Xianjie Yang

Professor-in-Residence, Ophthalmology, University of California Los Angeles

Dr. Xian-Jie Yang is a molecular biologist whose research interests are the development and repair of the neural retina. The Yang laboratory uses broad research approaches including genetically engineered mice and viral vector-mediated gene delivery to study regulatory mechanisms involved in retinal progenitor proliferation and differentiation. In NIH funded research, the Yang laboratory has investigated cellular mechanism and signaling pathways impact retinal neuron survival using genetic models in conjunction with molecular and biochemical analyses. A primary focus is on retinal metabolism during development, degeneration, and regeneration. In recent years, the Yang laboratory has also successfully derived induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), established 3D retinal organoid cultures from human pluripotent stem cells, and developed methods to enhance retinal ganglion cell production. Current research funded by the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) aims at developing a gene therapy for dominant optic atrophy using stem cell-based disease models. Complete List of Published Work in MyBibliography: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/myncbi/1l91za8ByohMK4/bibliography/public/


Neuroprotection mechanism, Neural development and neuronal fate specification, Retinal degeneration and regeneration, Gene therapy and gene editing, Mitochondria, Metabolism in aging and degenerative diseases

Education and Training

Harvard Medical SchoolPostdoc1995Molecular Neuroscience
Harvard UniversityPostdoc1989Developmental Biology
Cornell UniversityPhD1988Biochemistry, Cell and Molecular Biology
Peking Normal UniversityBS1981Biology

Awards and Honors

  • Career Development Award, Foundation Fighting Blindness, 1996-2000.
  • Postdoctoral Fellowship, NIH, 1992-1994.
  • Dolly Green Special Scholar Award, Foundation Fighting Blindness, 2002-2003.
  • Basil O'Connor Starter Award, March of Dimes Foundation, 1998-2000.
  • Undergraduate Mentor Award, University of California Los Angeles, 2022.
  • Postdoctoral Fellowship, Helen Hay Whitney Foundation, 1988-1991.
  • Research Awards, Karl Kirchgessner Foundation, 1999-2002.
  • Postdoctoral Fellowship, Medical Foundation/King Turst, 1991-1992.
  • Ernest G. Herman Chair in Ophthalmology, University of California Los Angeles, 2012.


