Retinal Development Laboratory

Principal Investigator

Xiangyun Wei, PhD
Associate Professor of Ophthalmology,
Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, and Developmental Biology
Retinal Development Laboratory
University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine

Lab Personnel


Research Interests

Multicellular organisms arrange cells in special patterns to form distinct structures through a set of developmental instructions that we do not fully understand. In my laboratory, we use the zebrafish retina as a model system to study the molecular mechanisms underlying cellular pattern formation in the central nervous system.

The vertebrate retina develops from a single sheet of neuroepithelial cells, which later differentiate and reorganize into layered structures during retinal neurogenesis. Each retinal layer is composed of specific neuronal classes and executes distinct functions. The molecular mechanisms that control retinal pattern formation remain largely unknown.

To understand how retinal cells organize, my lab uses a variety of experimental approaches that involve Genetics, Molecular Biology, Cell Biology, Biochemistry, and Developmental Biology. Our research is currently focused on the following areas: epithelial polarity in retinal morphogenesis; cell-cell adhesion in balancing tissue cohesion and cellular mobility; and cell nuclear structure in regulating retinal gene expression.

Select Recent Publications

  1. W. Fang, C. Guo, X. Wei. (2017) Rainbow enhancers regulate restrictive transcription in teleost green, red, and blue Cones. Journal of Neuroscience. 37:2834-2848. (A cover story.)
  2. J. Zou, X. Wang, and X. Wei (2012) Crb apical polarity proteins maintain zebrafish retinal cone mosaics via intercellular binding of their extracellular domains. Developmental Cell. 22:1261-1274,
  3. X. Yang, J. Zou, D. Hyde, L. Davidson, and X. Wei (2009) Stepwise maturation of apicobasal polarity of the neuroepithelium is essential for vertebrate neurulation. Journal of Neuroscience. 29:11426-11440.        Highlighted by a journal commentary: Premature Lin7c Expression Produces Multiaxial Mirror Symmetry. J. Neuroscience. This Week in the Journal, 29(37): i.i.
  4. J. Zou, K. Lathrop, M. Sun, X. Wei (2008) Intact RPE maintained by Nok is essential for retinal epithelial polarity and cellular patterning in zebrafish. Journal of Neuroscience. 28:13684 –13695.
  5. X. Wei and J. Malicki. (2002) nagie oko, encoding a MAGUK-family protein, is essential for cellular patterning of the retina. Nature Genetics. 31, 150-157.
  6. X. Wei, S. Somanathan, J. Samarabandu and R. Berezney. (1999). Three-dimensional visualization of transcription sites and their association with splicing factor-rich nuclear speckles. Journal of Cell Biology 146:543-558.  Highlighted by a journal commentary: Matrix-associated Transcription Sites in Three-dimensional Networks. Journal of Cell Biology “In Brief” 146 (3): 1.
  7. X. Wei, J. Samarabandu, R.S. Devdhar, A. Siegel. R. Acharya, R. Berezney. (1998) Segregation of transcription and replication sites into higher order domains. Science. 281: 1502-1505.  Highlighted by an Enhanced Perspective commentary by Dr. Peter Cook (Oxford University):  Duplicating a Tangled Genome. Science. 281: 1466 – 1467.   Also highlighted by another journal commentary: Taking turns at the genome. Science,  “This Week in Science” 281:5382.

Contact Information

Xiangyun Wei, PhD
BST 3 -5060,  3501 Fifth Ave.
Pittsburgh, PA 15213