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Senior Investigator

Wei Lu, Ph.D.

Synapse and Neural Circuit Section

Building 35 Room 3C1000
35 Convent Drive
Bethesda MD 20892
Office: (301) 594-6207
Lab: (301) 435-7655

Dr. Lu received his Ph.D. degree from New York University (Ph.D., 2006). His graduate study, in the laboratory of Dr. Edward Ziff, was on biochemical characterization of neuronal glutamate receptors and their interacting proteins. He did his postdoctoral training in the laboratory of Dr. Roger Nicoll at the University of California, San Francisco, where he combined electrophysiological and single-cell genetic approaches to study excitatory synaptic transmission.

Synapses, the specialized cellular junctions, are essential for rapid communication between neurons. These synaptic junctions physically and functionally connect individual neurons into continuous neural circuits that give rise to behavior and cognition. One prominent feature of the synapse is that it is highly plastic, which underlies many brain functions, including learning and memory. How are synaptic connections between neurons formed, how is synaptic strength regulated, what is the role of neuronal activity in the regulation of synapse formation and synaptic plasticity, how does the regulation of synaptic strength influence animal behavior, and what are the molecular mechanisms underlying synaptic dysfunctions in brain disorders?

We mainly rely on rodent hippocampus as our model system to study these questions. Currently we employ molecular, biochemical and genomic approaches to identify novel players in synaptic function, use molecular, genetic, optical and pharmacological approaches to manipulate synapses, and utilize electrophysiological, genetic and behavioral approaches to examine synaptic and neural circuit function and dysfunction (for details, please see Ongoing projects in the lab include,

1. Molecular, cellular and systems mechanisms for the regulation of development and function of inhibitory synapses/circuits
2. GABAA receptor auxiliary subunits and development of novel GABAA receptor psychopharmacology
3. Molecules and circuits involved in sleep regulation and general anesthesia

Staff Image
  • David Castellano, M.S.
    Graduate Student
    (301) 435-7655

  • Wenyan Han, Ph.D.
    Postdoctoral Fellow

  • Saurabh Pandey, Ph.D.
    Postdoctoral IRTA Fellow
    (301) 435-7655

  • Ryan Shepard, Ph.D.
    Postdoctoral IRTA Fellow

  • Qingjun Tian, B.S.
    (301) 435-7655

  • Kunwei Wu, Ph.D.
    Postdoctoral IRTA Fellow
    (301) 435-7655

  • 1) Han WY, Li J, Pelkey KA, Pandey S, Chen XM, Wang YX, Wu KW, Ge LH, Li TM, Castellano D, Liu CY, Wu LG, Petralia RS, Lynch JW, McBain CJ, Lu W (2019)
  • Shisa7 is a GABAA receptor auxiliary subunit controlling benzodiazepine actions
  • Science, 366, 246-250
  • 2) Hutchison MA, Gu X, Adrover MF, Lee MR, Hnasko TS, Alvarez VA and W Lu (2017)
  • Genetic inhibition of neurotransmission reveals role of glutamatergic input to dopamine neurons in high-effort behavior.
  • Molecular Psychiatry
  • 3) Li J, Han WY, Pelkey KA, Duan JJ, Mao X, Wang YX, Craig MT, Dong LJ, Petralia RS, McBain CJ, Lu W (2017)
  • Molecular Dissection of Neuroligin 2 and Slitrk3 Reveals an Essential Framework for GABAergic Synapse Development
  • Neuron, 96(4), 808-826
  • 4) Gu XL, Zhou L and Lu W (2016)
  • An NMDA Receptor-Dependent Mechanism Underlies Inhibitory Synapse Development
  • Cell Reports, 14, 1-8
  • 5) Gu X, Mao X, Lussier MP, Hutchison MA, Zhou L, Hamra FK, Roche KW, Lu W (2016)
  • GSG1L suppresses AMPA receptor-mediated synaptic transmission and uniquely modulates AMPA receptor kinetics in hippocampal neurons
  • Nature Communications. March, 2
  • 6) Lu W, Bushong EA, Shih TP, Ellisman MH, Nicoll RA (2013)
  • The Cell-Autonomous Role of Excitatory Synaptic Transmission in the Regulation of Neuronal Structure and Function
  • Neuron, 78, 433-439
  • 7) Lu W, Roche KW (2013)
  • Posttranslational regulation of AMPA receptor trafficking and function. Curr Opin Neurobiol
  • Current opinion in neurobiology, 22(3), 470-9
  • 8) Lu W, Isozaki K, Roche KW, Nicoll RA (2010)
  • A CaMKII site in the first intracellular loop of GluA1 regulates synaptic targeting of AMPARs
  • PNAS, Dec 21;107(51), 22266-71
  • 9) Lu W, Shi Y, Jackson AC, Bjorgan K, During MJ, Sprengel R, Seeburg PH, Nicoll RA (2009)
  • Subunit composition of synaptic AMPA receptors revealed by a single-cell genetic approach
  • Neuron, 62, 254-268
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