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Guo-li Ming, M.D., Ph.D.

Photo of Dr. Guo-li Ming, M.D., Ph.D.

Professor of Neurology

Research Interests: Molecular mechanisms of neuronal development in embryos and adults; Functions of risk genes in mental disorders more


Dr. Ming’s laboratory centers on understanding the molecular mechanisms underlying neuronal development during both embryonic stages and in the adult brain, with a particular focus on the signaling events involved in cell morphogenesis, cell migration, axon/dendritic development and synapse formation. Dr. Ming is interesting in identifying basic mechanisms regulating neuronal development with the hope of critical knowledge of adult neurogenesis to harness the endogenous regenerative capacity for enhancing brain function and repair. She is also interested in the functions and mechanisms of risk genes for mental disorder in neuronal development and her laboratory aims to better understand mechanisms underlying mental disorders so that novel strategies for prevention and treatment are possible.

As a graduate student, Dr. Ming worked on signal transduction mechanisms underlying axon guidance using in vitro Xenopous culture neurons. Originally trained as a physician specialized in Maternal and Child Health, she has for the last ten years at her own Johns Hopkins laboratory continued to work on mechanisms underlying axon and dendritic growth and guidance with a focus on in vivo model systems, first with developing Xenopus embryos. The lab simultaneously began using adult neurogenesis in the mouse hippocampus as a new model system. Over the past decade Dr. Ming and her colleagues have described in detail the sequential developmental events of adult neurogenesis in young adult mice using retrovirus-mediated targeting and mouse genetics, from activation of quiescent neural stem cells, proliferation and survival of proliferating newborn progeny, to axon and dendritic development and sequential formation of GABAergic and glutamatergic synaptic inputs by newborn neurons. The team has introduced a number of technologies from other field into the adult neurogenesis studies that greatly facilitated the laboratory’s analysis, including retrovirus-mediated birth-dating and gain/loss-of-function analysis, clonal lineage-tracing of adult neural stem cells, advance imaging of intact cells in a large volume, and optogenetics. Another focus of Dr. Ming’s laboratory for the past decade has been the function and mechanisms of a risk gene for major mental disorder, Disrupted in Schizophrenia 1 (DISC1) that occurs in neuronal development. Dr. Ming and her colleagues have made several novel findings using adult hippocampal neurogenesis as a cellular model system. The team has identified multifaceted roles of DISC1 in regulating the development of newborn granule cells in the adult hippocampus, including axon/dendritic development and cell positioning and was the first to show a critical role of DISC1 in synapse formation at both presynaptic and postsynaptic sites. They discovered that a major intracellular signaling pathway, AKT-mTOR pathway is a target of DISC1 in regulating neuronal development and further identified an interplay between extrinsic GABA signaling and intrinsic DISC1 signaling in regulating the neural development during adult neurogenesis. Dr. Ming’s first RO1 application related to DISC1 rodent models will be major focus of the laboratory going forward, and will build on the accumulation of the team’s efforts in understanding both fundamental biology of adult neurogenesis and etiology/pathogenesis of major mental disorders. more


  • Professor of Neurology
  • Joint Appointment in Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences
  • Professor of Neuroscience

Departments / Divisions



  • M.D., Tongji Medical University (China) (1994)
  • Ph.D., University of California (San Diego) (California) (2002)

Research & Publications

Research Summary

The Ming lab aims to understand the molecular and cellular mechanisms underlying neuronal growth and guidance during central nervous system development and in adulthood. Using both in vitro and in vivo approaches, the team is investigating how growth cones can respond to gradients of diffusible guidance cues for the neuronal circuitry formation and the underlying molecular mechanisms.

They also are trying to understand the mechanisms of neurological diseases (including psychiatric disorders) arising from aberrant neural development and circuitry formation. In the adult brain, new neurons continuously arise from adult neural stem cells in the dentate gyrus of the hippocampus and follow stereotypical patterns of migration and axon/dendrite projection to integrate into the adult CNS—axons go to the CA3 region and dendrites to the outer molecular layer. The team develops new approaches to study the neural development in the adult brain to gain a better understanding of the mechanisms and possibly shed light on strategies for treating CNS injuries and disease.

