Xianhua Piao, MD, PhD

Professor in Residence
+1 415 502-3460
Research Overview: 

During development, cells of the brain execute an astonishingly intricate choreographed process that culminates in the precise localization of neurons wired in functional networked circuitry. After the formation and wiring completed, various cells continue to dialogue to maintain normal brain function. Errors in such interactions contribute to neurodevelopmental conditions including autism, schizophrenia, and cerebral palsy as well as neurodegeneration, such as Alzheimer’s disease. However, the molecular mechanisms underlying these dynamic interactions remain largely unknown. The Piao Lab seeks to understand how cells in the brain communicate with each other and with the extracellular matrix (ECM) during development and brain homeostasis and how perturbation of the communications leads to neurological disorders. Our current ongoing projects are centered on:

  1. Central Nervous System (CNS) Myelination
  2. Neuro-immune interplays during interneuron development 
  3. The impact of maternal immune activation on brain development 
  4. Molecular mechanisms underlying microglia-mediated synaptic pruning 
  5. Glial-glial and glial-neuronal interactions in Alzheimer’s disease
Primary Thematic Area: 
Secondary Thematic Area: 
Developmental & Stem Cell Biology
Research Summary: 
Neuro-immune interplay in brain development and disease.



Microglial GPR56 is the molecular target of maternal immune activation-induced parvalbumin-positive interneuron deficits.

Science advances

Yu D, Li T, Delpech JC, Zhu B, Kishore P, Koshi T, Luo R, Pratt KJB, Popova G, Nowakowski TJ, Villeda SA, Piao X

Phospholipid-flippase chaperone CDC50A is required for synapse maintenance by regulating phosphatidylserine exposure.

The EMBO journal

Li T, Yu D, Oak HC, Zhu B, Wang L, Jiang X, Molday RS, Kriegstein A, Piao X

Human microglia states are conserved across experimental models and regulate neural stem cell responses in chimeric organoids.

Cell stem cell

Popova G, Soliman SS, Kim CN, Keefe MG, Hennick KM, Jain S, Li T, Tejera D, Shin D, Chhun BB, McGinnis CS, Speir M, Gartner ZJ, Mehta SB, Haeussler M, Hengen KB, Ransohoff RR, Piao X, Nowakowski TJ

The association of COVID-19 infection in pregnancy with preterm birth: A retrospective cohort study in California.

Lancet Regional Health. Americas

Karasek D, Baer RJ, McLemore MR, Bell AJ, Blebu BE, Casey JA, Coleman-Phox K, Costello JM, Felder JN, Flowers E, Fuchs JD, Gomez AM, Karvonen K, Kuppermann M, Liang L, McKenzie-Sampson S, McCulloch CE, Oltman SP, Pantell MS, Piao X, Prather AA, Schmidt RJ, Scott KA, Spellen S, Stookey JD, Tesfalul M, Rand L, Jelliffe-Pawlowski LL