Wei Lu, Ph.D.

Stadtman Investigator

Synapse and Neural Circuit Unit


Building 35, Room 3C1000
35 Convent Drive
Bethesda, MD 20892



Research Topics

Synapses, the specialized cellular junctions, are essential for rapid communication between neurons. These synaptic junctions physically and functionally connect individual neurons into continuous neural circuits that give rise to behavior and cognition. One prominent feature of the synapse is that it is highly plastic, which underlies many brain functions, including learning and memory. How are synaptic connections between neurons formed, how is synaptic strength regulated, what is the role of neuronal activity in the regulation of synapse formation and synaptic plasticity and how does the regulation of synaptic strength influence animal behavior?
We mainly rely on rodent hippocampus as our model system to study these questions. Currently we employ molecular, biochemical and genomic approaches to identify novel players in synaptic function, use molecular, genetic, optical and pharmacological approaches to manipulate synapses, and utilize electrophysiological, genetic and behavioral approaches to examine synaptic and neural circuit function (for details, please see https://sites.google.com/site/lulaboratorynih/home). Ongoing projects in the lab include,
1. Synapse development in hippocampal neurons
2. Activity-dependent neural circuit formation in hippocampus
3. Novel molecules in regulating AMPA receptor trafficking and function
4. Functional significance of glutamatergic inputs onto hippocampal subregions


Dr. Lu received his PhD degree from New York University (Ph.D., 2006). His graduate study, in the laboratory of Dr. Edward Ziff, was on biochemical characterization of neuronal glutamate receptors and their interacting proteins. He did his postdoctoral training in the laboratory of Dr. Roger Nicoll at the University of California, San Francisco, where he combined electrophysiological and single-cell genetic approaches to study excitatory synaptic transmission in rodents. During his postdoctoral training, Dr. Lu received a Pathway to Independence Award (K99) from NIMH. Dr. Lu joined the NINDS as an investigator in January 2012. His laboratory now employs multidisciplinary approaches to study synaptic transmission and neural circuit function.

Selected Publications

  1. Lu W, Bushong EA, Shih TP, Ellisman MH, Nicoll RA. The cell-autonomous role of excitatory synaptic transmission in the regulation of neuronal structure and function. Neuron. 2013;78(3):433-9.

  2. Gu X, Zhou L, Lu W. An NMDA Receptor-Dependent Mechanism Underlies Inhibitory Synapse Development. Cell Rep. 2016;14(3):471-478.

  3. Gu X, Mao X, Lussier MP, Hutchison MA, Zhou L, Hamra FK, Roche KW, Lu W. GSG1L suppresses AMPA receptor-mediated synaptic transmission and uniquely modulates AMPA receptor kinetics in hippocampal neurons. Nat Commun. 2016;7:10873.

  4. Li J, Han W, Pelkey KA, Duan J, Mao X, Wang YX, Craig MT, Dong L, Petralia RS, McBain CJ, Lu W. Molecular Dissection of Neuroligin 2 and Slitrk3 Reveals an Essential Framework for GABAergic Synapse Development. Neuron. 2017;96(4):808-826.e8.

  5. Hutchison MA, Gu X, Adrover MF, Lee MR, Hnasko TS, Alvarez VA, Lu W. Genetic inhibition of neurotransmission reveals role of glutamatergic input to dopamine neurons in high-effort behavior. Mol Psychiatry. 2018;23(5):1213-1225.

This page was last updated on September 28th, 2017