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Gong Chen

Gong Chen

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Professor and Verne M. Willaman Chair in Life Sciences

Lab Head of Charles H. "Skip" Smith Life Sciences Laboratory

224 Life Sciences
University Park, PA 16802
Phone: (814)865-2488
Lab Address: 226 Life Sciences
Lab Phone: (814) 863-2992


  1. B.S., Fudan University
  2. Ph. D., Shanghai Institute of Physiology

Postdoc Training

  1. Stanford University
  2. Yale University

Honors and Awards

  1. Verne M. Willaman Chair in Life Sciences
  2. Zenith Fellows Award, Alzheimer’s Association
  3. Fellow, American Neurological Association
  4. T.P. Feng Memorial Lecture, Chinese Society for Neuroscience
  5. National Research Service Award from NIH at Stanford University
  6. Ohse Award at Yale University

Research Interests

In vivo reprogramming for brain repair


The major goal of our research is to develop innovative technologies for brain repair using our newly established in vivo cell conversion technology (Guo et al., Cell Stem Cell, BEST of 2014). Reactive gliosis is a common pathological hallmark after brain injury or diseases. Currently there is no method available to reverse glial scar back to normal neural tissue. We have developed a novel technology to convert reactive glial cells, induced by brain injury or Alzheimer's disease, directly into functional neurons in mouse brain in vivo. This is achieved by expressing a single neural transcription factor NeuroD1 in glial cells. We further demonstrated that human astrocytes in culture can be directly converted into functional neurons by a cocktail of small molecules (Zhang et al., Cell Stem Cell, 2015), suggesting that our new technology may potentially benefit millions of patients worldwide.  Our in vivo cell conversion technology may have broad applications in neural repair after stroke, traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injury, Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, Huntington's disease, ALS, and glioma. We are currently developing both gene therapy and drug therapy for brain repair.  

Selected Publications

Yin, J.C., Zhang, L., Ma, N.X., Wang, Y., Lee, G., Hou, X.Y., Lei, Z.F., Zhang, F.Y., Dong, F.P., Wu, G.Y., and Chen, G., (2019) Chemical Conversion of Human Fetal Astrocytes into Neurons through Modulation of Multiple Signaling Pathways.   Stem Cell Reports, Feb. 7, 2019, online publication.   DOI:   

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Yu-Chen Chen, Ning-Xin Ma, Zi-Fei Pei, Zheng Wu, Fabricio H. Do-Monte, Susan Keefe, Emma Yellin, Miranda S. Chen, Jiu-Chao Yin, Grace Lee, Angélica Minier- Toribio , Yi Hu, Yu-Ting Bai, Kathryn Lee, Gregory J. Quirk, Gong Chen.  (2019)   A NeuroD1 AAV-Based Gene Therapy For Functional Brain Repair After Ischemic Injury Through In Vivo Astrocyte-To-Neuron Conversion.   Molecular Therapy, In Press. (Deposited in BioRxiv in 2018)


Zheng Wu, Qingwei Huo, Liang Ren, Fengping Dong, Mengyang Feng, Yue Wang, Yuting Bai, Bernhard Lüscher, Sheng-Tian Li, Guan-Lei Wang, Cheng Long, Yun Wang, Gangyi Wu & Gong Chen. (2019). Gluconate suppresses seizure activity in developing brains by inhibiting CLC-3 chloride channels. Molecular Brain,  Volume 12, Article #: 50 (2019).

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Ma N.X., Yin J.C., Chen G.  (2019)  Transcriptome analysis of small molecule-mediated astrocyte-to-neuron reprogramming.   Frontiers in Cell and Developmental Biology, accepted May 1, 2019. (


Zhou L, Tang X, Li X, Bai Y, Buxbaum JN, Chen G (2019) Identification of transthyretin as a novel interacting partner for the δ subunit of GABAA receptors. PLoS ONE 14(1): e0210094.


