Xiaodong Wang

National Institute of Biological Sciences

Primary Section: 41, Medical Genetics, Hematology, and Oncology
Membership Type:
Member (elected 2004)


 Dr. Xiaodong Wang is the Director and Investigator of the National Institute of Biological Sciences, Beijing and a University Chair professor of Tsinghua University, Tsinghua Institute of Multidisciplinary Biomedical Research. Dr. Wang is a biochemist known for his work in delineating the biochemical pathways of regulated cell death in mammalian cells including mitochondria-initiated apoptosis and RIPK3-MLKL mediated necrosis namely necroptosis.  Dr. Wang was born in Wuhan, China. He received his B.S. in Biology from Beijing Normal University in 1984 and his  Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in 1991. After a post-doctorial training in the same school, he started his independent career at the department of Biochemistry, Emory University School of Medicine in 1995.  Before he went back to Beijing to take his current job in 2010, he was a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator and held the position of the George L. MacGregor Distinguished Chair Professor in Biomedical Sciences at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, Texas.  Dr. Wang is a member of the National Academy of Science, USA and a foreign associate of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and European Molecular Biology Organization.  

Research Interests

The goal of our research is to understand how and why our cells die through apoptosis and eventually use this knowledge to combat human diseases in which apoptosis becomes defective. These diseases include cancer and neurodegerative diseases during which apoptosis is either blocked or undesirably turned on. We have been using biochemical approaches to study apoptosis. Specifically, we set-up biochemical assays that reproduce biochemical reactions that contribute to apoptotic cell death. Using this approach, we have uncovered biochemical pathways that activate intracellular apoptotic proteases (caspases) and fragment chromatin DNA during apoptosis. During the biochemical analysis of apoptotic pathways in human cells, we discovered the role of mitochondria in apoptosis. We found that mitochondria release proteins such as cytochrome c, Smac, and EndoG from their intermembrane space during apoptosis. These proteins then interact with cytosolic proteins to trigger the activation of caspases and DNA fragmentation. We also found that the release of these apoptogenetic proteins is regulated by the Bcl-2 family of proteins, a group of homologous proteins that have roles in tumorgenesis. Our current research is focusing on how apoptotic signals transduce to mitochondria. We are also collaborating with chemists to design small chemicals to regulate the mitochondria-initiated apoptotic pathways.

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