Hui-Chen Lu

Hui-Chen Lu

Director, Gill Center

Professor, Psychological and Brain Sciences


  • Postdoctoral Fellow, Baylor College of Medicine, 1997–2003
  • Ph.D., Baylor College of Medicine, 1997
  • B.S., National Taiwan University, 1991

Research interests

Miswiring of neuronal circuits during early life is likely to be a major cause of neurological disorders, including autism and schizophrenia. The Lu lab is interested in how activity-dependent processes during brain development fine-tune the establishment of neural circuits and how sensory experiences affect neural circuit wiring and cognitive behaviors. Specifically, we are interested in exploring the role of the metabotropic glutamate receptor 5 (mGluR5), a group 1 metabotropic glutamate receptor. mGluR5 mutations have been identified in some ADHD and schizophrenic patients. We employ mouse genetic tools to understand the contribution of mGluR5 signaling in specific neuronal populations to sensory circuit formation, synaptic function/plasticity, and behavior. We are also exploring the role of the endogenous cannabinoid (endocannabinoid) system in fetal brain development and investigating how prenatal cannabis exposure affects brain development and later behaviors. Understanding the effects of endocannabinoids during neural circuit formation will not only shed light on normal brain development and function but will also allow us to assess endocannabinoid-based therapies and the effects of cannabis use on the developing fetus.

Proper brain function requires an active maintenance program to sustain neuronal health. Environmental stressors detrimentally impact the nervous system, predisposing it to neuronal dysfunction and degeneration if neuroprotective mechanisms are weakened. Recent studies by others and us revealed that NMNAT2 (nicotinamide mononucleotide adenylyl transferase 2) is a neuroprotective protein that is central to maintain neuronal integrity and facilitate proper neural function throughout life. NMNAT2 abundance is significantly reduced in Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) brains. Increasing Nmnat2 expression in neurodegenerative animal models reduced neurodegeneration. We hope to elucidate the mechanisms underlying NMNAT2’s neuroprotection and how NMNAT2 expression is down-regulated in pathological conditions. In addition, we hope to develop NMNAT2-specific therapies to prevent or reduce neurodegeneration.

Representative publications

Dysfunction in GABA signalling mediates autism-like stereotypies and Rett syndrome phenotypes (2010)
Hsiao-Tuan Chao, Hongmei Chen, Rodney C Samaco, Mingshan Xue, Maria Chahrour, Jong Yoo ...
Nature, 468 (7321), 263

GPR55 is a cannabinoid receptor that increases intracellular calcium and inhibits M current (2008)
Jane E Lauckner, Jill B Jensen, Huei-Ying Chen, Hui-Chen Lu, Bertil Hille and Ken Mackie
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 105 (7), 2699-2704

Activity-dependent decrease of excitability in rat hippocampal neurons through increases in Ih (2005)
Yuan Fan, Desdemona Fricker, Darrin H Brager, Xixi Chen, Hui-Chen Lu, Raymond A Chitwood ...
Nature neuroscience, 8 (11), 1542

An introduction to the endogenous cannabinoid system (2016)
Hui-Chen Lu and Ken Mackie
Elsevier. 79 (7), 516-525

SHANK3 overexpression causes manic-like behaviour with unique pharmacogenetic properties (2013)
Kihoon Han, J Lloyd Holder Jr, Christian P Schaaf, Hui Lu, Hongmei Chen, Hyojin Kang ...
Nature, 503 (7474), 72

Endocannabinoid signaling controls pyramidal cell specification and long-range axon patterning (2008)
Jan Mulder, Tania Aguado, Erik Keimpema, Klaudia Barabás, Carlos J Ballester Rosado, Laurent Nguyen ...
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 105 (25), 8760-8765

Barrel cortex critical period plasticity is independent of changes in NMDA receptor subunit composition (2001)
Hui-Chen Lu, Ernesto Gonzalez and Michael C Crair
Neuron, 32 (4), 619-634

NFκB-activated astroglial release of complement C3 compromises neuronal morphology and function associated with Alzheimer’s disease (2015)
Hong Lian, Li Yang, Allysa Cole, Lu Sun, Angie C-A Chiang, Stephanie W Fowler ...
Neuron, 85 (1), 101-115

Visualization of gene expression patterns by in situ hybridization (1997)
UHJA Albrecht, Gregor Eichele, Jill A Helms and Hui-Chen Lu
Molecular and cellular methods in developmental toxicology, 23-48

Retinoid signaling is required for the establishment of a ZPA and for the expression of Hoxb-8, a mediator of ZPA formation (1997)
Hui-Chen Lu, Jean-Pierre Revelli, Lisa Goering, Christina Thaller and Gregor Eichele
Development, 124 (9), 1643-1651

Adenylyl cyclase I regulates AMPA receptor trafficking during mouse cortical'barrel'map development (2003)
Hui-Chen Lu, Wei-Chi She, Daniel T Plas, Paul E Neumann, Roger Janz and Michael C Crair
Nature neuroscience, 6 (9), 939

Requirement of cannabinoid CB1 receptors in cortical pyramidal neurons for appropriate development of corticothalamic and thalamocortical projections (2010)
Chia‐Shan Wu, Jie Zhu, Jim Wager‐Miller, Shan Wang, Dennis O’Leary, Krisztina Monory ...
European Journal of Neuroscience, 32 (5), 693-706

Lasting impacts of prenatal cannabis exposure and the role of endogenous cannabinoids in the developing brain (2011)
Chia-Shan Wu, Christopher P Jew and Hui-Chen Lu
Future neurology, 6 (4), 459-480

Rescue of Drosophila labial null mutant by the chicken ortholog Hoxb-1 demonstrates that the function of Hox genes is phylogenetically conserved (1996)
Beat Lutz, Hui-Chen Lu, Gregor Eichele, David Miller and Thomas C Kaufman
Genes & development, 10 (2), 176-184

CREB-activity and nmnat2 transcription are down-regulated prior to neurodegeneration, while NMNAT2 over-expression is neuroprotective, in a mouse model of … (2011)
M Cecilia Ljungberg, Yousuf O Ali, Jie Zhu, Chia-Shan Wu, Kazuhiro Oka, R Grace Zhai ...
Human molecular genetics, 21 (2), 251-267