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Fenglian Xu, Ph.D.

Associate Professor

Courses Taught

Introduction to Neuroscience: Molecular, Cellular and Systemic


Ph.D., University of Alberta

Research Interests

Neuronal outgrowth, regeneration, synapse formation and plasticity are pivotal not only for normal brain development and function, but also for brain repair after injury or degeneration. The primary research in Xu's laboratory focuses on understanding the mechanisms that control synapse formation and transmission, and how environmental factors may impact molecules and cellular events that are involved in normal brain development and function.

Xu's lab conducts research using both the mollusk Lymnaea stagnalis model and rat (cortical and hippocampal) cell culture in conjunction with state-of-the-art electrophysiological, calcium imaging, confocal microscopy and molecular biological techniques. The long-term objective of her research is to identify critical genes or proteins that are involved in neuronal outgrowth, regeneration, synaptogenesis, and plasticity. The identified genes or proteins will then be manipulated experimentally to deduce their physiological significance in brain development and animal behaviors. The knowledge gained from these studies will help efforts in repairing brain damage after stroke, injury and in treating neurodevelopmental and neurodegenerative diseases.

Labs and Facilities

See Xu's lab web page for more information.

Publications and Media Placements

Imaninezhad, M., Pemberton, K. Xu, F., Kalinowski, K., Bera, R., Zustiak, S.P. (2018) Effect of electrical stimulation on nerve cells as a function of hydrogel stiffness and electrical conductivity with a custom designed device. Journal of Neural Engineering. doi: 10.1088/1741-2552/aad65b.

Pemberton, D.K., Mersman, B., and Xu, F. (2018) Using ImageJ to assess neurite outgrowth in mammalian cell cultures: research data quantification exercises in undergraduate neuroscience lab. Journal of Undergraduate Neuroscience Education (JUNE). 16(2): A186-A194.

Maselli, V., Xu, F., Syed, N.I., and Di Cosmo, A. (2018) A novel approach to primary cell culture for Octopus vulgaris neurons. Frontiers in Physiology 9:220. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2018.00220

Getz, A.M., Xu, F., Visser, F., Person, R., Syed, N.I. (2017) Tumor suppressor menin is required for subunit-specific nAChR α5 transcription and nAChR-dependent presynaptic facilitation in cultured mouse hippocampal neurons. Scientific Reports, 7(1):1768, doi:10.1038/s41598-017-01825-x

Getz, A.M., Visser, F., Bell, E.M., Xu, F., Flynn, N.M., Zaidi, W., Syed, N.I. (2016) Two proteolytic fragments of menin coordinate the nuclear transcription and postsynaptic clustering of neurotransmitter receptors during synaptogenesis between Lymnaea neurons. Scientific Reports, 19;6:31779. doi: 10.1038/srep31779

Xu, F., Armstrong, R., Urrego, D., Qazzaz, M., Pehar, M., Armstrong, J.N., Shutt, T., Syed, N.I. (2016) The mitochondrial division inhibitor Mdivi-1 rescues mammalian neurons from anesthetic-induced cytotoxicity. Molecular Brain, 9(1): 35.

Armstrong, R., Xu, F., Rasic, N., Syed, N.I. (2016) General anesthetics and cytotoxicity: possible implications for brain health. Drug and Chemical Toxicology, 2:1-9.

Janes, T.A., Xu, F., Syed. N.I (2015) Graded hypoxia acts through a network of distributed peripheral oxygen chemoreceptors to produce changes in respiratory behavior and plasticity. European Journal of Neuroscience, 42(2):1858-1871

Ghazavi, A., Westwich, D., Xu, F., Wijdenes, P., Syed, N.I., Dalton, C. (2015) A circular, planar electrode serves as a better substrate for neuronal stimulation than sinusoidal and spiral electrodes. Journal of Neuroscience Methods, 248: 51-58.

