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About Sickkids
About SickKids

Lu-Yang Wang, PhD

Research Institute
Senior Scientist
Neurosciences & Mental Health

University of Toronto
Professor and Associate Chair (Academic)
Department of Physiology

Chair Positions
Canada Research Chair
Brain Development and Disorders

Phone: 416-813-8711
Fax: 416-813-7717
Email: lu-yang.wang@sickkids.ca

For more information, visit:

Lu-Yang Wang

Research Interests

  • Excitatory synaptic transmission
  • Voltage-gated calcium and potassium channels
  • Neurotransmitter release and replenishment
  • Glutamate receptors
  • Neurotrophic ractors
  • Auditory brainstem

Research Activities

Communication between neurons in the central nervous system is achieved primarily through highly specialized anatomical structures, known as chemical synapses. The efficacy of synaptic transmission largely lies within the ability of presynaptic terminals to release small vesicles containing neurotransmitters and the ability of postsynaptic receptors to respond to the released substances.

Using a giant synapse, namely the calyx of Held, in the mouse/rat auditory brainstem as a model system, we employ a number of biophysical approaches (i.e. patch-clamping, optical fluorescent imaging and photolysis in living brainstem slices) as well as pharmacological, immunochemical and molecular biological techniques to study critical elements for synaptic strength, fidelity and gain control in response to high-frequency stimuli.

Our study may provide important insights into the cellular and molecular mechanisms responsible for various forms of neuronal plasticity as well for acoustic sensory information processing, hearing loss, deafness and audiogenic seizures.

Our laboratory has two main research areas:

  • Mechanisms underlying presynaptic neurotransmitter release and replenishment.

It is generally accepted that there are multiple pools of synaptic vesicles in the presynaptic terminal (i.e. the readily-releasable pool; the reserved pool). By making direct recordings from both presynaptic terminals and postsynaptic target neurons, we have recently demonstrated that Ca2+ influx through voltage-gated Ca2+ channels (VGCCs) is capable of mobilizing synaptic vesicles from the reserved pool to the readily-releasable pool at different rates according to the patterns of inputs, and thus provides a key signaling element for dynamic gain control of synaptic strength. We are currently identifying the types of VGCCs involved in regulating neurotransmitter release and replenishment as well as downstream signaling targets and cascades (e.g. protein kinases, phosphatases, synaptic proteins) for Ca2+ to mobilize synaptic vesicles.

  • Developmental properties of postsynaptic glutamate receptors.

The calyx of Held synapse undergoes profound morphological and functional modifications within the first two postnatal weeks. This time window covers synapse formation at about postnatal day 4-5 and the onset of functional hearing at postnatal day 10-12. The excitatory postsynaptic currents (EPSCs) increase dramatically in their size (3-5 fold) within this time frame and their decay time courses shorten markedly as well. In order to understand the mechanisms underlying such changes, we are investigating subunit composition of postsynaptic glutamate receptors and their density, clustering and gating behavior at different stages of development. We are also interested in studying how synaptic activity and neurotrophic factors influence developmental properties of glutamate receptors.

Future Research Interests

  • To characterize and identify presynaptic voltage-gated ion channels.
  • To determine Ca2+-dependent and -independent signaling cascades involved in regulating release and replenishment of synaptic vesicles.
  • To define properties of postsynaptic glutamate receptors during early postnatal development.
  • To investigate the effects of synaptic activity and neurotrophic factors on synaptic transmission.

External Funding

  • Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR)
  • Burroughs Welcome Fund (BWF)
  • EJLB Foundation


  • German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) Faculty Visit Award (2006-2007)
  • International Human Frontier Science Program Short-Term Fellowship (2006-2007)
  • The Burroughs Wellcome Fund New Investigator Award (2001-2004)
  • The EJLB Foundation Scholar Research Program Award (2000-2003)
  • Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) New Opportunities Award (1998)
  • CIHR New Investigator Scholarship (1998-2003)


Fekete A, Nakamura Y, Yang YM, Herlitze S, Mark MD, DiGregorio DA, Wang LY. Underpinning heterogeneity in synaptic transmission by presynaptic ensembles of distinct morphological modules. Nature Communication. 2019 Feb 18;10(1):826.

Tsang B, Arsenault J, Vernon RM, Lin H, Sonenberg N, Wang LY, Bah A, Forman-Kay JD. Phosphoregulated FMRP phase separation models activity-dependent translation through bidirectional control of mRNA granule formation. Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences U S A. 2019 Feb 14. [Epub ahead of print] PubMed PMID: 30765518.

Fekete A, Wang LY. Interneuron NMDA receptors change the gear of motor learning in the cerebellar machine. The Journal of Physiology. 2019 Feb;597(3):663-664.

Yang YM, Arsenault J, Bah A, Krzeminski M, Fekete A, Chao OY, Pacey LK, Wang A, Forman-Kay J, Hampson DR, Wang LY. Targeting a novel molecular locus at interneuron nerve terminals to rescue the fragile X brain. Molecular Psychiatry 2018 Sept 18 doi: 10.1038/s41380-018-0240-0. [Epub ahead of print].

