J. Julius Zhu

Zhu, J. Julius

Primary Appointment

Professor, Pharmacology


  • BS, Physiology & Biophysics, Peking University
  • MS, Neurobiology & Behavior, Shanghai Brain Research Institute
  • PhD, Neuroscience, University of Wisconsin Medical School
  • Postdoc, Neuroscience, Max-Planck-Institut for Medical Research
  • Postdoc, Neuroscience, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
  • Sabbatical, Neuroscience, Norwegian University of Science & Technology

Contact Information

PO Box 800735
1340 Jefferson Park Ave., Pinn Hall, Room 5025C
Charlottesville, VA 22908
Telephone: 434-243-9246
Fax: 434-982-3878
Email: jjzhu@virginia.edu
Website: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/myncbi/j.%20julius.zhu.1/bibliography/public

Research Disciplines

Biotechnology, Molecular Biology, Molecular Pharmacology, Neuroscience, Translational Science

Research Interests

Neural Circuits in Healthy and Diseased Brains

Research Description

My students and I are interested in central neural circuits and synapses. We enjoy developing new experimental approaches that combine cutting-edge techniques, including rapid recombinant DNA delivery and replacement, multiple whole-cell recordings, genetically encoded sensors, single- and two-photon microscopy-based optogenetics and imaging, single-molecule force spectroscopy and immunoelectron microscopy. These technologies allow us to decipher the molecular and cellular regulations (e.g., nanoscale Ras/MAPK signaling) of synapses in neural circuits, as well as the organization and functions (e.g., salience selection) of neural circuits (Wang G, Wyskiel D, et al. (2015) Nature Protocols 10:397-412). Genetic defects of many signaling molecules are linked to a number of cognitive disorders, e.g., Akt/PKB and calcineurin with schizophrenia, BRaf with cardio-facio-cutaneous syndrome, Brag/IQSec with nonsyndromic X-linked mental retardation, CaMKII with Angelman syndrome, H-Ras with Costello syndrome, p38MAPK and JNK with Alzheimer's disease, PI3K with fragile X syndrome, PTEN with autism, Cowden and Bannayan-Riley-Ruvalcaba syndromes, RasGap NF1 with neurofibromatosis, Rsk with Coffin-Lowry syndrome and X-linked mental retardation, SHP-2 with Noonan syndrome, and tuberin with tuberous sclerosis. Altered interneuronal function is a common mechanism contributing to various neurological, mental and psychiatric disorders, including autisms, epilepsy, depression, Huntington’s disease, neurofibromatosis, schizophrenia, Tourette’s syndrome and trauma (Stornetta and Zhu, Neuroscientist 17: 54-78). Therefore, the findings from our research should guide the future development of treatments for these insidious diseases.

Selected Publications First-authored by Undergraduate/High School Students:

Zhu PK, Zheng WS, Zhang P, Jing M, Borden PM, Ali F, Guo K-M, Feng J, Marvin JS, Wang Y, Wan J, Gan J, Kwan AC, Lin L, Looger LL, Li Y and Zhang Y (2020) Nanoscopic visualization of restricted non-volume cholinergic and monoaminergic transmissions. Nano Letters 20:4073-83.

Sheng Y, Zhang L, Su S, Tsai LH and Zhu JJ (2016) Cdk5 is a new rapid homeostatic transmission regulator capable of inducing the early Alzheimer-like synaptic pathology. Cerebral Cortex 26:2937-51.

Lee AJ, Wang G, Jiang X, Johnson SM, Hoang ET, Lante F, Stornetta RL, Beenhakker MP, Shen Y and Zhu JJ (2015) Canonical organization of layer 1 neuron-led cortical inhibitory and disinhibitory interneuronal circuits. Cerebral Cortex 25:2114-26.

Selected Publications First-authored by Graduate Students:

Huang L, Chen Y, Jin S, Lin L, Duan S, Si K, Gong W and Zhu JJ (2021) Organizational principles of amygdalar input-output neuronal circuits. Molecular Psychiatry ePub ahead of print.

Chen J, Cho KE, Skwarzynska D, Clancy S, Conley NJ, Clinton SM, Li X, Lin L and Zhu JJ (2021) The property-based practical applications and solutions of genetically encoded acetylcholine and monoamine sensors. Journal of Neuroscience 41:2318-28.

Kielland A, Bochorishvili G, Corson J, Zhang L, Rosin DL, Heggelund P and Zhu JJ (2009) Activity patterns govern synapse-specific AMPA-R trafficking between deliverable and synaptic pools. Neuron 62:84-101.

McCormack SG, Stornetta RL and Zhu JJ (2006) Synaptic AMPA receptor exchange maintains bidirectional plasticity. Neuron 50:75-88.

Selected Publications Authored by PI:

Zhu JJ (2009) Activity level-dependent synapse-specific AMPA receptor trafficking regulates transmission kinetics. J Neurosci 29:6320-35.

Zhu JJ (2000) Maturation of layer 5 neocortical pyramidal neurons: amplifying salient layer 1 and layer 4 inputs by Ca2+ action potentials in adult rat tuft dendrites. J Physiol (Lond) 526:571-87.

On April 25, 2017, the lab was featured in NBC29 nightly news (http://www.nbc29.com/story/35237995/uva-new-technique-will-help-in-search-for-new-cancer-treatments) and other media outlets.

On September 12, 2017, the lab was featured in CBS19 nightly news (http://www.newsplex.com/content/news/UVA-researchers-develop-new-molecule-measuring-technique-444053003.html) and other media outlets.

On July 5, 2018, the lab was featured in CBS19 nightly news (http://www.cbs19news.com/content/news/UVA-develops-technology-to-create-medicine-without-side-effects-487456651.html), on WINA News Radio 98.9FM and other media outlets.

On August 23, 2018, the lab was featured in NBC29 nightly news (http://www.nbc29.com/story/38946736/uva-health-system-new-technique-lets-us-see-brain-cells-talk), on WCVE Community Idea Stations and other media outlets.

On March 10, 2021, the lab was featured in NBC29 nightly news (https://www.nbc29.com/video/2021/03/10/new-sensor-technology-out-uva-can-target-issues-both-diseased-healthy-brains/), on WINA News Radio 98.9FM and other media outlets.

Postdoctoral research associate, graduate and undergraduate student position available, please contact: jjzhu@virginia.edu

Selected Publications