Yang Laboratory

The Yang Laboratory uses molecular, cellular, genetic and genomic approaches to investigate critical roles of cell signaling in embryonic morphogenesis and adult physiology. We mainly focus on the mammalian limb, skeleton and liver, and we are exploiting these systems to explore human biology and address the underlying pathological mechanisms of diseases including cancer.

Cell-cell signaling plays essential and pivotal roles in both development and physiology. We are particularly interested in the Wnt, Hedgehog and Hippo signaling pathways that are evolutionarily conserved, act repetitively in different systems and regulate a diverse array of biological processes. Mutations in components of these signaling pathways cause devastating birth defects, degenerative disorders and cancer.

The vertebrate limb and skeleton provide a great system for us to understand morphogenesis and signaling interactions. Early patterning signals, which include Hedgehogs, Wnts, FGFs, and TGF-superfamily members, provide temporal and spatial information to instruct skeletal anlagen formation, long before overt skeletal morphogenesis. These signaling pathways also play major roles in regulating cell fates, proliferation and polarity in the formed skeletal system. Our previous work has provided insights into several fundamental aspects of tissue and organ morphogenesis in the limb and skeleton and tumor formation in the liver.

Our current efforts are divided into three major projects:

  1. Understand the role of signaling pathways in cell fate determination. We are investigating the molecular and cellular mechanisms whereby the Gs and Hedgehog signaling pathways regulate fate choices of differentiating mesenchymal progenitor/stem cells under both physiological and pathological conditions.
  2. Understand the function of directional information in development and disease. We are investigating the regulatory mechanisms whereby Wnt signaling controls planar cell polarity (PCP) in various aspects of embryonic morphogenesis, skeletal development and homeostasis.
  3. Understand the molecular and cellular mechanism underlying  mechanotransduction in the skeletal system. The musculoskeletal system generates and is also highly regulated by mechanic forces. We are investigating the roles of the Wnt and Hippo signaling pathways in mediating the effects of mechanotransduction in both development, physiology and regeneration in the liver and skeleton.


Research Fellows
Qian Cong
Yi Fan
Yuchen Liu
Emily Moore
Takehito Ochi
Xiaohui Wang
Shu Zhuo


Visiting Graduate Students
Caiqi Cheng
Bo Li
Yichen Yao



HSDM Students
Hye Soo (Michelle) Chung

Staff Research Assistant (LHT) 
Yaxing Zhou