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Mei Zhen

Dr. Mei Zhen

Dr. Mei Zhen is the Canada Research Chair in Brain and Behavior, Professor of Molecular Genetics at the University of Toronto, a Senior Scientist at the Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute, and a Visiting Professor of Physics at Harvard University. Her work combines electron microscopy, genetics, optogenetics, and electrophysiology to explore how the C. elegans nervous system develops and operates.

Featured Publications


  • Connectomes across development reveal principles of brain maturation (PDF)
  • Structural analysis of the C. elegans dauer larval anterior sensilla by Focused Ion Beam-Scanning Electron Microscopy (PDF)
  • A pipeline for volume electron microscopy of the Caenorhabditis elegans nervous system (PDF)


  • Corollary neuron underlies motor feedback to sustain forward motor state (PDF)
  • Natural sensory context drives diverse brain-wide activity during C. elegans mating (PDF)
  • Action potentials drive body wall muscle contractions in Caenorhabditis elegans (PDF)
  • Excitatory motor neurons are local oscillators for backward locomotion (PDF)
  • Descending pathway facilitates undulatory wave propagation in Caenorhabditis elegans through gap junctions (PDF)
  • Caenorhabditis elegans excitatory ventral cord motor neurons derive rhythm for body undulation (PDF)
  • An imbalancing act: gap junctions reduce the backward motor circuit activity to bias C. elegans for forward locomotion (PDF; supplemental)

Neural Membrane Excitability

  • Open syntaxin overcomes synaptic transmission defects in diverse C. elegans exocytosis mutants (PDF)
  • Gain-of-function mutations in the UNC-2/CaV2α channel lead to hyperactivity and excitation-dominant synaptic transmission in Caenorhabditis elegans (PDF)
  • A Gain-of-Function Mutation in NALCN in a Child with Intellectual Disability, Ataxia, and Arthrogryposis (PDF)
  • The NCA sodium leak channel is required for persistent motor circuit activity that sustains locomotion (PDF; supplemental)
  • NLF-1 delivers a sodium leak channel to regulate neuronal excitability and modulate rhythmic locomotion (PDF)
  • A Putative Cation Channel, NCA-1,and a Novel Protein, UNC-80, Transmit Neuronal Activity in C. elegans (PDF)

Diseases and Stem Cells

  • Signal requirement for cortical potential of transplantable human neuroepithelial stem cells (PDF)
  • Overexpression of an ALS-associated FUS mutation in C. elegans disrupts NMJ morphology and leads to defective neuromuscular transmission (PDF)
  • The UBR-1 Ubiquitin Ligase Regulates Glutamate Metabolism to Generate Coordinated Motor Pattern in C. elegans (PDF)
  • ALS/FTD Mutation-Induced Phase Transition of FUS Liquid Droplets and Reversible Hydrogels into Irreversible Hydrogels Impairs RNP Granule Function (PDF)
  • A Gain-of-Function Mutation in NALCN in a Child with Intellectual Disability, Ataxia, and Arthrogryposis (PDF)


  • Towards a live soft microrobot: optogenetic locomotion control of Caenorhabditis elegans (PDF)
  • Real-time volumetric reconstruction of biological dynamics with light-field microscopy and deep learning (PDF)
  • Efficient and cost-effective 3D cellular imaging by sub-voxel-resolving light-sheet add-on microscopy (PDF)
  • Optogenetic manipulation of postsynaptic cAMP using a novel transgenic mouse line enables synaptic plasticity and enhanced depolarization in the hippocampal dentate gyrus (PDF)