Yong Yu

ProfessorGraduate Director

Molecular and Cellular Physiology and Neurobiology.

Research Overview

Ion channels and ion-channel-coupled receptors are cell membrane proteins that sense physical and chemical signals and couple them with ionic flux through the cell membrane. Ion channel activity is essential for the function of almost all organs and organ systems, including the heart, the lung, the kidney, the muscular system, the nervous system, and the immune system. Consequently, the malfunction of ion channels is related to many human diseases, and ion channels have served as major drug targets.
The research in Yu lab is focusing on the molecular mechanisms of assembly, function and regulation of ion channels and membrane receptors. Currently we are interested in the transient receptor potential (TRP) channels, proteins which are essential for sensory physiology and have been shown to play crucial roles in human diseases. So far, TRP channels has been shown to be involved in the formation of sight, hearing, touch, smell, taste, temperature, and pain sensation. We use cultured mammalian cells, Xenopus oocytes and zebrafish as model systems, and study structure and function of ion channels and receptors with a combined molecular biology, biochemistry, biophysics, x-ray crystallography, and electrophysiology approach.

Research in Yu lab is funded by the National Institutes of Health and the PKD Foundation.


  1. Qiang Su*, Mengying Chen, Yan Wang, Bin Li, Dan Jing, Xiechao Zhan, Yong Yu*, and Yinggong Shi*, et al.  Structural basis for Ca2+ activation of the heteromeric PKD1L3/PKD2L1 channel. Nature Communications 12, 4871, https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-021-25216-z, 2021, *corresponding authors
  2. Zhifei Wang, Courtney Ng, Xiong Liu, Yan Wang, Bin Li, Parul Kashyap, Haroon A. Chaudhry, Alexis Castro, Enessa M. Kalontar, Leah Ilyayev, Rebecca Walker, R. Todd Alexander, Feng Qian, Xing-Zhen Chen, and Yong Yu, The ion channel function of polycystin-1 in the polycystin-1/polycystin-2 complex, EMBO Reports, e48336, doi:10.15252/embr.201948336, 2019
  3. Parul Kashyap, Courtney Ng, Zhifei Wang, Bin Li, Hannah Martin, and Yong Yu, A PKD1L3 splice variant in taste buds is not cleaved at the G protein-coupled receptor proteolytic site,Biochem. Biophys. Res. Commun., 512 (4): 812-818, 2019
  4. Wang Zheng, Xiaoyong Yang, Ruikun Hu, Ruiqi Cai, Laura Hofmann, Zhifei Wang, Qiaolin Hu, Xiong Liu, David Bulkey, Yong Yu, Jingfeng Tang, Veit Flockerzi, Ying Cao, Erhu Cao, and Xing-Zhen Chen, Hydrophobic pore gates regulate ion permeation in polycystic kidney disease 2 and 2L1 channels. Nature communications9, 2302, doi:10.1038/s41467-018-04586-x, 2018
  5. Salehi-Najafabadi Z., LiB., Valentino V., Ng C., Martin H., Yu Y., Wang Z., Kashyap P, and Yu Y, Extracellular loops are essential for the assembly and function of polycystin receptor-ion channel complexes. J. Biol. Chem., 292, 4210-4221, 2017.
  6. Arif Pavel M., Lv C., Ng C., Yang L., Kashyap P., Lam C., Valentino V., Fung H., Campbell T., Møller S.G., Zenisek D., Holtzman N.G., and Yu Y., Function and regulation of TRPP2 ion channel revealed by a gain-of-function mutant. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA, 113 (17) E2363-E2372, 2016
  7. Michailidis I.E., Abele K., Zhang W.K., Lin B., Yu Y., Geyman L., Ehlers M.D., Pnevmatikakis E.A., and Yang J., Age-related homeostatic mid-channel proteolysis of L-type voltage-gated Ca2+ channels. Neuron, 82(5):1045-57, 2014.
  8. Lam C., Arif Pavel M., Kashyap P., Salehi-Najafabadi Z., Valentino V., and Yu Y., Detection of CXCR2 Cytokine Receptor Surface Expression Using Immunofluorescence. Methods in Molecular Biology, 1172:193-200, 2014.
  9. Chen, G., Lu J., Lam C., and Yu Y., A novel green synthesis approach for polymernanocomposites decorated with silvernanoparticles and their antibacterial activity, Analyst, 139, 5794-5800, 2014
  10. Arif Pavel M., Lam C., Kashyap P., Salehi-Najafabadi Z., Singh G., and Yu Y., Analysis of the Cell Surface Expression of Cytokine Receptors Using the Surface Protein Biotinylation Method. Methods in Molecular Biology, 1172:185-192, 2014.
  11. Zhang K., Novak O., Wei Z., Gou M., Zhang X., Yu Y., Yang H., Cai Y., Strnad M., and Liu C.-J. Arabidopsis ABCG14 protein controls the acropetal translocation of root-synthesized cytokinins. Nature Communications, 5:3274 doi:10.1038/ncomms4272, 2014
  12. Yu Y., Ulbrich M.H., Dobbins S., Li M.-H., Zhang K. W., Isacoff E.Y., and Yang J., Molecular mechanism of the assembly of an acid-sensing receptor/ion channel complex. Nature Communications. 3:1252 doi: 10.1038/ncomms2257, 2012
  13. Zhu J*., Yu Y*. (*equal contribution), Ulbrich M. H., Li M.-H., Isacoff E. Y., Honig B., and Yang J., Structural model of the TRPP2/PKD1 C-terminal coiled-coil complex produced by a combined computational and experimental approach. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA, 108(25):10133-10138, 2011.
  14. Li M.-H., Yu Y., and Yang J., Structural biology of TRP channels. (In: Md. Shahidul Islam (Ed.). Transient Receptor Potential Channels) Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology 704: 1-23, 2011.
  15. Yu Y., Ulbrich M.H., Li M.-H., Buraei Z., Chen X.-Z., Ong A.C. M., Tong L., Isacoff E.Y., and Yang J., Structural and molecular basis of the assembly of the TRPP2/PKD1 complex. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA, 106(28):11558-63, 2009.
  16. Yu Y., Shi L., and Karlin A., Structural effects of quinacrine binding in the open channel of the acetylcholine receptor. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA, 100(7): 3907-3912, 2003.