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Lei Yu
Lei Yu
Distinguished Professor
(848) 445-0794
(732) 445-3500
CAS 107
Center for Alcohol Studies, Rutgers University, 145 Bevier Road Piscataway, NJ, 08854


Our laboratory is interested in the molecular and genetic bases of complex brain disorders, including genetic predisposition for alcoholism and drug abuse, and molecular mechanisms underlie such neuro-sensory processes as stress, neuropathic pain, and pain-relief analgesia.

Regarding genetic predisposition for alcoholism and drug abuse, we have carried out human genetic studies with a focus on genetic variations in human populations, especially those with potential impact on physiological function and behavior. This is based on the belief that human genetics is for the most part about small, subtle functional polymorphisms that underlie individual differences in physiology and disease vulnerability. One example is a prevalent genetic variation in the mu opioid receptor that we have studied. This small genetic polymorphism only changes one base pair in the gene, thus is a SNP (single nucleotide polymorphism), giving rise to the subtle variation of a single amino acid. Recent studies from other investigators have shown that this SNP is associated with functional consequences in humans, including predisposition to opioid dependence, differential stress hormone response to opioid antagonist challenge, and potential impact on treatment outcome for alcoholism, nicotine dependence, and Parkinson disease pharmacotherapy.


Tomie A, Samuel AG, Merchant A, Yu L (2016) The effects of proximal and distal social stimulation on ethanol intake in male and female CD-1 mice. J. Drug Alcohol Res. 5, doi:10.4303/jdar/235949.

Tomie A, Samuel AG, Sprung DM, Malul Y, Yu L (2015) Effects of number of cagemates on home-cage ethanol drinking during proximal cagemate drinking (PCD) procedures in male and female CD-1 mice. Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry 57:1-10.

Wang K, Song H, Jin M, Xiao H, Zhao G, Zou H, Yu L (2014) Chronic alcohol consumption from adolescence-to-adulthood in mice — Hypothalamic gene expression changes in insulin signaling pathway. Alcohol 48:571-578.

Zou H, Wang K, Gao Y, Song H, Xie Q, Jin M, Zhao G, Xiao H, Yu L (2014) Chronic alcohol consumption from adolescence-to-adulthood in mice — Hypothalamic gene expression changes in the dilated cardiomyopathy signaling pathway. BMC Neuroscience 15:61.

Tomie A, Defuria AA, Jones HA, Edwards SD, Yu L (2014) Effects of cagemate gender and the cagemate's access to ethanol on ethanol and water intake of the proximal male or the proximal female CD-1 mouse. Alcohol 48:73-82.

Tomie A, Azogu I, Yu L (2013) Effects of naltrexone on post-abstinence alcohol drinking in C57BL/6NCRL and DBA/2J mice. Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry 44:240-247.

Rosario-Meléndez R, Harris CL, Delgado-Rivera R, Yu L, Uhrich KE (2012) PolyMorphine: An innovative biodegradable polymer drug for extended pain relief. J. Controlled Release 162:538-544.

Tomie A, Lincks M, Nadarajah SD, Pohorecky LA, Yu L (2012) Pairings of lever and food induce Pavlovian conditioned approach of sign-tracking and goal-tracking in C57BL/6 mice. Behav. Brain Res. 226:571-578.

Smelson DA, Yu L, Buyske S, Gonzalez G, Tischfield JA, Deutsch CK, Ziedonis D (2012) Genetic association of GABA-A receptor alpha-2 and mu opioid receptor with cocaine cue-reactivity: Evidence for inhibitory synaptic neurotransmission involvement in cocaine dependence. Am. J. Addict. 21:411-415.

Zhang YQ, Guo N, Peng G, Han M, Raincrow J, Chiu C, Coolen LM, Wenthold RJ, Zhao ZQ, Jing N, Yu L (2009) Role of SIP30 in the development and maintenance of peripheral nerve injury-induced neuropathic pain. Pain 146:130-140.

Zou H, Xie Q, Zhang M, Zhang C, Zhao G, Jin M, Yu L (2009) Chronic alcohol consumption from adolescence to adulthood in mice — effect on growth and social behavior. Drug Alcohol Depend. 104:119-125.

Zou H, Zhang C, Xie Q, Zhang M, Shi J, Jin M, Yu L (2008) Low dose MK-801 reduces social investigation in mice. Pharmacol. Biochem. Behav. 90:753-757.

