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Qiufu Ma, PhD


Researcher


Researcher

  • Professor of Neurobiology, Harvard Medical School

Contact Information

  • Office Phone Number(617) 632-4594
  • Fax(617) 632-4595

Bio

Dr. Qiufu Ma received his BS from Fudan University in 1987 and PhD from UCLA in 1994. After postdoctoral training with Dr. David Anderson at Caltech, he became an Assistant Professor at Harvard Neurobiology Department and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and become a full Professor in 2011. He was a Pew Scholar from 2000-2004. Since 2007, he has been serving as the Faculty Director of the Office for Postdoctoral Training and Career Development.

Recent Awards:

  • Pew Scholar 2000
  • SCBA Young Investigator Award 2001

Research



Dr. Ma has been working on neural circuits transmitting somatic sensory information, and more recently on the neural basis of acupuncture. The lab initially focused on studying the genetic programs that control the development of somatic sensory circuits. Major contributions include the identification of i) Neurogenin1 essential for genesis of peripheral nociceptors, ii) Runx1 that specifies sensory neurons that innervate exclusively the cutaneous ectodermal tissues and control the expression of a large cohort of sensory channels and receptors, and iii) Tlx3 that controls the formation of dorsal spinal excitatory neurons that transmit pain- and itch-related information. These developmental studies have also laid down the foundation for the second phase of research: using novel genetic tools to map spinal circuits. During the past seven years, in collaboration with Dr. Martyn Goulding at Salk, his lab developed the innovative intersectional genetic strategy to mark, ablate or silence a large cohort of molecularly defined excitatory and inhibitory neurons. Subsequent behavioral and electrophysiological studies have uncovered microcircuits that transmit and gate mechanical pain or itch, or transmit the affective versus the defensive dimensions of pain evoked from the skin. For ongoing studies in the lab, they are now developing new tools to study different dimensions of pain evoked from deep tissues.



The mapping of these somatic sensory circuits forms the foundation for for studying the neural basis of acupuncture. Specifically, built upon their deep understanding on the anatomical organization of the somatic sensory system, they want to understand how stimulation of different body regions, or different tissue layers of the same body region could drive different autonomic reflexes, which could be the entry point to understand how acupuncture could modulate body physiology and treat diseases.



