Professor, Dept. of Neuroscience & Regenerative MedicineDr. Robert Yu
GRA Eminent Scholar in Molecular & Cellular Neurobiology

Mailing Address:

Dept. of Neuroscience & Regenerative Medicine
1120 15th St., Rm. CA1006
Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University
Augusta, GA 30912

Telephone:   706-721-8931


PhD, University of Illinois, Urbana/Champaign, 1967
Med ScD, Tokyo University, Tokyo, Japan, 1980

Research Interests:

Neural stem cells are fundamental cells that are capable of differentiating into various cell types in the nervous system. We focus on a class of sugar-containing molecules called gangliosides with the goal of gaining a better understanding of their roles in normal neural differentiation and under pathological conditions.

Current projects:

Our central hypothesis is that cell- and stage-specific gangliosides play specific roles in maintaining NSC activities and in neural differentiation. We hypothesize that: (1) GD3 ganglioside modulates NSC proliferation by interacting with growth factor receptors and regulating growth factor-induced signaling; (2) the ganglioside composition of NSCs is then switched from simple to more complex  gangliosides, which is regulated in part by post-translational modification, subcellular localization, and complex formation of the GTs (GD3-synthase and GM2/GD2-synthase) in the early differentiation stage; and (3) the expression of complex a-series gangliosides, especially GM1 ganglioside, is augmented by a novel GM1-modulated epigenetic gene regulation mechanism of GTs at a later differentiation stage.

Lab members:

Yutaka Itokazu
Fu-Lei Tang
Dongpei Li

Selected publications:

  1.  Yanagisawa M, Yu RK. The expression and functions of glycoconjugates in neural stem cells.  Yanagisawa M, Yu RK.  Glycobiology. 2007; 17(7):57R-74R.  PMID: 17307762
  2. Ngamukote S, Yanagisawa M, Ariga T, Ando S, Yu RK.  Developmental changes of glycosphingolipids and expression of glycogenes in mouse brains.  Ngamukote S, Yanagisawa M, Ariga T, Ando S, Yu RK.  Journal of neurochemistry. 2007; 103(6):2327-41.
  3.  Nakatani Y, Yanagisawa M, Suzuki Y, Yu RK.  Characterization of GD3 ganglioside as a novel biomarker of mouse neural stem cells. Glycobiology. 2010; 20(1):78-86.
  4.  Suzuki Y, Yanagisawa M, Ariga T, Yu RK.  Histone acetylation-mediated glycosyltransferase gene regulation in mouse brain during development.  Journal of neurochemistry. 2011; 116(5):874-80.
  5.  Wang J, Yu RK.  Interaction of ganglioside GD3 with an EGF receptor sustains the self-renewal ability of mouse neural stem cells in vitro.  Wang J, Yu RK.  Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 2013; 110(47):19137-42.
  6.  Tsai YT, Yu RK. Epigenetic activation of mouse ganglioside synthase genes: implications for neurogenesis.  Journal of neurochemistry. 2014; 128(1):101-10.
  7.  Yu RK, Itokazu Y.  Glycolipid and glycoprotein expression during neural development.  Advances in neurobiology. 2014; 9:185-222.
  8.  Wang J, Cheng A, Wakade C, Yu RK.  Ganglioside GD3 is required for neurogenesis and long-term maintenance of neural stem cells in the postnatal mouse brain.  The Journal of neuroscience. 2014; 34(41):13790-800.
  9.  Tsai YT, Itokazu Y, Yu RK.  GM1 Ganglioside is Involved in Epigenetic Activation Loci of Neuronal Cells.  Neurochemical research. 2016; 41(1-2):107-15.
  10.  Itokazu Y, Tsai YT, Yu RK.  Epigenetic regulation of ganglioside expression in neural stem cells and neuronal cells.  Glycoconjugate journal. 2017; 34(6):749-756.
  11.  Itokazu Y, Wang J, Yu RK.  Gangliosides in Nerve Cell Specification.  Progress in molecular biology and translational science. 2018; 156:241-263.


Dr. Yu's Publications  -  Pub Med


yufig1 yufig2

Figure1:  A model for neural cell lineages derived from mouse neural stem cells (NSCs). The known glycoconjugate markers are underlined. NSC, neural stem cell; NRP, neuronal restricted precursor; GRP, glial restricted precursor; OPC, oligodendrocyte precursor cell.

Figure 2:  The expression of various glycoconjugate markers of different types of cells and their lineage differentiation.  NEC, Neuroepithelial cell; NSC, Neural stem cell; RGC,  Radial glial cell; NPC, neuronal progenitor cell; OPC, oligodendrocyte precursor cell; MZ,  marginal zone; MA, marginal mantle; SVZ, subventricular zone; VZ, ventricular zone.  The known carbohydrate markers are underlined.