Columbia University Medical Center


Xin Zhang, PhD

Xin Zhang, PhD
  • Department of Ophthalmology
  • Department of Pathology & Cell Biology
  • Associate Professor of Ophthalmic Sciences (in Ophthalmology & Pathology & Cell Biology)

As a part of the CNS, the retina shares many of the architectural, cellular and connective features with the rest of the brain.  Because of its accessibility, the retina is an excellent model that allows detailed molecular analysis and direct therapeutic interventions. The main focus of our research is the mechanism of cell signaling during eye development.  By combining biochemistry and mouse genetics, we are studying the molecular mechanism of FGF signaling in the patterning and differentiation of neural retina, examining its intracellular targets and the cross talks with other signaling pathways.  In adult retina, FGF was one of the first neurotropic factors found to promote the survival of photoreceptors. We are investigating the neuroprotective mechanism of FGF signaling, aiming to develop it as therapeutic agent to prevent retinal degeneration.  In addition, we are interested in cell surface proteoglycans, which are membrane proteins covalently linked with glycosaminoglycan chains.  Since the function of these glycoproteins is largely unexplored in the retina, this presents an exciting opportunity for new discoveries.  Our recent work has identified the critical role of retinal proteoglycans in astrocyte migration and angiogenesis.  This sets the stage for us to further explore the function of proteoglycans in mediating the neural-glial-endothelial interactions in the eye.

Education & Training

  • BS, Physics, Beijing University (China)
  • PhD, Biology, Johns Hopkins University
  • Primary Lab Locations

    Edward S. Harkness Eye Institute

    635 West 165th Street
    Rm 902A
    New York, NY 10032

    (212) 342-4446
    Lab Phone:
    (212) 305-6913

    Contact Information

    Honors & Awards

    2014 Jules and Doris Stein Research to Prevent Blindness Professorship

    2011 David D. Weaver Investigator

    2005 Basil O'Connor Scholar

    Research Interests

    Cell Specification and Differentiation
    cellular/molecular/developmental neuroscience
    Glial development and pathology
    Neural Degeneration and Repair

    Lab Members


    Collins TN, Mao Y, Li H, Bouaziz M, Hong A, Feng GS, Wang F, Quilliam LA, Chen L, Park T, Curran T, Zhang X. 2018. Crk proteins transduce FGF signaling to promote lens fiber cell elongation. Elife. e32586. doi: 10.7554/eLife.32586.

    Garg A, Bansal B, Gotoh N, Feng G, Zhong J, Wang F, Kariminejad A, Brooks S and Zhang X. 2017. Alx4 relays sequential FGF signaling to induce lacrimal gland morphogenesis. PLoS Genetics. 13(10):e1007047.

    Tao C, Zhang X. 2016. Neuronal-derived Proteoglycans Control Astrocyte Migration and Angiogenesis by Regulating Basement Membrane Assembly. Cell Reports. 17:1832–1844.

    Mathew G, Hertzler-Schaefer K, Wang F, Feng G-S, Zhong J, Zhao J, Downward J, Zhang X. 2016. Targeting of Ras-mediated FGF signaling suppresses Pten-deficient skin tumor. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 113:13156–13161.

    Hertzler-Schaefer K, Mathew G, Somani A, Tholpady S, Kadakia MP, Chen Y, Spandau DF, Zhang X. 2014. Pten loss induces autocrine FGF signaling to promote skin tumorigenesis. Cell Reports. 6(5):818-26.

    Li H, Tao C, Cai Z, Hertzler-Schaefer K, Collins TN, Wang F, Feng GS, Gotoh N, Zhang X.  2014. Frs2α and Shp2 signal independently of Gab to mediate FGF signaling in lens development. Journal of Cell Science. 127:571–582.

    Cai Z, Tao C, Ladher R, Gotoh N, Feng G, Wang F, Zhang X. 2013. Deficient FGF signaling causes optic nerve dysgenesis and ocular coloboma. Development. 140:2711-2723.