Qi C, Zou H, Zhang R, Zhao G, Jin M, Yu L (2008) Age-related differential sensitivity to MK-801-induced locomotion and stereotypy in C57BL/6 mice. Eur. J. Pharmacol. 580:161-168.

Yates JW, Meij TAJ, Sullivan JR, Richtand NM, Yu L (2007) Bimodal effect of amphetamine on motor behaviors in C57BL/6 mice. Neurosci. Lett. 427: 66-70.

Qi C, Zou H, Zhang CH, Xie Q, Jin M, Yu L (2006) Effect of GNTI, a kappa opioid receptor antagonist, on MK-801-induced hyperlocomotion and stereotypy in mice. Acta Pharmacologica Sinica 27:1401-1408.

Tang Y, Zou H, Strong JA, Cui Y, Xie Q, Zhao G, Jin M, Yu L (2006) Paradoxical effects of very low dose MK-801. Eur. J. Pharmacol. 537:77-84.

Strong JA, Dalvi A, Revilla FJ, Sahay A, Samaha FJ, Welge JA, Gong J, Gartner M, Yue X, Yu L (2006) Genotype and smoking history affect risk of levodopa-induced dyskinesias in Parkinson’s disease. Movement Disorders 21:654-659.

Zhang XH, Zhang H, Tu YY, Gao X, Zhou C, Jin M, Zhao G, Jing NH, Li BM, Yu L (2005) Identification of a novel protein for memory regulation in the hippocampus. Biochem. Biophys. Res. Commun. 334:418-424.

Xie W, Strong JA, Meij JTA, Zhang JM, Yu L (2005) Neuropathic pain: Early spontaneous afferent activity is the trigger. Pain 116:243-56.

Jin M, Wang X, Tu YY, Zhang X, Gao X, Guo N, Xie Z, Zhao G, Jing NH, Li BM, Yu L (2005) The negative cell cycle regulator, Tob (Transducer of ErbB-2), is a multifunctional protein involved in hippocampus-dependent learning and memory. Neuroscience 131:647-659.

Wu J, Zou H, Strong JA, Yu J, Zhou X, Xie Q, Zhao G, Jin M, Yu L (2005) Bimodal effects of MK-801 on locomotion and stereotypy in C57BL/6 mice. Psychopharmacol. 177:256-263.

Moalem G, Xu K, Yu L (2004) T lymphocytes play a role in neuropathic pain following peripheral nerve injury in rats. Neuroscience 129:767-777.

You H, Qi X, Yu L (2004) Direct AFM observation of saposin C-induced membrane domains in lipid bilayers: from simple to complex lipid mixtures. Chem. Physics Lipids 132:15-22.

Hou Q, Gao X, Zhang X, Kong L, Wang X, Bian W, Tu YY, Jin M, Zhao G, Li BM, Jing NH, Yu L (2004) SNAP-25 in hippocampal CA1 region is involved in memory consolidation. Eur. J. Neurosci. 20:1593-1603.

Meij JTA, Haselton CL, Hillman KL, Muralikrishnan D, Ebadi M, Yu L (2004) Differential mechanisms of nitric oxide- and peroxynitrite-induced cell death. Mol. Pharmacol. 66:1043-1053.

Hurley JH, Zhang S, Bye LS, Marshall MS, DePaoli-Roach AA, Guan K, Fox AP, Yu L (2003) Insulin Signaling Inhibits the 5-HT2C Receptor in Choroid Plexus via MAP kinase. BMC Neuroscience 4:10-14.

You H, Qi X, Grabowski GA, Yu L (2003) Phospholipid membrane interactions of saposin C: in situ atomic force microscopic study. Biophys. J. 84: 2043-2057.

Lau JM, You HX, Yu L (2002) Lattice-like array particles on Xenopus oocyte plasma membrane. Scanning 24:224-231.

Jin M, Mo Y, Liu L, Guo N, Xie Q, Lin Z, Wang X, Li BM, Zhao G, Jing NH, Yu L (2001) An exploration of animal behavior screen platform for novel gene function in central nervous system. Acta Physiologica Sinica 53:247-251.

You H, Lau JM, Zhang S, Yu L (2000) Atomic force microscopy imaging of living cells: a preliminary study of the disruptive effect of the cantilever tip on cell morphology. Ultramicroscopy 82:297-305.

