Professor Cui develops new physical and chemical approaches to study biological processes in neurons, with particular focus on long-range signal propagation in axons and its implications in neurodegenerative disease. Methods of interest include live imaging of vesicular transport, magnetic and optical manipulation of axonal traffic, single-molecule fluorescence imaging, photo-lithography, electrophysiological recordings and a microfluidic neuronal platform for studying axonal transport.
Bianxiao Cui studied materials science and engineering at the University of Science & Technology of China (B.S. 1998) before pursuing doctoral study in physical chemistry at the University of Chicago (Ph.D. 2002). In thesis work under Prof. Stuart Rice, she explored dynamic heterogeneity and phase transition in colloidal liquids. She moved to California in 2002 to perform postdoctoral research with Prof. Steven Chu on single-molecule imaging of nerve growth factor signal transduction in neurons. She joined the Stanford Department of Chemistry as Assistant Professor in 2008, and in 2015 became Associate Professor. She was recently awarded the National Science Foundation INSPIRE Award for interdisciplinary research, as well as the NSF New Innovator and CAREER Awards, among others.
Current work in the Cui Lab seeks to understand neuronal signal propagation, with three major research directions: 1) investigating axonal transport processes using optical imaging, magnetic and optical trapping, and a microfluidic platform; 2) developing vertical nanopillar-based electric and optic sensors for sensitive detection of biological functions; 3) using optogentics to investigate temporal and spatial control of intracellular signaling pathways.
Single-molecule imaging of vesicle transport in axons
Defective axonal transport of materials between the neuronal cell body and synapse, such as accumulation of cargo or slower transport rate, has been linked with a range of neurodegenerative diseases. Cui lab members are investigating molecular mechanisms associated with retrograde axonal transport of neurotrophins, and the coordination of this essential process by molecular motors and regulatory proteins. The lab is developing a novel technique that permits external manipulation of axonal transport via magnetic and optical forces, affording new approaches to investigate the linkages between axonal transport and neuronal health and function.
Nano-bio interface: probing live cells with nanopillar sensors
Applying nanotechnology to new frontiers in biological science, the Cui Lab and other groups have shown that vertical nanopillars protruding from a flat surface support cell survival and can be used as subcellular sensors to probe biological processes in live cells. Ongoing work in the lab explores nanopillars as electric sensors, optical sensors and structural probes.
Optic control of intracellular signaling pathways
Cells constantly process environmental cues such as growth factors to determine cell fate, e.g. survival, proliferation, differentiation, migration, and apoptosis. To ensure proper conversion of a specific environmental input into a distinct cellular output, the activation of intracellular signaling pathways is tightly regulated in space and time. Compared with our understanding of proteins involved in various signaling pathways, much less is known about how these temporal and spatial aspects influence cell behavior, largely due to a lack of effective tools to precisely regulate signaling pathways in space and time. In the Cui Lab, light-gated protein-protein interaction systems are used to control the activation and inactivation of intracellular signaling pathways, providing unprecedented precision in temporal and spatial observations.
Please visit the Cui Lab website to learn more.
Tee, B. C. K., Chortos, A., Berndt, A., Nguyen, A. K., Tom, A., McGuire, A., … Bao, Z. (2015). A skin-inspired organic digital mechanoreceptor. SCIENCE, 350(6258), 313-?
Zhang, K., Ben Kenan, R. F., Osakada, Y., Xu, W., Sinit, R. S., Chen, L., … Wu, C. (2013). Defective Axonal Transport of Rab7 GTPase Results in Dysregulated Trophic Signaling. JOURNAL OF NEUROSCIENCE, 33(17), 7451–7462.
Xie, C., Lin, Z., Hanson, L., Cui, Y., & Cui, B. (2012). Intracellular recording of action potentials by nanopillar electroporation. NATURE NANOTECHNOLOGY, 7(3), 185–90.
Lin, Z. C., Xie, C., Osakada, Y., Cui, Y., & Cui, B. (2014). Iridium oxide nanotube electrodes for sensitive and prolonged intracellular measurement of action potentials. Nature Communications, 5, 3206-?
Zhang, K., Duan, L., Ong, Q., Lin, Z., Varman, P. M., Sung, K., & Cui, B. (2014). Light-mediated kinetic control reveals the temporal effect of the Raf/MEK/ERK pathway in PC12 cell neurite outgrowth. PloS One, 9(3).
Chowdary, P. D., Che, D. L., & Cui, B. (2012). Neurotrophin Signaling via Long-Distance Axonal Transport. ANNUAL REVIEW OF PHYSICAL CHEMISTRY, VOL 63, 63, 571–594.
Vossel, K. A., Zhang, K., Brodbeck, J., Daub, A. C., Sharma, P., Finkbeiner, S., … Mucke, L. (2010). Tau Reduction Prevents A beta-Induced Defects in Axonal Transport. SCIENCE, 330(6001), 198–U52.
Xie, C., Hanson, L., Cui, Y., & Cui, B. (2011). Vertical nanopillars for highly localized fluorescence imaging. PROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, 108(10), 3894–99.
Hanson, L., Zhao, W., Lou, H.-Y., Lin, Z. C., Lee, S. W., Chowdary, P., … Cui, B. (2015). Vertical nanopillars for in situ probing of nuclear mechanics in adherent cells. Nature Nanotechnology, 10(6), 554–562.