Yi-Fang Tsay is a Distinguished Research Fellow in the Institute of Molecular Biology, Academia Sinica, Taiwan. Yi-Fang Tsay is a plant biologist known for her research on nitrate transport, nitrate signaling and nitrogen utilization efficiency. She is recognized for identifying the first nitrate transporter gene in plants, deciphering novel mechanisms of nitrate transport, and pioneering the studies that show that transporters, named as transceptors now, also function as a sensor. Tsay was born in Taipei, Taiwan in 1961. She obtained her BS and MS degree from National Taiwan University in Botany in 1983 and 1985, and PhD degree in 1990 from Carnegie Mellon University under the guidance of Prof. John Woolford. She began to work on nitrate transport as a post-doctoral researcher with Prof. Nigel M. Crawford at University of California, San Diego from 1990 to 1993. In 1994, she started an independent laboratory at Academia Sinica. She has served on the Editorial Board of Plant Physiology since 2011, and served as acting director of Institute of Molecular Biology, Academia Sinica from 2019-2020. She is named a KIA Laureate, and a recipient of several awards including AS Outstanding Young Researcher Award, MOST Outstanding Research Award, Hou-Chin Dui Outstanding Award, Taiwan Outstanding Women in Science Award, MOE Academic Award, ASPB Enid MacRobbie Corresponding Membership, CTCI Science and Technology contribution Award.

Research Interests

The work in Yi-Fang Tsay's laboratory focuses on understanding how nitrate is acquired from the soil in response to internal demand and external fluctuation, how nitrate is efficiently distributed into different parts of the plant to maximize utilization efficiency and growth, and how nitrate is sensed by the plant to coordinate plant development and gene regulation. Her group also applies the knowledge gained from fundamental research to applications for improving crop yields and nitrogen utilization efficiency in order to alleviate the environmental impact of N fertilizer. During 1991-1993, she took a genetic approach to identify the first nitrate transporter CHL1(NRT1.1), which opened up a new era in the study of plant nitrate transport at the molecular level. Her studies of several CHL1(NRT1.1) homologues showed that the long-standing theory of nitrate transport in textbooks saying that nitrate can only be transported in xylem needs to be rewritten. The revised theory is that nitrate can be transported in phloem and phloem nitrate transport plays an important role to optimize nitrate utilization efficiency for plant growth and yield productivity. Another landmark study in her group elucidated how, in addition to transporting nitrate, transceptor CHL1 can use dual-affinity binding to monitor wide-range of nitrate concentrations changes in the soil and elicit proper levels of gene expression to make the plant ready to assimilate nitrate.

Membership Type

International Member

Election Year


Primary Section

Section 25: Plant Biology

Secondary Section

Section 62: Plant, Soil, and Microbial Sciences