Ai W, Gong J, Yu L (1999) MAP kinase activation by mu opioid receptor involves phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase but not the cAMP/PKA pathway. FEBS Lett. 456:196-200.

Hurley JH, Bloem LJ, Pavalko F, Liu J, Tian M, Simon JR, Yu L (1999) Structure-function studies of the eighth hydrophobic domain of a serotonin receptor. J. Neurochem. 72:413-421.

You H, Yu L (1998) Nano-deposition of protein molecules using tapping-mode atomic force microscopy: Facts or artifacts. Probe Microscopy 1:233-237.

Gong J, Strong JA, Zhang S, Yue X, DeHaven RN, Daubert JD, Cassel JA, Yu G, Mansson E, Yu L (1998) Endomorphins fully activate a cloned human mu opioid receptor. FEBS Lett. 439:152-156.

Bond C, LaForge KS, Tian M, Melia D, Zhang S, Borg L, Gong J, Schluger J, Strong JA, Leal SM, Tischfield JA, Kreek MJ, Yu L (1998) Single-nucleotide polymorphism in the human mu opioid receptor gene alters ?-endorphin binding and activity: Possible implications for opiate addiction. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 95:9608-9613.

Zhang S, Tong Y, Tian M, DeHaven RN, CortesBurgos L, Mansson E, Simonin F, Kieffer B, Yu L (1998) Dynorphin A as a potential endogenous ligand for four members of the opioid receptor gene family. J. Pharmacol. Exp. Ther.286:136-141.

You H, Yu L (1997) Investigation of the image contrast of tapping-mode atomic force microscopy using protein-modified cantilever tips. Biophys. J. 73:3299-3308.

You H, Yu L (1997) Atomic force microscopy as a tool for study of human hair. Scanning 19:431-437.

Gong J, Li X, Lai Z, Froehlich JC, Yu L (1997) Quantitative comparison of mu opioid receptor mRNA in selected CNS regions of alcohol naïve rats selectively bred for high and low alcohol drinking. Neurosci. Lett. 227:9-12.

Tian M, Broxmeyer HE, Fan Y, Lai Z, Zhang S, Aronica S, Cooper S, Bigsby RM, Steinmetz R, Engle SJ, Mestek A, Pollock JD, Lehman MN, Jansen HT, Ying M, Stambrook PJ, Tischfield JA, Yu L (1997) Altered hematopoiesis, behavior, and sexual function in mu opioid receptor-deficient mice. J. Exp. Med. 185:1517-1522.

Tong Y, Wei J, Zhang S, Strong JA, Dlouhy SR, Hodes ME, Ghetti B, Yu L (1996) The weaver mutation changes the ion selectivity of the affected inwardly rectifying potassium channel GIRK2. FEBS Lett. 390:63-68.

Tong Y, Zull JE, Yu L (1996) Functional expression and signaling properties of cloned human PTH receptor in Xenopus oocytes: Evidence for a novel signaling pathway. J. Biol. Chem. 271:8183-8191.

Chen Y, Liu J, Yu L (1996) Functional coupling of a ? opioid receptor to G proteins and adenylyl cyclase: modulation by chronic morphine treatment. Addiction Biol. 1:49-59.

Zhang S, Yu L (1995) Identification of dynorphins as endogenous ligands for an opioid receptor-like orphan receptor. J. Biol. Chem. 270:22772-22776.

Mestek A, Hurley JH, Bye LS, Campbell A, Chen Y, Tian M, Schulman H, Yu L (1995) The human ? opioid receptor: Modulation of functional desensitization by calcium/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase and protein kinase C. J. Neurosci. 15:2396-2406.

Upcoming Seminars & Events

Sort DateDate/TimeTitleHostDescriptionLocation
20171002.120000Mon, Oct 02, 2017 @ 12:00pm
"RNA variants in male germ cells: a new layer of developmental regulation"Genetics/Human Genetics InstituteSpeaker: Dr. Elizabeth Snyder
Dr. Elizabeth Snyder / Department of Animal Science/ Rutgers University/ New Brunswick, NJ
Web Site
Life Sciences Building
145 Bevier Road, Piscataway, NJ
20171009.203000Mon, Oct 09, 2017 @ 8:30pm
What is genetic counselingGenetics/Human Genetics InstituteSpeaker: Professor Jessica Joines
The Association of Undergraduate Geneticists Presents: The Career of Genetic Counseling
Web Site
Life Sciences Building
145 Bevier Road, Piscataway, NJ

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