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About Sickkids
About SickKids

Zhengping Jia, PhD

Research Institute
Senior Scientist
Neurosciences & Mental Health

University of Toronto
Department of Physiology

Chair Positions
Canada Research Chair
Synaptic Plasticity and Brain Disorders

Phone: 416-813-8715
Fax: 416-813-7717
Email: zhengping.jia@sickkids.ca

Research Interests

  • Learning and memory in mice
  • Synaptic transmission and plasticity
  • Genetic manipulations in mice
  • Dendritic spine and synaptogenesis
  • Glutamate receptors

Research Activities

The goal of our research is to understand the molecular mechanisms underlying synapse development, neuronal plasticity and memory formation. We employ a variety of cutting edge technologies, including inducible and regional mouse genetics, confocal imaging, electrophysiological recordings and behavioral analysis, to identify and manipulate various molecules important for these processes. Specifically, we focus on three areas. First, we analyze synaptic proteins, particularly glutamate receptors and associated proteins, in the regulation of excitatory synaptic plasticity, including long-term potentiation (LTP) and depression (LTD), widely studied cellular models for learning and memory. Second, we investigate the structural basis of synaptic plasticity and memory, specifically the formation, morphology and dynamics of the dendritic spine, the predominant structural component of the excitatory inputs. Finally, we are creating various mouse genetic models and use them to probe the biological function of disease linked genes and the underlying pathogenic processes for a number of neurodevelopmental and mental disorders such as autism, schizophrenia and mental retardation. The results from our investigations are expected to uncover the fundamental processes involved in brain development, its normal function and dysfunction, It may also provide potential molecular targets for treating and preventing brain diseases caused by synaptic defects.   

External Funding

  • Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR)
  • Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada


Leung C, Cao F, Nguyen R, Joshi K, Aqrabawi AJ, Xia S, Cortez MA, Snead OC 3rd, Kim JC, Jia Z. (2018) Activation of entorhinal cortical projections to the dentate gyrus underlies social memory retrieval. Cell Rep. 23, 2379-2391.

Zhou Z, Liu A, Xia S, Leung C, Qi J, Meng Y, Xie W, Park P, Collingridge GL, Jia Z. (2018) The C-terminal tails of endogenous GluA1 and GluA2 differentially contribute to hippocampal synaptic plasticity and learning. Nat Neurosci. 21, 50-62.

Wang Y, Zeng C, Li J, Zhou Z, Ju X, Xia S, Li Y, Liu A, Teng H, Zhang K, Shi L, Bi C, Xie W, He X, Jia Z, Jiang Y, Cai T, Wu J, Xia K, Sun ZS. (2018) PAK2 Haploinsufficiency results in synaptic cytoskeleton impairment and autism-related behavior. Cell Rep. 24, 2029-2041

Bin NR, Ma K, Harada H, Tien CW, Bergin F, Sugita K, Luyben TT, Narimatsu M, Jia Z, Wrana JL, Monnier PP, Zhang L, Okamoto K, Sugita S (2018) Crucial role of Postsynaptic Syntaxin 4 in mediating basal neurotransmission and synaptic plasticity in hippocampal CA1 neurons. Cell Rep. 23, 2955-2966.

Xing G, Li M, Sun Y, Rui M, Zhuang Y, Lv H, Han J, Jia Z, Xie W. (2018) Neurexin-Neuroligin 1 regulates synaptic morphology and functions via the WAVE regulatory complex in Drosophila neuromuscular junction. Elife. 2018 Mar 14;7. pii: e30457.

Jia Z, Collingridge GL. (2017) Learning about synaptic GluA3. Neuron 93, 254-256

Cao F, Zhou Z, Pan X, Leung C, Xie W, Collingridge G, Jia Z. (2017) Developmental regulation of hippocampal long-term depression by cofilin-mediated actin reorganization. Neuropharmacology 112, 66-75.

Xia S, Zhou Z, Leung C, Zhu Y, Pan X, Qi J, Morena M, Hill MN, Xie W, Jia Z. (2016) p21-activated kinase 1 restricts tonic endocannabinoid signaling in the hippocampus. Elife. 2016 Jun 14;5. pii: e14653.

Leung C, Jia Z. (2016) Mouse genetic models of human brain disorders. Front Genet. 2016 Mar 23;7:40. doi: 10.3389/fgene.2016.00040.

Liu A, Zhou Z, Dang R, Zhu Y, Qi J, He G, Leung C, Pak D, Jia Z, Xie W. (2016) Neuroligin 1 regulates spines and synaptic plasticity via LIMK1/cofilin-mediated actin reorganization. J Cell Biol. 212, 449-463.

Todorovski Z, Asrar S, Liu J, Saw NM, Joshi K, Cortez MA, Snead OC 3rd, Xie W, Jia Z. (2015) LIMK1 regulates long-term memory and synaptic plasticity via the transcriptional factor CREB. Mol Cell Biol. 35, 1316-1328.

Li Y, Zhou Z, Zhang X, Tong H, Li P, Zhang ZC, Jia Z, Xie W, Han J. (2013) Drosophila neuroligin 4 regulates sleep through modulating GABA transmission. J Neurosci. 33, 15545-15554

Liston C, Cichon JM, Jeanneteau F, Jia Z, Chao MV, Gan WB. (2013) Circadian glucocorticoid oscillations promote learning-dependent synapse formation and maintenance. Nat Neurosci. 16, 698-705.

