Xin Zhang, PhD

Xin Zhang, PhD

Research Interest

The main focus of our research is mechanism of cell signaling during eye development.  The eye is a prominent system to study signal transduction, not only because of its biomedical significance, but also because of the rich resource of experimental tools available in eye research.  Previous studies have also identified multiple signaling pathways including FGF signaling in mediating cellular interactions in the eye.  However, the specific signaling components of these pathways and their precise in vivo functions in the eye remain poorly understood.  With the advent of genome wide analysis and the rapidly expanding collection of mouse models, it has now become increasingly important to determine the in vivo function of cell signaling by genetic approaches.  We would therefore like to employ the formidable mouse genetic tools to ultimately determine the signaling pathways governing eye development.

Our studies encompass the lens, lacrimal gland and retina, three strikingly different tissues of the eye.  We hope to use these models to find the commonalities of cell signaling that can explain the growth, differentiation and homeostasis of the ocular cells, making fundamental contributions to our understanding of the basic biology.  There are millions of children in the world who are born with vision disorder, challenging clinicians to find new and better ways to treat these diseases.  The medical advances need to be guided by the profound understanding how the human eyes are developed and what can go awry in pathological conditions.  By focusing on the growth factor signaling, our studies may help us to understand how these congenital disorders are developed and to inspire future treatment for these diseases. The biological principle revealed in our study may also be broadly applicable to other organs and diseases where growth factor signaling is active.

  • BS, 1991 Physics, Beijing University (China)
  • PhD, 1998 Biology, Johns Hopkins University
  • Postdoc, 2003 Mouse genetics, Harvard Medical School

2014 Jules and Doris Stein Research to Prevent Blindness Professorship

2011 David D. Weaver Investigator

2005 Basil O'Connor Scholar

2021 Herbert and Florence Irving Professor

PDGF signaling in lens development

R01 EY025933

Project Dates: 08/01/2015-06/30/2020

NIH R01 EY031210 (Zhang: PI) 

Mechanism of Csk signaling in lacrimal gland morphogenesis

Project Dates: 02/01/2020-12/31/2023

NIH R01 EY018868 (Zhang: PI)                                              

Regulation of FGF signaling in lacrimal gland development    

Project Dates: 12/01/2008-07/31/2024

NIH R01 EY025933 (Zhang: PI)                                              

Lens ectoderm-derived Wnt signaling regulates eye development      

Project Dates: 08/01/2015-08/31/2024

NIH R01 EY017061 (Zhang: PI)                                              

Signaling Mechanisms of Lens Development

Project Dates: 01/01/2006-03/31/2025

Research to Prevent Blindness Foundation                            

Jules and Doris Stein RPB Professorship

Project Dates: 01/01/2014-12/31/2021

Wang Q, Tao C, Hannan A, Yoon S, Min X, Peregrin J, Qu X, Li H, Yu H, Zhao J, Zhang X. 2021. Lacrimal gland budding requires PI3K-dependent suppression of EGF signaling. Science Advances. In press.

Li H, Mao Y, Bouaziz M, Yu H, Qu X, Wang F, Feng GS, Shawber C, Zhang X. Lens differentiation is controlled by the balance between PDGF and FGF signaling. 2019. PLoS Biol. 2019. 17(2):e3000133.

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, Hannan A, Wang Q, Collins T, Teng S, Bansal M, Zhong J, Xu K, Zhang X. 2018. FGF-induced Pea3 transcription factors program the genetic landscape for cell fate determination. PLoS Genetics.14(9):e1007660.

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.

Cvekl A, Zhang X. 2017. Signaling and Gene Regulatory Networks in Mammalian Lens Development. Trends in Genetics. 33(10):677-702.

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.

For a complete list of publications, please visit


  • Mechanism of FGF signaling in eye development 
  • Molecular regulation of cell shape, adhesion and migration 
  • Glial Development and Pathology