Dezhi Liao, PhD

Professor, Department of Neuroscience

Dezhi Liao

Contact Info

Office Phone 612-626-3522

Lab Address:
3-220 WMBB


Research Summary/Interests

Molecular and Cellular Mechanisms of Synaptic Plasticity

Activity-dependent modulation of glutamatergic synapses has been suggested to play important roles in learning and memory in adult brains, and the formation of synaptic connections in developmental brains. This modulation is at least partially mediated through the activation of “silent synapses,” synapses that contain NMDA receptors but not AMPA receptors. Such synapses are silent at a normal resting potential due to voltage-dependent magnesium blockade of NMDA receptors.

Our laboratory mainly uses electrophysiological, morphological and molecular biological techniques to investigate molecular and cellular mechanisms of activity-dependent synaptic plasticity. Particularly, we are interested in the cellular mechanisms responsible for the activation of silent synapses. It has been recently reported that silent synapses can be rapidly awakened through a rapid acquisition of AMPA receptors. Our goal is to understand the intracellular signaling pathways for the rapid synaptic targeting of AMPA receptors.


Singh G, Liu P, Yao KR, Strasser JM, Hlynialuk C, Leinonen-Wright K, Teravskis PJ, Choquette JM, Ikramuddin J, Bresinsky M, Nelson KM, Liao D, Ashe KH, Walters MA, Pockes S.Caspase-2 Inhibitor Blocks Tau Truncation and Restores Excitatory Neurotransmission in Neurons Modeling FTDP-17 Tauopathy. ACS Chem Neurosci. 2022 May 18;13(10):1549-1557. doi: 10.1021/acschemneuro.2c00100. Epub 2022 May 6.

Braun NJ, Liao D, Alford PW. Orientation of neurites influences severity of mechanically induced tau pathology. Biophys J. 2021 Aug 17;120(16):3272-3282. doi: 10.1016/j.bpj.2021.07.011.

Braun NJ, Yao KR, Alford PW, Liao D. Mechanical injuries of neurons induce tau mislocalization to dendritic spines and tau-dependent synaptic dysfunction. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2020 Nov 17;117(46):29069-29079. doi: 10.1073/pnas.2008306117.

Teravskis PJ, Ashe KH, Liao D.  The Accumulation of Tau in Postsynaptic Structures: A Common Feature in Multiple Neurodegenerative Diseases? Neuroscientist. 2020 May 9:1073858420916696. doi: 10.1177/1073858420916696.

Peter J. Teravskis, Breeta R. Oxnard, Eric C. Miller*, Lisa Kemper, Karen H. Ashe, Dezhi Liao. Phosphorylation in two discrete tau domains regulates a stepwise process leading to postsynaptic dysfunction. J Physiol. 2019 Jun 13. doi: 10.1113/JP277459.

Singh, B, Covelo, A, Martell-Martínez, H, Nanclares, C, Sherman, MA, Okematti, E, Meints, J, Teravskis, PJ, Gallardo, C, Savonenko, AV, Benneyworth, MA, Lesne, SE, Liao, D, Araque, A & Lee, MK 2019, 'Tau is required for progressive synaptic and memory deficits in a transgenic mouse model of ?-synucleinopathy', Acta Neuropathologica, vol. 138, no. 4, pp. 551-574.

Teravskis, PJ, Oxnard, BR, Miller, EC, Kemper, LJ, Ashe, KH & Liao, D 2019, 'Phosphorylation in two discrete tau domains regulates a stepwise process leading to postsynaptic dysfunction', Journal of Physiology.

Teravskis, PJ, Covelo, A, Miller, EC, Singh, B, Martell-Martínez, HA, Benneyworth, MA, Gallardo, C, Oxnard, BR, Araque, A, Lee, MK & Liao, D 2018, 'A53t mutant alpha-synuclein induces tau-dependent postsynaptic impairment independently of neurodegenerative changes' Journal of Neuroscience, vol. 38, no. 45, pp. 9754-9767.

Liao, D, Miller, EC & Teravskis, PJ 2014, 'Tau acts as a mediator for Alzheimer's disease-related synaptic deficits' European Journal of Neuroscience, vol. 39, no. 7, pp. 1202-1213.

Miller, EC, Teravskis, PJ, Dummer, BW, Zhao, X, Huganir, RL & Liao, D 2014, 'Tau phosphorylation and tau mislocalization mediate soluble A? oligomer-induced AMPA glutamate receptor signaling deficits' European Journal of Neuroscience, vol. 39, no. 7, pp. 1214-1224.

Miller, EC, Zhang, L, Dummer, BW, Cariveau, DR, Loh, HH, Law, P-Y & Liao, D 2012, 'Differential modulation of drug-induced structural and functional plasticity of dendritic spines' Molecular Pharmacology, vol. 82, no. 2, pp. 333-343.

Hoover, BR, Reed, MN, Su, J, Penrod, RD, Kotilinek, LA, Grant, MK, Pitstick, R, Carlson, GA, Lanier, LM, Yuan, LL, Ashe, KH & Liao, D 2010, 'Tau Mislocalization to Dendritic Spines Mediates Synaptic Dysfunction Independently of Neurodegeneration' Neuron, vol. 68, no. 6, pp. 1067-1081.

Kam, AYF, Liao, D, Loh, HH & Law, P-Y 2010, 'Morphine induces AMPA receptor internalization in primary hippocampal neurons via calcineurin-dependent dephosphorylation of GluR1 subunits' Journal of Neuroscience, vol. 30, no. 45, pp. 15304-15316.

Lin, H, Higgins, P, Loh, HH, Law, P-Y & Liao, D 2009, 'Bidirectional Effects of Fentanyl on Dendritic Spines and AMPA Receptors Depend Upon the Internalization of Mu Opioid Receptors' Neuropsychopharmacology, vol. 34, no. 9, pp. 2097-2111.

Liao, D, Grigoriants, OO, Wang, W, Wiens, K, Loh, HH & Law, PY 2007, 'Distinct effects of individual opioids on the morphology of spines depend upon the internalization of mu opioid receptors' Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience, vol. 35, no. 3, pp. 456-469.



NSCI 4105: Neurobiology Laboratory I (Fall and Summer semesters)