  1. Do Rhee K, Wang Y, Ten Hoeve J, Stiles L, Nguyen TTT, Zhang X, Vergnes L, Reue K, Shirihai O, Bok D, Yang XJ. Ciliary neurotrophic factor-mediated neuroprotection involves enhanced glycolysis and anabolism in degenerating mouse retinas.. Nature communications, 2022.
  2. Zhang X, Mandric I, Nguyen KH, Nguyen TTT, Pellegrini M, Grove JCR, Barnes S, Yang XJ. Single Cell Transcriptomic Analyses Reveal the Impact of bHLH Factors on Human Retinal Organoid Development.. Frontiers in cell and developmental biology, 2021.
  3. You J, Cheng Y, Yang XJ, Chen L. Generation of a homozygous LRP2 knockout human embryonic stem cell line (FDCHDPe010-A-56) by CRISPR/Cas9 system.. Stem cell research, 2021.
  4. Wang Y, Rhee KD, Pellegrini M, Yang XJ. Impacts of ciliary neurotrophic factor on the retinal transcriptome in a mouse model of photoreceptor degeneration.. Scientific reports, 2020.
  5. Mao X, An Q, Xi H, Yang XJ, Zhang X, Yuan S, Wang J, Hu Y, Liu Q, Fan G. Single-Cell RNA Sequencing of hESC-Derived 3D Retinal Organoids Reveals Novel Genes Regulating RPC Commitment in Early Human Retinogenesis.. Stem cell reports, 2019.
  6. Bai X, Yang XJ, Chen L. Generation of an integration-free induced pluripotent stem cell line (FDEENTi003-A) from a patient with pathological myopia.. Stem cell research, 2019.
  7. Bai X, Yang XJ, Chen L. Establishment of an induced pluripotent stem cell line (FDEENTi002-A) from a patient with Best's disease carrying c.888C > A mutation in BEST1 gene.. Stem cell research, 2019.
  8. Bai X, Yang X, Cheng Y, Chen L. Establishment of an induced pluripotent stem cell line (FDEENTi001-A) from a patient with pathological myopia.. Stem cell research, 2018.
  9. Zhang XM, Hashimoto T, Tang R, Yang XJ. Elevated expression of human bHLH factor ATOH7 accelerates cell cycle progression of progenitors and enhances production of avian retinal ganglion cells.. Scientific reports, 2018.
  10. Hamon A, Roger JE, Yang XJ, Perron M. Müller glial cell-dependent regeneration of the neural retina: An overview across vertebrate model systems.. Developmental dynamics : an official publication of the American Association of Anatomists, 2016.
  11. Kwong JM, Gu L, Nassiri N, Bekerman V, Kumar-Singh R, Rhee KD, Yang XJ, Hauswirth WW, Caprioli J, Piri N. AAV-mediated and pharmacological induction of Hsp70 expression stimulates survival of retinal ganglion cells following axonal injury.. Gene therapy, 2014.
  12. Xie BB, Zhang XM, Hashimoto T, Tien AH, Chen A, Ge J, Yang XJ. Differentiation of retinal ganglion cells and photoreceptor precursors from mouse induced pluripotent stem cells carrying an Atoh7/Math5 lineage reporter.. PloS one, 2014.
  13. Rhee KD, Nusinowitz S, Chao K, Yu F, Bok D, Yang XJ. CNTF-mediated protection of photoreceptors requires initial activation of the cytokine receptor gp130 in Müller glial cells.. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 2013.
  14. Rhee KD, Yu J, Zhao CY, Fan G, Yang XJ. Dnmt1-dependent DNA methylation is essential for photoreceptor terminal differentiation and retinal neuron survival.. Cell death & disease, 2012.
  15. Hsieh YW, Yang XJ. Transfection of primary embryonic chicken retinal cells using cationic lipid.. Methods in molecular biology (Clifton, N.J.), 2012.
  16. Sakagami K, Chen B, Nusinowitz S, Wu H, Yang XJ. PTEN regulates retinal interneuron morphogenesis and synaptic layer formation.. Molecular and cellular neurosciences, 2011.
  17. Liao JL, Yu J, Huang K, Hu J, Diemer T, Ma Z, Dvash T, Yang XJ, Travis GH, Williams DS, Bok D, Fan G. Molecular signature of primary retinal pigment epithelium and stem-cell-derived RPE cells.. Human molecular genetics, 2010.
  18. Rhee KD, Yang XJ. Function and mechanism of CNTF/LIF signaling in retinogenesis.. Advances in experimental medicine and biology, 2010.
  19. Hsieh YW, Yang XJ. Dynamic Pax6 expression during the neurogenic cell cycle influences proliferation and cell fate choices of retinal progenitors.. Neural development, 2009.
  20. Sakagami K, Gan L, Yang XJ. Distinct effects of Hedgehog signaling on neuronal fate specification and cell cycle progression in the embryonic mouse retina.. The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience, 2009.
  21. Chen L, Sham CW, Chan AM, Francisco LM, Wu Y, Mareninov S, Sharpe AH, Freeman GJ, Yang XJ, Braun J, Gordon LK. Role of the immune modulator programmed cell death-1 during development and apoptosis of mouse retinal ganglion cells.. Investigative ophthalmology & visual science, 2009.
  22. Rhee KD, Ruiz A, Duncan JL, Hauswirth WW, Lavail MM, Bok D, Yang XJ. Molecular and cellular alterations induced by sustained expression of ciliary neurotrophic factor in a mouse model of retinitis pigmentosa.. Investigative ophthalmology & visual science, 2007.