Asrar S, Jia Z (2013) Molecular mechanisms coordinating functional and morphological plasticity at the synapse: role of GluA2/N-cadherin interaction-mediated actin signaling in mGluR-dependent LTD. Cell Signal. 25, 397-402

Zhou, Z., Hu, J., Passafaro, M.,  Xie, W., and Jia, Z. (2011). GluA2 (GluR2) regulates metabotropic glutamate receptor-dependent long-term depression through N-cadherin-dependent and cofilin-mediated actin reorganization. J. Neurosci. 31, 819-833.

Huang, W., Zhou, Z., Henkelman, M., Xie, W., and Jia, Z. (2011). PAK1/3 control brain size through coordinating neuronal complexity and synaptic properties. Molecular and Cellular Biology  31, 388-403.

Phan, K., Hazen, V., Frendo, M., Jia, Z., and Butler, S. (2010). The BMP roof plate chemorepellent regulates the rate of commissural axonal growth.  J. Neurosci. 30, 15430-40.

*Yu T, *Li Z, *Jia Z, Clapcote SJ, Liu C, Li S, Asrar S, Pao A, Chen R, Fan N, Carattini-Rivera S, Bechard AR, Spring S, Henkelman RM, Stoica G, Matsui S, Nowak NJ, Roder JC, Chen C, Bradley A, Yu YE  (2010).
A Mouse Model of Down Syndrome Trisomic For All Human Chromosome 21 Syntenic Regions. Human Molecular Genetics 19, 2780-91. * Co-first author).

Asrar, S., Zhou, Z., Ren, W., and Jia, Z. (2009). Ca-permeable AMPA receptor induced long-term potentiation requires PI3/MAP kinases but not Ca/CaM-dependent kinase II. PLoS ONE 4, e4339.

Zhou, Z., Meng, Y., Asrar, S., Todorovski, Z., and Jia, Z. (2009). A critical role of Rho-kinase ROCK2 in the regulation of spine and synaptic function. Neuropharmacology 56, 81-9.

Jia, Z.P., Todorovski, Z., Meng, Y.H., Asrar, S., and Wang, L.Y. (2009). LIMK-1 and actin regulation of spine and synaptic function. In: Squire, L.R. (ed)  New Encyclopedia of Neuroscience. Volume 5,pp.467-472. Oxford: Academic Press

Meng, J.S., Meng, Y.H., Hanna, A., Janus, C.,and Jia, Z.P. (2005) Abnormal long-lasting synaptic plasticity and cognition in mice lacking the mental retardation gene Pak3. J. Neurosci.  25, 6641-6650

Meng, Y.H., Takahashi, T., Meng, J., Zhang, Y., Lu, G., Asrar, S., Nakamura, T., and Jia, Z.P. (2004) Regulation of ADF/cofilin phsophorylation and synaptic function by LIM-kinase. Neuropharmacology 47, 746-754

Meng, Y.H., Zhang, Y., and Jia, Z.P. (2003) Synaptic transmission and plasticity in the absence of AMPA glutamate receptor GluR2 and GluR3. Neuron 39, 163-176

Meng, Y.H., Zhang, Y., Tregoubov, V., Janus, C., Cruz, L., Jackson, M., Lu, W.Y., MacDonald, J.F., Wang, J., Falls, D.L., and Jia, Z.P. (2002) Abnormal spine morphology and enhanced LTP in LIMK-1 knockout mice. Neuron 35, 121-133.

Peng, X.,  Jia, Z.P., Zhang, Y., Ware, J., and Trimble, W. (2002) The septin CDCrel-1 is dispensable for normal development and neurotransmitter release. Molecular and Cellular Biology 22, 378-387.

Henderson, J., Georgiou, J., Jia, Z.P., Robertson, J., Elowe, S., Roder, J., and Pawson, T. (2001) The receptor tyrosine kinase EphB2 regulates NMDA-dependent synaptic function. Neuron 32, 1041-1056.

Mainen, Z.F., Jia, Z.P., Roder, J., and Malinow, R. (1998) Use-dependent AMPA receptor block in mice lacking GluR2 suggests postsynaptic site for LTP expression. Nature Neuroscience 1, 579-586.

Jia, Z.P., Lu, Y-M., Henderson, J., Taverna, F., Romano, C., Abramow-Newerly, W., Wojtowicz, M., and Roder, J., (1998). Selective abolition of the NMDA component of long term potentiation in mice lacking mGluR5.  Learning & Memory 5, 331-343.

Jia, Z.P., Agopyan, N., Miu, P., Xiong, Z., Henderson, J., Gerlai, R., Taverna, F., Velumian, A., MacDonald, J., Carlen, P., Abramow-Newerly, W. and Roder, J., (1996) Enhanced LTP in mice deficient in the AMPA receptor, GluR2. Neuron 17, 945-956

Lu, Y-M., *Jia, Z.P., Janus, C., Henderson, J., Gerlai, R., Wojtowicz, M., and Roder, J. (1997) Mice lacking metabotropic glutamate receptor 5 show impaired learning and reduced CA1 long-term potentiation (LTP) but normal CA3-LTP.  J. Neurosci. 17, 5196-5205 (* Co-First Author).

Hahnenberger, K. M., Jia, Z.P., and Young, P. G. (1996) Functional expression of the Schizosaccharomyces pombe Na+/H+ antiporter gene, sod2, in saccharomyces cerevisiae, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 93, 5031-5036.

Jia, Z.P., Mccullough, N., Wong, L., and Young, P.G. (1993) The amiloride resistance gene, carl, of Schizosaccharomyces pombe. Molecular and General Genetics 241, 298-304.

Jia, Z.P., McCullough, N., Martel, R., Hemmingsen, S., and Young, P.G. (1992) Gene amplification at a locus encoding a putative Na+/H+ antiporter confers sodium and lithium tolerance in fission yeast.  EMBO J 11, 1631-1640.