Lei Zhang, Zhuofan Lei, Ziyuan Guo, Zifei Pei, Yuchen Chen, Fengyu Zhang, Alice Cai, Yung Kin Mok, Grace Lee, Vishal Swaminnathan, Fan Wang, Yuting Bai, Gong Chen.  (2018) Reversing Glial Scar Back To Neural Tissue Through NeuroD1-Mediated Astrocyte-To-Neuron Conversion. BioRxiv,  February 7th, 2018 online publishing. (


Yuchen Chen, Ningxin Ma, Zifei Pei, Zheng Wu, Fabricio H. Do-Monte, Pengqian Huang, Emma Yellin, Miranda Chen, Jiuchao Yin, Grace Lee, Angélica Minier-Toribio, Yi Hu, Yuting Bai, Kathryn Lee, Gregory J. Quirk, Gong Chen. (2018) Functional repair after ischemic injury through high efficiency in situ astrocyte-to-neuron conversion.   BioRxiv,  April 4th, 2018 online publishing. (


Dong-Yun Jiang, Zheng Wu, Cody Tieu Forsyth, Yi Hu, Siu-Pok Yee, and Gong Chen. (2018) GABAergic deficits and schizophrenia-like behaviors in a mouse model carrying patient-derived neuroligin-2 R215H mutation. Molecular Brain (2018) 11:31 (


Yue Wang, Zheng Wu, Yu-Ting Bai, Gang-Yi Wu and Gong Chen.   (2017)   Gad67 haploinsufficiency reduces amyloid pathology and rescues olfactory memory deficits in a mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease.   Molecular Neurodegeneration,  12: 73.  (


Hedong Li and Gong Chen. (2016) In Vivo Reprogramming for CNS Repair: Regenerating Neurons from Endogenous Glial Cells. Neuron, 91:728-738. (Invited Review)

PDF file link:


 Xin Tang, Julie Kim, Li Zhou, Eric Wengert, Lei Zhang, Zheng Wu, Cassiano Carromeu, Alysson R. Muotri, Maria C. N. Marchetto, Fred H. Gage, and Gong Chen.  (2016)   KCC2 rescues functional deficits in human neurons derived from patients with Rett syndrome.   Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. Epub: 2016 Jan 5.

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Lei Zhang, Jiu-Chao Yin, Hana Yeh, Ning-Xin Ma, Grace Lee, Xiangyun Amy Chen, Yanming Wang, Li Lin, Li Chen, Peng Jin, Gang-Yi Wu* and Gong Chen*.  (2015)  Small Molecules Efficiently Reprogram Human Astroglial Cells into Functional Neurons. Cell Stem Cell, 17:1-13, E-Pub on Oct. 15, 2015.

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In Vivo Reprogramming for Brain and Spinal Cord Repair. eNeuro 2(5) e0106-15.2015. (Review article).


Wu Z; Foster AC; Staubli U; Wu X; Sun C; Tang X; Li YX; Chen G.   (2015)   Effects of 3-aminoglutarate, a "silent" false transmitter for glutamate neurons, on synaptic transmission and epileptiform activity.   Neuropharmacology.  2015; 97:95-103.


 Ziyuan Guo, Lei Zhang, Zheng Wu, Yuchen Chen, Fan Wang, and Gong Chen.  (2014)  In Vivo Direct Reprogramming of Reactive Glial Cells into Functional Neurons after Brain Injury and in an Alzheimer’s Disease Model.  Cell Stem Cell, 14: 188-202. E-pub on Dec. 19, 2013.

Selected as one of the BEST of 2014 articles by Cell Stem Cell. 

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Science China (Chinese 中文):


Zhexing Wen*, Ha Nam Nguyen*, Ziyuan Guo*, Matthew Lalli, Xinyuan Wang, Yijing Su, Nam-Shik Kim, Ki-Jun Yoon, Jaehoon Shin, Ce Zhang, Georgia Makri, David Nauen, Humei Yu, Cheng-Hsuan Chiang, Nadine Yoritomo, Kozo Kaibuchi, Christopher Ross, Jizhong Zou, Kimberly Christian, Linzhao Cheng, Russell Magolis, Gong Chen, Kenneth Kosik, Elmer Guzman, Hongjun Song, and Guo-li Ming. Synaptic dysregulation in a human iPS cell model of mental disorders.   Nature, E-pub Aug. 17, 2014.

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Zheng Wu, Ziyuan Guo, Marla Gearing, Gong Chen. (2014)  Tonic inhibition in dentate gyrus impairs long-term potentiation and memory in an Alzheimer's disease model.  Nature Communications, June 13, 2014.  (

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Xin Tang, Li Zhou, Alecia M. Wagner, Maria C.N. Marchetto, Alysson R. Muotri, Fred H. Gage, and Gong Chen. (2013) Astroglial cells regulate the developmental timeline of human neurons differentiated from induced pluripotent stem cells.    Stem Cell Research, E-pub May 16.    (     

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Chicheng Sun, Lei Zhang, and Gong Chen. (2013)  An unexpected role of neuroligin-2 in regulating KCC2 and GABA functional switch. Mol Brain, 6:23. (


