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Stadtman Investigator

Quan Yuan, Ph.D.

Dendrite Morphogenesis and Plasticity Unit


Building 35 Room 1B-1002
35 Convent Drive MSC 3736
Bethesda MD 20892
Office: (301) 402-0286

Fax: (301) 480-8240
quan.yuan@nih.gov

Dr. Yuan received her B.S. from Lanzhou University, China and earned her Ph.D. In 2005 from the University of Pennsylvania, where she studied the role of serotonergic regulation in circadian rhythms and sleep with Dr. Amita Sehgal. From 2006 to 2012, Dr. Yuan received her postdoctoral training at University of California, San Francisco in Dr. Lily Jan and YuhNung Jan's laboratory, where she developed a system to study experience-dependent structural and functional plasticity in Drosophila larval visual circuit. Dr. Yuan joined NINDS as an investigator in 2013. Her laboratory employs Drosophila as a model system to study the cellular and molecular mechanism underlying the regulation of dendrite morphogenesis and developmental plasticity.



Proper functions of neuronal circuits rely on the fidelity of their assembly, while adaptive modifications are also essential. Our research objectives are to understand how the balance of reliability and flexibility is achieved and regulated in neural circuits, and its functional implications in physiological and pathological conditions.

The discovery of a surprising degree of wiring plasticity in the Drosophila larval visual system provides us opportunities to study the experience-dependent plasticity in a simple yet powerful system. We observed large scale homeostatic modification of the dendritic arbor of ventral lateral neurons (LNvs) by visual experience during larval development. This structural plasticity is accompanied by the changes in synapse number and physiological response to light. Our genetic analyses have uncovered novel molecules involved in the regulation of activity-dependent structural modification, with connections to functional plasticity such as learning and memory.

The Drosophila system allows rapid identification of genetic components and systematic studies using anatomical, physiological and behavioral approaches. We are currently carrying out projects to: identify molecular components underlying structural plasticity in the fly larval visual circuit; determine cellular mechanisms regulating light-mediated behaviors in Drosophila larvae; and investigate the functional consequences of deficits in homeostatic neuronal plasticity.

Staff Image
  • Uzma Javed, B.S.
    Post baccalaureate IRTA Fellow

  • Cai-Xia Long, M.D.
    Laboratory Manager
    301-451-6083

  • Bo Qin, B.S.
    Post baccalaureate IRTA Fellow
    (301) 402-0686

  • Chengyu Sheng, Ph.D.
    Postdoctoral IRTA Fellow
    301-435-5876

  • Jun Yin, Ph.D.
    Research Fellow
    301-402-0357

  • 1) Yuan Q*, Song Y*, Yang CH, Jan LY, Jan YN. (2014)
  • Female contact modulates male aggression via a sexually dimorphic GABAergic circuit in Drosophila
  • Nat Neurosci, Nov. 17
  • 2) Yuan Q, Xiang Y, Yan Z, Han C, Jan LY, Jan YN. (2011)
  • Light-induced structural and functional plasticity in Drosophila larval visual system.
  • Science, 333(6048), 1458-62
  • 3) Xiang Y, Yuan Q, Vogt N, Looger LL, Jan LY, Jan YN. (2010)
  • Light-avoidance-mediating photoreceptors tile the Drosophila larval body wall.
  • Nature, 468(7326), 921-6
  • 4) Yuan Q, Joiner WJ, Sehgal A. (2006)
  • A sleep-promoting role for the Drosophila serotonin receptor 1A.
  • Curr Biol., 16(11), 1051-62
  • 5) Yuan Q, Lin F, Zheng X, Sehgal A. (2005)
  • Serotonin modulates circadian entrainment in Drosophila.
  • Neuron, 47(1), 115-27
View Pubmed Publication