Xu, F., Luk, C., Wiermsa-Meems, R., Baehre, K., Herman, C., Zaidi, W., Wong, N., and Syed, N.I. (2014) Neuronal somata and extrasomal compartments play distinct roles during synapse formation between Lymnaea neurons. Journal of Neuroscience, 34(34):11304-15

Chen, P., Jiang, H., Wen, B., Ren, S., Chen, Y., Ji, W., Hu, B., Zhang, J., Xu, F., Zhu, Z. (2014) Gastrodin suppresses amyloid β-induced increase of spontaneous discharges in entorhinal cortex of rats. Neural Plasticity, 2014:1-11, ID: 320937

Chen, S., Chen, P., Jiang, H., Mi, Z., Xu, F. *, Hu, B., Zhang, J., Zhu., Z. (2014) Persistent sodium currents contribute to Aβ1-42-induced hyperexcitation of hippocampal CA1 pyramidal neurons. Neuroscience Letters, 580: 62-67 (co-corresponding author)

Zhu, Z., Xu, F., Ji, W., Ren, S., Chen, F., Chen, P., Jiang, H., Mi, Z., Hu, B., Zhang, J., Xiong, Y. (2014) Synaptic mechanisms underlying thalamic activation-induced plasticity in the rat auditory cortex. Journal of Neurophysiology, 111(9):1746-58.

Ren, S., Shao, H., Ji, W., Xu, F., Chen, P., Jiang, H., Mi, Z., Wen, Bo, Zhu, G., Zhu, Z. (2014) Riluzole prevents soluble Aβ1-42 oligomers-induced perturbation of spontaneous discharges in the hippocampal CA1 region of rats. Amyloid, 4:1-9.

Zhu, Z., Xu, F., Wu, J., Ren, S., Zhang, Y., Hu, B., Zhang, J., Han, L., Xiong, Y. (2013) Frequency-specific plasticity of the auditory cortex elicited by thalamic stimulation in the rat. Neuroscience Letters, 555: 30-35

Xu, F., Piett, C., Farkas, S., Qazzaz, M.., and Syed, N.I. (2013) Silver nanoparticles (AgNPs) cause degeneration of cytoskeleton and disrupt synaptic machinery of cultured cortical neurons. Molecular Brain, 6(1): 29. (Corresponding author)

Xu, F., Farkas, S., Kortbeek, S., Zhang, F.X., Chen, L., Zamponi, G.W., and Syed, N.I. (2012) Mercury-induced toxicity of rat cortical neurons is mediated through NMDA receptors. Molecular Brain, 5(1): 30. (Corresponding author)

Getz, A, Xu, F. and Syed N.I. (2012) Antidepressant Pharmacotherapy - Do the Benefits Outweigh the Risks? InTech book chapter - Mental Illness (ISBN: 978-953-307-779-6)

Getz, A., Xu, F., Zaidi, W., Syed, N.I. (2011) The antidepressant Fluoxetine but not Citalopram suppresses synapse formation and synaptic transmission between Lymnaea neurons by perturbing pre- and postsynaptic machinery. European Journal of Neuroscience, 34(2): 221-234

Xu, F., Proft J., Gibbs, S., Winkfein, B., Johnson, J.N., Syed, N.I., and Braun J.E.A. (2010) Quercetin causes cysteine string protein dimerization and impairs synaptic transmission. PLoS ONE, 5 (6): e11045.

Xu, F., Luk, C., Richard, M.P, Zaidi, W., Svetlana, F., Getz, A., Lee, A., van Minnen, J., and Syed, N.I. (2010) Antidepressant Fluoxetine suppresses neuronal growth and perturbs synapse formation between cholinergic neurons. European Journal of Neuroscience, 31(6): 994-1005.

Xu, F., Hennessy, D.A., Lee, T., and Syed, N.I. (2009) Trophic factor-induced intracellular calcium oscillations are required for the expression of postsynaptic acetylcholine receptors during synapse formation between Lymnaea neurons. Journal of Neuroscience 29 (7): 2167-2176.

Xu, F., Tse, F.W., and Tse, A.. (2008) Stimulatory actions of pituitary adenylate cyclase-activating polypeptide (PACAP) in rat carotid glomus cells. Advanced Experimental Medical Biology 605:69-74.

Xu, F., Tse, F.W. and Tse, A. (2007) Pituitary adenylate cyclase-activating polypeptide (PACAP) stimulates the oxygen sensing type I (glomus) cells of rat carotid bodies via reduction of a background TASK-like K+ current. Journal of Neurochemistry 101(5):1284-93.

Xu, F., Xu, J., Tse, F.W. and Tse, A. (2006) Adenosine stimulates depolarization and rise in cytoplasmic Ca2+ concentration in type I cells of rat carotid bodies. American Journal of Physiology- Cell Physiology 290(6):C1592-8.

Xu, J., Xu, F., Tse, F.W. and Tse, A. (2005) ATP inhibits the hypoxia response in type I cells of rat carotid bodies. Journal of Neurochemistry 92:1419-1430.