Xia Wu, Lanting Huang, Zheng Wu, Ce Zhang, Dongyun Jiang, Yuting Bai, Yun Wang, and Gong Chen.  (2013)  Homeostatic competition between phasic and tonic inhibition.    J. Biol. Chem.  First Published on July 9, 2013doi:10.1074/jbc.M113.491464.  (


Yajie Sun, Zheng Wu, Shuzhen Kong, Dongyun Jiang, Anar Pitre, Yun Wang, and Gong Chen. (2013)  Regulation of epileptiform activity by two distinct subtypes of extrasynaptic GABAA receptors. Mol Brain, 6:21.   (


Wang R, McGrath BC, Kopp RF, Roe MW, Tang X, Chen G, Cavener DR. (2013) Insulin secretion and Ca2+ dynamics in β-cells are regulated by PERK eIF2α kinase in concert with calcineurin.    J Biol Chem, 2013 Nov 22; 288(47):33824-36. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M113.503664. Epub 2013 Oct 10.  (


A. Alachkar, D. Jiang, M. Harrison, Y. Zhou, G. Chen, and Y. Mao.  (2013)   An EJC Factor RBM8a Regulates Anxiety Behaviors.  Current Molecular Medicine 2013, 13, 1-13.   (


Wu X, Wu Z, Ning G, Guo Y, Ali R, Macdonald RL, De Blas AL, Luscher B, Chen G.  (2012)   gamma-Aminobutyric Acid Type A (GABAA)  Receptor Alpha Subunits Play a Direct Role in Synaptic versus Extrasynaptic Targeting.      J Biol Chem.  287(33): p. 27417-27430.    (Paper of the Week)    (    

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Joseph Cichon, Chi-Cheng Sun, Ben Chen, Min Jiang, Xiangyun Amy Chen, Yajie Sun, Yun Wang*, and Gong Chen*.   (2012)  Cofilin Aggregation Blocks Intracellular Trafficking and Induces Synaptic Loss.

J Biol Chem.  287(6): 3919–3929.   (


Brennand, K., A. Simone, J. Jou, C. Gelboin-Burkhart, N. Tran, S. Sangar, Y. Li, Y. Mu, G. Chen, D. Yu, S. McCarthy, J. Sebat, and F. Gage. (2011)  Modeling schizophrenia using human induced pluripotent stem cells. Nature 473: 221-225.   (


Sun, C., M.-C. Cheng, R. Qin, D.L. Liao, T.-T. Chen, F.-J. Koong, G. Chen*, and C.-H. Chen*. (2011)  Identification and functional characterization of rare mutations of the neuroligin-2 gene (NLGN2) associated with schizophrenia. Human Molecular Genetics, 20(15): 3042–3051.



Fan, Y., X. Tang, E. Vitriol, G. Chen, and J. Q. Zheng. (2011)  Actin capping protein is required for dendritic spine development and synapse formation. Journal of Neuroscience 31(28): 10228-10233.


Yazhou Sun, Yaqiong Wang, Yi Hu, Gong Chen, Hong Ma.  (2011).   Comparative analysis of neural transcriptomes and functional implication of unannotated intronic expression.  BMC Genomics, 2011 Oct 10;12:494.


Marchetto, M. C. N., C. Carromeu, A. Acab, D. Yu, G. Yeo, Y. Mu, G. Chen, F. H. Gage, and A. R. Muotri.  (2010)  A model for neural development and treatment of Rett Syndrome using human induced pluripotent stem cells. Cell 143: 527-539.   (


Gu, J., C. W. Lee, Y. Fan, D. Komlos, X. Tang, C. Sun, K. Yu, H. C. Hartzell, G. Chen, J. R. Bamburg, and J. Q. Zheng.  (2010)  ADF/cofilin-mediated actin dynamics regulate AMPA receptor trafficking during synaptic plasticity. Nature Neuroscience 13: 1208-1215.   (


Kong S, Qian B, Liu J, Fan M, Chen G, Wang Y.   (2010).   Cyclothiazide induces seizure behavior in freely moving rats.   Brain Res. 1355:207-213.


Han, X. W., X. Wu, W. Y. Chung, T. Li, A. Nekrutenko, N. S. Altman, G. Chen*, and H. Ma*.  (2009)  Transcriptome of embryonic and neonatal mouse cortex by high-throughput RNA sequencing. Proc.Nat. Acad. Sci. USA 106: 12741-12746.   (


Jiang, M. and G. Chen.   (2009)   Ca2+ regulation of dynamin-independent endocytosis in cortical astrocytes. Journal of Neuroscience 29: 8063-8074.   (


Wang, Y., J. S. Qi, S. Kong, Y. Sun, J. Fan, M. Jiang, and G. Chen.   (2009)   BDNF-TrkB signaling pathway mediates the induction of epileptiform activity induced by a convulsant drug cyclothiazide. Neuropharmacology 57: 49-59.