  23. Hashimoto T, Gibbs D, Lillo C, Azarian SM, Legacki E, Zhang XM, Yang XJ, Williams DS. Lentiviral gene replacement therapy of retinas in a mouse model for Usher syndrome type 1B.. Gene therapy, 2007.
  24. Hashimoto T, Zhang XM, Chen BY, Yang XJ. VEGF activates divergent intracellular signaling components to regulate retinal progenitor cell proliferation and neuronal differentiation.. Development (Cambridge, England), 2006.
  25. Rhee KD, Goureau O, Chen S, Yang XJ. Cytokine-induced activation of signal transducer and activator of transcription in photoreceptor precursors regulates rod differentiation in the developing mouse retina.. The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience, 2004.
  26. Yang XJ. Roles of cell-extrinsic growth factors in vertebrate eye pattern formation and retinogenesis.. Seminars in cell & developmental biology, 2004.
  27. Goureau O, Rhee KD, Yang XJ. Ciliary neurotrophic factor promotes muller glia differentiation from the postnatal retinal progenitor pool.. Developmental neuroscience, 2004.
  28. Rhee KD, Yang XJ. Expression of cytokine signal transduction components in the postnatal mouse retina.. Molecular vision, 2003.
  29. Zhang XM, Yang Z, Karan G, Hashimoto T, Baehr W, Yang XJ, Zhang K. Elovl4 mRNA distribution in the developing mouse retina and phylogenetic conservation of Elovl4 genes.. Molecular vision, 2003.
  30. Hashimoto T, Zhang XM, Yang XJ. Expression of the Flk1 receptor and its ligand VEGF in the developing chick central nervous system.. Gene expression patterns : GEP, 2003.
  31. Yang XJ. Retrovirus-mediated gene expression during chick visual system development.. Methods (San Diego, Calif.), 2002.
  32. Hsieh YW, Zhang XM, Lin E, Oliver G, Yang XJ. The homeobox gene Six3 is a potential regulator of anterior segment formation in the chick eye.. Developmental biology, 2002.
  33. Zhang XM, Yang XJ. Temporal and spatial effects of Sonic hedgehog signaling in chick eye morphogenesis.. Developmental biology, 2001.
  34. Zhang XM, Yang XJ. Regulation of retinal ganglion cell production by Sonic hedgehog.. Development (Cambridge, England), 2001.
  35. Yang XJ. In situ hybridization.. Methods in molecular medicine, 2001.
  36. Yang XJ. Preparation of recombinant retroviruses.. Methods in molecular medicine, 2001.
  37. Kantorow M, Huang Q, Yang XJ, Sage EH, Magabo KS, Miller KM, Horwitz J. Increased expression of osteonectin/SPARC mRNA and protein in age-related human cataracts and spatial expression in the normal human lens.. Molecular vision, 2000.
  38. Zhang XM, Lin E, Yang XJ. Sonic hedgehog-mediated ventralization disrupts formation of the midbrain-hindbrain junction in the chick embryo.. Developmental neuroscience, 2000.
  39. Ezzeddine ZD, Yang X, DeChiara T, Yancopoulos G, Cepko CL. Postmitotic cells fated to become rod photoreceptors can be respecified by CNTF treatment of the retina.. Development (Cambridge, England), 1997.
  40. Yang X, Cepko CL. Flk-1, a receptor for vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), is expressed by retinal progenitor cells.. The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience, 1996.
  41. Cepko CL, Austin CP, Yang X, Alexiades M, Ezzeddine D. Cell fate determination in the vertebrate retina.. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 1996.
  42. Argetsinger LS, Campbell GS, Yang X, Witthuhn BA, Silvennoinen O, Ihle JN, Carter-Su C. Identification of JAK2 as a growth hormone receptor-associated tyrosine kinase.. Cell, 1993.
  43. Yang X, Chung D, Cepko CL. Molecular cloning of the murine JAK1 protein tyrosine kinase and its expression in the mouse central nervous system.. The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience, 1993.
  44. Yang XJ, Goliger JA, Roberts JW. Specificity and mechanism of antitermination by Q proteins of bacteriophages lambda and 82.. Journal of molecular biology, 1989.
  45. Yang XJ, Roberts JW. Gene Q antiterminator proteins of Escherichia coli phages 82 and lambda suppress pausing by RNA polymerase at a rho-dependent terminator and at other sites.. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 1989.
  46. Goliger JA, Yang XJ, Guo HC, Roberts JW. Early transcribed sequences affect termination efficiency of Escherichia coli RNA polymerase.. Journal of molecular biology, 1989.
  47. Yang XJ, Hart CM, Grayhack EJ, Roberts JW. Transcription antitermination by phage lambda gene Q protein requires a DNA segment spanning the RNA start site.. Genes & development, 1987.
  48. Grayhack EJ, Yang XJ, Lau LF, Roberts JW. Phage lambda gene Q antiterminator recognizes RNA polymerase near the promoter and accelerates it through a pause site.. Cell, 1985.