Chen X, Wanggou S, Bodalia A,  Zhu M, Dong W, Yin WC, Hu M, Draghici D, Dou W, Min N, Song Y, Hui CC, Wang LY, Sun Y, Li X, Huang X. (2018). Mechanosensitive ion channel senses and regulates tissue mechanics to promote glioma aggression. Neuron 2018 Oct 18 [Epub ahead of print] https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuron.2018.09.046

Yin XL, Jie HQ, Liang M, Gong LN, Liu HW, Pan HL, Xing YZ, Shi HB*, Li CY*, Wang LY*, Yin SK. Accelerated development of the first-order central auditory neurons with spontaneous activity. Frontier in Molecular Neuroscience. 2018 11:183.

Liang M, Yin XL, Shi HB, Li CY, Li XY, Song NY, Shi HS, Zhao Y, Wang LY* & Yin SK*. Bilirubin augments Ca2+ load of developing bushy neurons by targeting specific subtype of voltage-gated calcium channels. Scientific Reports. 2017 7:431.

Liang M, Yin XL, Wang LY, Yin WH, Song NY, Shi HB, Li CY, Yin SK. NAD+ attenuates bilirubin-induced hyperexcitation in the ventral cochlear nucleus by inhibiting excitatory neurotransmission and neuronal excitability. Frontier in Cellular Neuroscience. 2017 11:21 (2017).

Yang, Y.M. and Wang, LY.  Aging brains attend symphony with asynchronous neurotransmitter release. The Journal of Physiology. 2017 595:613-614.

Huang ZG, Liu HW, Yan ZZ, Wang S, Wang LY*, Ding JP*. The glycosylation of the extracellular loop of β2 subunits diversifies functional phenotypes of BK channels. Channels (Austin). 2017 11:156-166.

Yin XL, Liang M, Shi HB, Wang LY, Li CY, Yin SK. The role of gamma-aminobutyric acid / glycinergic synaptic transmission in mediating bilirubin-induced hyperexcitation in developing auditory neurons. Toxicology Letters. 2016 240(1):1-9.

Hou P, Xiao F, Liu H, Yuchi M, Zhang G, Wu Y, Wang W, Zeng W, Ding M, Cui J, Wu Z, Wang LY*, Ding J*. Extrapolating microdomain Ca(2+) dynamics using BK channels as a Ca(2+) sensor. Scientific Reports. 2016 6:17343.

Wang, LY and Augustine GJ, Presynaptic nanodomains: a tale of two synapses. Frontier in Cellular Neuroscience. 2015 8:455.

Yang YM, Wang W, Fedchyshyn, MJ, Zhou Z, Ding JP and Wang LY. Enhancing the fidelity of neurotransmission by frequency-dependent facilitation of presynaptic K+ currents  Nature Communication. 2014 Jul 31; 5:4564

David LS, Aitoubah J, Lesperance L, Wang LY. Gene delivery in mouse auditory brainstem and hindbrain using. Mol Brain. 2014 Jul 26;7(1):51.

Liu HW, Hou PP, Guo XY, Zhao ZW, Hu B, Li X, Wang LY, Ding JP, Wang S. Structural Basis for Calcium and Magnesium Regulation of a Large Conductance Calcium-activated Potassium Channel with β1 Subunits. J Biol Chem. 2014 Jun 13;289(24):16914-23.

Grande G, Negandhi J, Harrison RV, Wang LY. Remodelling at the calyx of Held-MNTB synapse in mice developing with unilateral conductive hearing loss. J Physiol. 2014 Apr 1;592(Pt 7):1581-600.

Wang W, Luo J, Hou P, Yang Y, Xiao F, Yuchi M, Qu A, Wang L, Ding J. Native gating behavior of ion channels in neurons with null-deviation modeling. PLoS One. 2013 Oct 25;8(10):e77105.

Grande G, Wang LY. Morphological and functional continuum underlying heterogeneity in the spiking fidelity at the calyx of Held synapse in vitro. J Neurosci. 2011 Sep 21;31(38):13386-99.

Yang YM, Aitoubah J, Lauer AM, Nuriya M, Takamiya K, Jia Z, May BJ, Huganir RL, Wang LY. GluA4 is indispensable for driving fast neurotransmission across a high-fidelity central synapse. J Physiol. 2011 Sep 1;589(Pt 17):4209-27.

Zhang B, Sun L, Yang YM, Huang HP, Zhu FP, Wang L, Zhang XY, Guo S, Zuo PL, Zhang CX, Ding JP, Wang LY, Zhou Z. Action potential bursts enhance transmitter release at a giant central synapse. J Physiol. 2011 May 1;589(Pt 9):2213-27.

Grande G, Wang LY. Early dating influences long-term synaptic partnerships. J Physiol. 2010 Nov 15;588(Pt 22):4339-40.