The team also develops technologies to generate induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) from patients with neurological diseases, including patients with schizophrenia, to study human neural development under normal conditions and potential pathogenesis under disease conditions.

Lab Website: Guo-li Ming Laboratory

Selected Publications

View all on Pubmed

  1. Distribution, recognition and regulation of non-CpG methylation in the adult mammalian brain. Guo JU, Su Y, Shin JH, Shin J, Li H, Xie B, Zhong C, Hu S, Le T, Fan G, Zhu H, Chang Q, Gao Y, Ming GL, Song H. Nat Neurosci. 2014 Feb;17(2):215-22. doi: 10.1038/nn.3607. Epub 2013 Dec 22. PMID: 24362762
  2. A critical role for STIM1 in filopodial calcium entry and axon guidance. Shim S, Zheng JQ, Ming GL. Mol Brain. 2013 Dec 1;6:51. doi: 10.1186/1756-6606-6-51. PMID: 24289807
  3. Parvalbumin interneurons mediate neuronal circuitry-neurogenesis coupling in the adult hippocampus. Song J, Sun J, Moss J, Wen Z, Sun GJ, Hsu D, Zhong C, Davoudi H, Christian KM, Toni N, Ming GL, Song H. Nat Neurosci. 2013 Dec;16(12):1728-30. doi: 10.1038/nn.3572. Epub 2013 Nov 10. PMID: 24212671
  4. DNA modifications and neurological disorders. Weng YL, An R, Shin J, Song H, Ming GL. Neurotherapeutics. 2013 Oct;10(4):556-67. doi: 10.1007/s13311-013-0223-4. PMID: 24150811
  5. TET1 controls CNS 5-methylcytosine hydroxylation, active DNA demethylation, gene transcription, and memory formation. Kaas GA, Zhong C, Eason DE, Ross DL, Vachhani RV, Ming GL, King JR, Song H, Sweatt JD. Neuron. 2013 Sep 18;79(6):1086-93. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2013.08.032. PMID: 24050399

Academic Affiliations & Courses

Graduate Program Affiliation

Cellular and Molecular Medicine

Activities & Honors


  • Distinguished Student Award of Tongji Medical University , 1989 - 1993
  • Excellence in Research Award of Biology, University of California at San Diego , 1997
  • Whitehall Foundation Award
  • Charles E. Culpeper Scholarship In Medical Science from Rockefeller Brothers Fund and Goldman Philanthropic Partnerships
  • Basil O’Connor Starter Scholar Research Award 2004 Program from March of Dimes
  • Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellow
  • Klingenstein Fellowship Awards in the Neuroscience
  • Kavli Science Fellow of National Academy of Sciences
  • March of Dimes Award , 2009
  • NARSAD Independent Investigator Award
  • Young Investigator Award of Society for Neuroscience


  • 09/09-06/10 Leadership Program for Woman Faculties, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, 2009 - 2010
  • Ad hoc reviewer for NIH/ZNS1, NIH/SYN, NIH/NDPR, NIH/NCF, NSF, New York State/SCIRB, Alzheimer’s Association Research Grant, England/MRC, Welcome Trust, Neurological Foundation of New Zealand, New York State Spinal Cord Injury Research, New York State Stem Cell Research., 2003
  • Confocal Imaging Core at Institute for Cell Engineering, 2003
  • Director, graduate level elective course: Stem Cells, 2004
  • Director, Human iPSC Platform, Brain Science Institute at Johns Hopkins University, 2008
  • Graduate Program in Cellular and Molecular Medicine, 2005
  • Life member of Chinese Biologic Investigator Society, 2007
  • Member of International Society for Stem Cell Research, 2007
  • Member of Society for Neuroscience, 1998
  • Molecular Brain, 2013
    Associate Editor
  • Neurogenesis, 2013
    Associate Editorial Board
  • NIH SYN study section member, 2011
  • Senior advisory board member for Women Faculties in Science and Medicine, 2011
  • Society for Neurons and Brain Diseases, 2012
    Council Member

Professional Activities

  • Director, Human Stem Cells and Education, 2013
  • Graduate Student, University of California at San Diego, 1998 - 2002
    Department of Biology
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