Xianhua Piao, MD, PhD

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

Dr. Piao is a physician-scientist with a focus in both neonatology and developmental neuroscience. She received her MD from the Fourth Military Medical University and her PhD with Alan Bernstein from University of Toronto, before completing her Pediatric residency at NYU and Neonatology fellowship as well as a post-doctoral fellowship with Chris Walsh at Harvard Medical School. During her postdoctoral study, Dr. Piao discovered that the adhesion G-protein-coupled receptor (aGPCR) GPR56 regulates brain patterning and its mutations cause an autosomal recessive brain malformation called bilateral frontoparietal polymicrogyria (BFPP). Her research focuses specifically on how aGPCRs regulate brain development by mediating cell-cell and cell-matrix interactions. This research engages three processes, each of which is governed in part by the cell-type-specific expression and function of aGPCRs:

  1. CNS myelin formation and repair. Piao and her colleagues recently showed how the aGPCR GPR56 regulates developmental myelin formation through a remarkable tripartite signaling complex composed of a microglial-derived ligand, an oligodendrocyte receptor and an extracellular matrix component.
  2. Synapses, circuits, and neurological disorders. Unpublished work from the Piao lab demonstrates a novel player in microglia-mediated developmental synaptic refinement. She is collaborating with investigators at UCSF and Harvard Medical School to decipher the molecular mechanisms by which glial cells regulate neural circuit formation during perinatal development and associated disease processes.
  3. Maternal immune activation (MIA) and neuropsychiatric disorders. She and her collaborator Jun Huh at Harvard Medical School are investigating how MIA deranges fetal and neonatal brain development through innate immune mechanisms.
Secondary Thematic Area: 


Featured Publications: 

An autosomal recessive form of bilateral frontoparietal polymicrogyria maps to chromosome 16q12.2-21.

American journal of human genetics

Piao X, Basel-Vanagaite L, Straussberg R, Grant PE, Pugh EW, Doheny K, Doan B, Hong SE, Shugart YY, Walsh CA

Bilateral frontoparietal polymicrogyria: clinical and radiological features in 10 families with linkage to chromosome 16.

Annals of neurology

Chang BS, Piao X, Bodell A, Basel-Vanagaite L, Straussberg R, Dobyns WB, Qasrawi B, Winter RM, Innes AM, Voit T, Grant PE, Barkovich AJ, Walsh CA

G protein-coupled receptor-dependent development of human frontal cortex.

Science (New York, N.Y.)

Piao X, Hill RS, Bodell A, Chang BS, Basel-Vanagaite L, Straussberg R, Dobyns WB, Qasrawi B, Winter RM, Innes AM, Voit T, Ross ME, Michaud JL, Déscarie JC, Barkovich AJ, Walsh CA

Genotype-phenotype analysis of human frontoparietal polymicrogyria syndromes.

Annals of neurology

Piao X, Chang BS, Bodell A, Woods K, Benzeev B, Topcu M, Guerrini R, Goldberg-Stern H, Sztriha L, Dobyns WB, Barkovich AJ, Walsh CA

Disease-associated mutations affect GPR56 protein trafficking and cell surface expression.

Human molecular genetics

Jin Z, Tietjen I, Bu L, Liu-Yesucevitz L, Gaur SK, Walsh CA, Piao X

GPR56 regulates pial basement membrane integrity and cortical lamination.

The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience

Li S, Jin Z, Koirala S, Bu L, Xu L, Hynes RO, Walsh CA, Corfas G, Piao X

GPR56-regulated granule cell adhesion is essential for rostral cerebellar development.

The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience

Koirala S, Jin Z, Piao X, Corfas G

G protein-coupled receptor56 and collagen III, a receptor-ligand pair, regulates cortical development and lamination

Proc Natl Acad Sci USA, 108(31), 12925-30.

Luo, R., Jeong, S.J., Jin, Z., Strokes, N., Li, S., Piao, X.

Evolutionarily dynamic alternative splicing of GPR56 regulates regional cerebral cortical patterning.

Science (New York, N.Y.)

Bae BI, Tietjen I, Atabay KD, Evrony GD, Johnson MB, Asare E, Wang PP, Murayama AY, Im K, Lisgo SN, Overman L, Šestan N, Chang BS, Barkovich AJ, Grant PE, Topçu M, Politsky J, Okano H, Piao X, Walsh CA

The adhesion G protein-coupled receptor GPR56 is a cell-autonomous regulator of oligodendrocyte development.

Nature communications

Giera S, Deng Y, Luo R, Ackerman SD, Mogha A, Monk KR, Ying Y, Jeong SJ, Makinodan M, Bialas AR, Chang BS, Stevens B, Corfas G, Piao X

The adhesion GPCR Gpr56 regulates oligodendrocyte development via interactions with Ga12/13 and RhoA.

Nature communications

Ackerman SD, Garcia C, Piao X, Gutmann DH, Monk KR

The adhesion GPCR GPR126 has distinct, domain-dependent functions in Schwann cell development mediated by interaction with laminin-211.


Petersen SC, Luo R, Liebscher I, Giera S, Jeong SJ, Mogha A, Ghidinelli M, Feltri ML, Schöneberg T, Piao X, Monk KR

Adhesion G protein-coupled receptors in nervous system development and disease.

Nature reviews. Neuroscience

Langenhan T, Piao X, Monk KR

GPR56/ADGRG1 regulates development and maintenance of peripheral myelin.

The Journal of experimental medicine

Ackerman SD, Luo R, Poitelon Y, Mogha A, Harty BL, D'Rozario M, Sanchez NE, Lakkaraju AKK, Gamble P, Li J, Qu J, MacEwan MR, Ray WZ, Aguzzi A, Feltri ML, Piao X, Monk KR

Microglial transglutaminase-2 drives myelination and myelin repair via GPR56/ADGRG1 in oligodendrocyte precursor cells.


Giera S, Luo R, Ying Y, Ackerman SD, Jeong SJ, Stoveken HM, Folts CJ, Welsh CA, Tall GG, Stevens B, Monk KR, Piao X