Xie G, Harrison J, Clapcote SJ, Huang Y, Zhang JY, Wang LY, Roder JC. A new Kv1.2 channelopathy underlying cerebellar ataxia. J Biol Chem. 2010 Oct 15;285(42):32160-73.

Yang YM, Fedchyshyn MJ, Grande G, Aitoubah J, Tsang CW, Xie H, Ackerley CA, Trimble WS, Wang LY. Septins Regulate developmental switching from microdomain to nanodomain coupling of Ca(2+) influx to neurotransmitter release at a central synapse. Neuron. 2010, 67:100-115.

Wang LY, Fedchyshyn MJ, Yang YM. Action potential evoked transmitter release in central synapses: insights from the developing calyx of Held. Mol Brain. 2009, 2:36.

Wang LY, Neher E, Taschenberger H. Synaptic vesicles in mature calyx of Held synapses sense higher nanodomain calcium concentrations during action potential-evoked glutamate release. J Neurosci. 2008, 28:14450-14458.

Tsang CW, Fedchyshyn M, Harrison J, Xie H, Xue J, Robinson PJ, Wang LY, Trimble WS. Superfluous role of mammalian septins 3 and 5 in neuronal development and synaptic transmission. Mol Cell Biol. 2008, 28:7012-7029.

Joshi I, Yang YM, Wang LY. Coincident activation of metabotropic glutamate receptors and NMDA receptors (NMDARs) downregulates perisynaptic/extrasynaptic NMDARs and enhances high-fidelity neurotransmission at the developing calyx of Held synapse. J. Neurosci. 2007, 27:9989-9999.

Fedchyshyn MJ, Wang LY. Activity-dependent changes in temporal components of neurotransmission at the juvenile mouse calyx of Held synapse. J. Physiol. (Lond.). 2007, 581:581-602.

Huang HP, Wang SR, Yao W, Zhang C, Zhou Y, Chen XW, Zhang B, Xiong W, Wang LY, Zheng LH, Landry M, Hökfelt T, Xu ZQ, Zhou Z. Long latency of evoked quantal transmitter release from somata. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA. 2007, 104:1401-1406.

Yang YM, Wang LY. Amplitude and kinetics of action potential evoked Ca2+ current and its efficacy in triggering transmitter release at the developing calyx of Held synapse. J. Neurosci. 2006, 26:5698-5708.

Wang LC, Xiong W, Zheng J, Zhou Y, Zheng H, Zhang C, Zheng LH, Zhu XL, Xiong ZQ, Wang LY, Cheng HP, Zhou Z. The timing of endocytosis after activation of a G-protein-coupled receptor in a sensory neuron. Biophys J. 2006, 90:3590-3598.

Fedchyshy, M.J. and Wang, L.-Y. Developmental transformation of release modality at a central synapse. J. Neurosci. 25:4131-4140 (2005)

Renden R., Taschenberger H., Puente N., Rusakov D.A., Duvoisin R., Wang L.-Y., Lehre K.P., and von Gersdorff H. Glutamate transporter studies reveal the pruning of mGluRs and absence of AMPA receptor desensitization at mature calyx of Held synapses.  J. Neurosci. 25:8482-8497 (2005)

Joshi, I., Shahira Shokralla, Paul Titis and Wang, L.-Y., The  role of AMPA receptor gating in the development of high fidelity neurotransmission at the calyx of Held synapse. J. Neurosci.  24, 183-196 (2004)

Joshi, I. and Wang, L.-Y., Developmental profiles of glutamate receptors and synaptic transmission at a single synapse in the mouse auditory  brainstem. J. Physiol. (Lond.). 540, 861-873(2002)

Wang, L.-Y. The Dynamic Range for Gain control of NMDA Receptor-Mediated Synaptic Transmission at a Single Synapse. J. Neurosci. 20 (RC115), 1-5 (2000)

Wang, L.-Y., Gan, L., Forsythe, I.D. and Kaczmarek, L.K. Contribution of the Kv3.1 Potassium Channel to High Frequency Firing in Mouse Auditory Neurones. J. Physiol. (London) 509, 183-194 (1998)

Wang, L.-Y. and Kaczmarek, L.K. High Frequency firing helps replenish the readily releasable pool of synaptic vesicles. Nature 394, 384-388 (1998)

Wang, L.-Y., Orser, B.A., Brautigan, D.L. and MacDonald, J.F. Regulation of NMDA receptors in cultured hippocampal neurons by protein phosphatases 1 and 2A. Nature 369, 230-232 (1994)

Wang, L.-Y., Taverna, F.A., Huang, X-P., MacDonald, J.F. and Hampson, D.R. Phosphorylation and modulation of a kainate receptor (GluR6) by  cAMP-dependent protein kinase. Science 259, 1173-1175 (1993)

Wang, L.-Y., Salter, M.W. and MacDonald, J.F. Regulation of kainate receptors by cAMP-dependent protein kinase and phosphatases. Science 253, 1132-1135 (1991)