Zhao Xuan


  • Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, 2014, Ph.D. in Neuroscience
  • Drexel University, 2009, M.S. in Biology
  • Ocean University of China, 2007, B.S. in Biology

Brief Biography

Dr. Xuan is an Assistant Professor of Neurobiology in the School of Biology and Ecology at the University of Maine in Orono. The Xuan lab is interested in understanding the mechanisms of synapse formation and function, intending to reveal novel mechanisms underlying synaptic deficits in neurological diseases. We primarily use molecular and genetic techniques and advanced live-animal imaging in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans (C. elegans) to study the following areas.

1) The assembly and function of the active zone. The active zone is the site of neurotransmitter release at the presynaptic terminals. Active zones are highly specialized microdomains composed of the presynaptic membrane and a dense collection of proteins. Recently we reported a novel active zone protein in C. elegans
called Clarinet (CLA-1). We will investigate how CLA-1 interacts with other active zone proteins to orchestrate neurotransmitter release. We will also carry out unbiased genetic screens to identify novel molecules required for presynaptic assembly.

2) The assembly and function of the periactive zone. Adjacent to the active zone is a much less studied presynaptic domain called the periactive zone. Our recent findings that the periactive zone interacts with the active zone to regulate synaptic autophagy open new opportunities to examine the periactive zone and its role in maintaining synaptic performance. We will investigate the assembly of the periactive zone during development in vivo, its interaction with the active zone, and its potential role in coupling axon guidance, synapse formation, and neurotransmission.

Laboratory Website can be reached here.

Research Areas

  • Development
  • Molecular and Cellular Biology
  • Neuroscience
  • Synapses
  • Genetics
  • C. elegans


  • Zhao Xuan#, Sisi Yang#, Sarah E Hill, Benjamin Clark, Laura Manning, Daniel Colon-Ramos.The active zone protein Clarinet regulates ATG-9 trafficking at synapses and presynaptic autophagy. PLoS Biol. 2023 Apr 13;21(4):e3002030. doi: 10.1371/journal.pbio.3002030. #: equal contribution
  • Zhao Xuan#, Laura Manning#, Jessica Nelson, Janet E. Richmond, Daniel Colón-Ramos, Kang Shen, Peri T. Kurshan. Clarinet (cla-1), a novel active zone protein required for synaptic vesicle clustering and release. eLife. 2017 Nov 21;6. pii: e29276. doi: 10.7554/eLife.29276. #: equal contribution
  • Zhao Xuan, Gael Barthet, Junichi Shioi, Jindong Xu, Anastasios Georgakopoulos, Julien Bruban, Nikolaos K. Robakis. Presenilin-1/γ-secretase controls glutamate release, tyrosine phosphorylation, and surface expression of N-Methyl-D-aspartate Receptor (NMDAR) subunit GluN2B. J Biol Chem. 2013 Oct 18, 288(42):30495-501.

A complete listing of my articles can be found here.