conditions, such as learning & memory and neurodegenerative disorders respectively. Obesity actually is an inflammatory process, and glial cells are involved in the inflammation. They will explore the functions of glia in food intake and obesity using approaches including opto-genetics and chemical-genetics.

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Selected Publications

1. Sweeney P & Yang Y* (2015) An excitatory hippocampus to lateral septum circuit that suppressess feeding. Nature Communications 6, 10188.

2. Qi Y & Yang Y* (2015) Hunger states control the directions of synaptic plasticity via switching cell type-specific subunits of NMDA receptors. J Neuroscience 35, 13171-13182.

3. Yang L, Qi Y, & Yang Y* (2015) Astrocytes control food intake by inhibiting AGRP neuron activity via adenosine A1 receptors. Cell Reports. 11, 798-807 (Featured Article). 

Comment in Trends Endocrinol Metab:Regulation of Orexigenic AgRP neurosn: A third way?http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26033032

Commentary in Cell Press:http://news.cell.com/cellreports/cell-reports/eating-and-the-brain-glial-cells-enter-the-fray-a-guest-commentary

CrossTalK in Cell Press:http://www.cell.com/crosstalk/eating-the-beain-glial-cells-enter-the-fray

Featured in World Biomedical Frontiers: http://biomedfrontiers.org/diabetes-obesity-2015-9-2/

4. Yang Y, Lee P & Sternson SM (2015) Cell type-specific pharmacology of NMDA receptors using masked MK801. ELife 4:e10206.

Comment in eLife:http://elifesciences.org/content/4/e10206/abstract-2

5. Yang Y (2015) Astrocytes: a potential target for the treatment of anorexia nervosa. Neuro Open J2:42-44.

6. Yang Y (2015) Astrocytes: targets in obesity. Oncotarget 6: 12835-12836.

7. Tian L, Yang Y, Wysocki LM, Arnold A, Hu A, Ravichandran B, Sternson SM, Looger LL & Lavis LD (2012) Selective esterase-ester pair for targeting small molecules with cellular specificity. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA. 109: 4756-61Featured in Faculty of 1000 Biology

8. Yang Y, Atasoy D, Su H & Sternson SM (2011) Hunger states switch a flip-flop memory circuit via a synaptic AMPK-dependent positive feedback loop. Cell 146: 992-1003

Previewed in Cell, and Cell Metabolism;

Highlighted in "Editor Choice" in Science Signaling and Featured in Faculty of 1000 Biology

9. Yang Y*, Wang Xb & Zhou Q* (2010) Perisynaptic GluR2-lacking AMPA receptors control the reversibility of synaptic and spines modifications. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA. 107:11999-12004. (Direct submitted). (* co-corresponding author)

10. Yang Y & Zhou Q (2009) Spine modifications associated with long-term potentiation. The Neuroscientist 15: 464-476 (invited review).

11. Yang Y, Wand Xb, Frerking M & Zhou Q (2008) Delivery of AMPA receptors to perisynaptic sites precedes the full expression of long-term potentiationProc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA. 105: 11388-11393.

Featured by Faculty of 1000 Biology (Direct submitted)

12. Yang Y, Wand Xb, Frerking M & Zhou Q (2008) Spine expansion and stabilization associated with long term potentiation. J Neuroscience 28: 5740-5751.

13. Wang Xb, Yang Y & Zhou Q (2007) Independent expression of synaptic and morphological plasticity associated with long-term depression. J Neuroscience 27: 12419- 2429 (Hightlighted)

14. Yang Y, Ge W, Zhang Z, Shen W, Wu C, Poo M & Duan S (2003) Contribution of astrocytes to hippocampal long-term potentiation through release of D-serine. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 100: 15194-15199. (Direct submitted)

Faculty Profile Shortcut: http://www.upstate.edu/faculty/yangyun

Adjunct Faculty

Adjunct Professor

  • Sandra Hewett, Ph.D. (Biology, Syracuse University)

Adjunct Associate Professor

  • Bart Farell, Ph.D. (Institute for Sensory Research, Syracuse University)
  • Katharine (Kate) Lewis, Ph.D. (Biology, Syracuse University)
  • Brad Motter, PhD (VA Medical Center)
  • Theresa White, Ph.D. (Psychology, LeMoyne College)

Adjunct Assistant Professor

  • Annette R. Jenner, Ph.D. (Communication Science Disorders, Syracuse University)
  • Patrick Yurco, Ph.D. (Biological Sciences, LeMoyne College)