Yuan, X., J. Yao, D. Norris, D. D. Tran, R. J. Bram, G. Chen, and B. Luscher.   (2008)   Calcium-modulating cyclophilin ligand regulates membrane trafficking of postsynaptic GABA(A) receptors. Mol. Cell Neurosci. 38(2): 277-289.


Deng, L., J. Yao, C. Fang, N. Dong, B. Luscher, and G. Chen.   (2007)  Sequential postsynaptic maturation governs the temporal order of GABAergic and glutamatergic synaptogenesis in rat embryonic cultures. Journal of Neuroscience 27(40): 10860-10869.   (


Dong, N., Qi, J., Chen, G.   (2007).   Molecular reconstitution of functional GABAergic synapses with expression of neuroligin-2 and GABAA receptors.        Mol. Cell. Neurosci. 35: 14 - 23.



Wendou Yu, Min Jiang, Celia P. Miralles, Gong Chen and Angel L. de Blas.  (2007). Gephyrin clustering is required for the stability of GABAergic synapses. Mol. Cell. Neurosci.   36(4):484-500.     


Fang, C., Deng, L., Keller, C., Fukata, M., Fukata, Y., Chen, G., and Lüscher, B.   (2006). GODZ-mediated palmitoylation of GABAA receptors is required for normal assembly and function of GABAergic inhibitory synapses. Journal of Neuroscience 26(49): 12758-12768 .


Qi, J. S., Yao, J., Fang, C., Lüscher, B., and Chen, G.  (2006).  Downregulation of tonic GABA currents following epileptogenic stimulation of rat hippocampal cultures. Journal of Physiology 577(2): 579-590.



Yao, J., Qi, J. S., and Chen, G.  (2006).  Actin-dependent activation of presynaptic silent synapses contributes to long-term synaptic plasticity in developing hippocampal neurons. Journal of Neuroscience, 26 (31): 8137 – 8147.   (


Jiang, M. and Chen, G.   (2006).   High Ca2+-phosphate transfection efficiency in low-density neuronal cultures.  Nature Protocols. Vol. 1. (No. 2) 695 – 700. (Invited article)



Qi, J.S., Wang, Y., Jiang M., Warren, W., and Chen, G.  (2006). Cyclothiazide induces robust epileptiform activity in rat hippocampal neurons both in vitro and in vivo. Journal of Physiology  571(3): 605-618.


Zhou, J., Pfaff, D. W., and Chen, G. (2005). Sex differences in estrogenic regulation of neuronal activity in neonatal cultures of ventromedial nucleus of the hypothalamus. PNAS 102: 14907-14912.  


Alldred, M.J., Mulder-Rosi, J., Lingenfelter, S. E., Chen, G., and Lüscher, B.  (2005) Distinct g2 Subunit Domains Mediate Clustering and Synaptic Function of Postsynaptic GABAA Receptors and Gephyrin. Journal of Neuroscience 25(3): 594-603.  


Jiang, M., Deng, L.B., and Chen, G.   (2004).  High Ca2+-phosphate transfection efficiency enables single neuron gene analysis.  Gene Therapy  11:1303-1311.  


Cao, Y-Q., Piedras-Renteria, E., Smith, G. B., Chen, G., Harata, N. C., Tsien, R. W.   (2004). Presynaptic Ca2+ channels compete for channel type-preferring slots in altered neurotransmission arising from Ca2+ channelopathy. Neuron 43: 387-400.  (


Chen, G., Harata, N. and Tsien, R. W.  (2004). Paired-pulse depression of unitary quantal amplitude at single hippocampal synapses. PNAS 101: 1063-1068.   (


Deng, L. B., and Chen, G. (2003). Cyclothiazide potently inhibits g-aminobutyric acid type A receptors in addition to enhancing glutamate responses. PNAS 100 (22): 13025-13029.   



Chen, Y., Deng, L. B., Maeno-Hikichi, Y., Lai, M. Z., Chang, S. H., Chen, G., and Zhang, J. F. (2003). Formation of an endophilin-Ca2+ channel complex is critical for clathrin-mediated synaptic vesicle endocytosis. Cell 115: 37-48.  (