Zhang Y, Liu S, Zhang YQ, Goulding M, Wang YQ, Ma Q. Timing Mechanisms Underlying Gate Control by Feedforward Inhibition. Neuron. 2018 Sep 05; 99(5):941-955.e4.
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Lou S, Pan X, Huang T, Duan B, Yang FC, Yang J, Xiong M, Liu Y, Ma Q. Incoherent feed-forward regulatory loops control segregation of C-mechanoreceptors, nociceptors, and pruriceptors. J Neurosci. 2015 Apr 01; 35(13):5317-29.
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Chiu IM, Barrett LB, Williams EK, Strochlic DE, Lee S, Weyer AD, Lou S, Bryman GS, Roberson DP, Ghasemlou N, Piccoli C, Ahat E, Wang V, Cobos EJ, Stucky CL, Ma Q, Liberles SD, Woolf CJ. Transcriptional profiling at whole population and single cell levels reveals somatosensory neuron molecular diversity. Elife. 2014 Dec 19; 3.
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Duan B, Cheng L, Bourane S, Britz O, Padilla C, Garcia-Campmany L, Krashes M, Knowlton W, Velasquez T, Ren X, Ross S, Lowell BB, Wang Y, Goulding M, Ma Q. Identification of spinal circuits transmitting and gating mechanical pain. Cell. 2014 Dec 04; 159(6):1417-1432.
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Ma Q. Merkel cells are a touchy subject. Cell. 2014 Apr 24; 157(3):531-3.
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Yang FC, Tan T, Huang T, Christianson J, Samad OA, Liu Y, Roberson D, Davis BM, Ma Q. Genetic control of the segregation of pain-related sensory neurons innervating the cutaneous versus deep tissues. Cell Rep. 2013 Dec 12; 5(5):1353-64.
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Xu Y, Lopes C, Wende H, Guo Z, Cheng L, Birchmeier C, Ma Q. Ontogeny of excitatory spinal neurons processing distinct somatic sensory modalities. J Neurosci. 2013 Sep 11; 33(37):14738-48.
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Roberson DP, Gudes S, Sprague JM, Patoski HA, Robson VK, Blasl F, Duan B, Oh SB, Bean BP, Ma Q, Binshtok AM, Woolf CJ. Activity-dependent silencing reveals functionally distinct itch-generating sensory neurons. Nat Neurosci. 2013 Jul; 16(7):910-8.
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Lou S, Duan B, Vong L, Lowell BB, Ma Q. Runx1 controls terminal morphology and mechanosensitivity of VGLUT3-expressing C-mechanoreceptors. J Neurosci. 2013 Jan 16; 33(3):870-82.
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Herriges JC, Yi L, Hines EA, Harvey JF, Xu G, Gray PA, Ma Q, Sun X. Genome-scale study of transcription factor expression in the branching mouse lung. Dev Dyn. 2012 Sep; 241(9):1432-53.
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Lopes C, Liu Z, Xu Y, Ma Q. Tlx3 and Runx1 act in combination to coordinate the development of a cohort of nociceptors, thermoceptors, and pruriceptors. J Neurosci. 2012 Jul 11; 32(28):9706-15.
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Liu T, Berta T, Xu ZZ, Park CK, Zhang L, Lü N, Liu Q, Liu Y, Gao YJ, Liu YC, Ma Q, Dong X, Ji RR. TLR3 deficiency impairs spinal cord synaptic transmission, central sensitization, and pruritus in mice. J Clin Invest. 2012 Jun; 122(6):2195-207.
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Yu J, Valerius MT, Duah M, Staser K, Hansard JK, Guo JJ, McMahon J, Vaughan J, Faria D, Georgas K, Rumballe B, Ren Q, Krautzberger AM, Junker JP, Thiagarajan RD, Machanick P, Gray PA, van Oudenaarden A, Rowitch DH, Stiles CD, Ma Q, Grimmond SM, Bailey TL, Little MH, McMahon AP. Identification of molecular compartments and genetic circuitry in the developing mammalian kidney. Development. 2012 May; 139(10):1863-73.
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Ma Q. Population coding of somatic sensations. Neurosci Bull. 2012 Apr; 28(2):91-9.
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Mar L, Yang FC, Ma Q. Genetic marking and characterization of Tac2-expressing neurons in the central and peripheral nervous system. Mol Brain. 2012 Jan 24; 5:3.
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Wang T, Molliver DC, Jing X, Schwartz ES, Yang FC, Samad OA, Ma Q, Davis BM. Phenotypic switching of nonpeptidergic cutaneous sensory neurons following peripheral nerve injury. PLoS One. 2011; 6(12):e28908.
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Liu Y, Abdel Samad O, Zhang L, Duan B, Tong Q, Lopes C, Ji RR, Lowell BB, Ma Q. VGLUT2-dependent glutamate release from nociceptors is required to sense pain and suppress itch. Neuron. 2010 Nov 04; 68(3):543-56.
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Ma Q. Labeled lines meet and talk: population coding of somatic sensations. J Clin Invest. 2010 Nov; 120(11):3773-8.
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Liu Y, Ma Q. Generation of somatic sensory neuron diversity and implications on sensory coding. Curr Opin Neurobiol. 2011 Feb; 21(1):52-60.
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Abdel Samad O, Liu Y, Yang FC, Kramer I, Arber S, Ma Q. Characterization of two Runx1-dependent nociceptor differentiation programs necessary for inflammatory versus neuropathic pain. Mol Pain. 2010 Jul 30; 6:45.
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Ross SE, Mardinly AR, McCord AE, Zurawski J, Cohen S, Jung C, Hu L, Mok SI, Shah A, Savner EM, Tolias C, Corfas R, Chen S, Inquimbert P, Xu Y, McInnes RR, Rice FL, Corfas G, Ma Q, Woolf CJ, Greenberg ME. Loss of inhibitory interneurons in the dorsal spinal cord and elevated itch in Bhlhb5 mutant mice. Neuron. 2010 Mar 25; 65(6):886-98.
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Ma Q. RETouching upon mechanoreceptors. Neuron. 2009 Dec 24; 64(6):773-6.
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Fu H, Cai J, Clevers H, Fast E, Gray S, Greenberg R, Jain MK, Ma Q, Qiu M, Rowitch DH, Taylor CM, Stiles CD. A genome-wide screen for spatially restricted expression patterns identifies transcription factors that regulate glial development. J Neurosci. 2009 Sep 09; 29(36):11399-408.
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Gao YJ, Zhang L, Samad OA, Suter MR, Yasuhiko K, Xu ZZ, Park JY, Lind AL, Ma Q, Ji RR. JNK-induced MCP-1 production in spinal cord astrocytes contributes to central sensitization and neuropathic pain. J Neurosci. 2009 Apr 01; 29(13):4096-108.
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Schüller U, Heine VM, Mao J, Kho AT, Dillon AK, Han YG, Huillard E, Sun T, Ligon AH, Qian Y, Ma Q, Alvarez-Buylla A, McMahon AP, Rowitch DH, Ligon KL. Acquisition of granule neuron precursor identity is a critical determinant of progenitor cell competence to form Shh-induced medulloblastoma. Cancer Cell. 2008 Aug 12; 14(2):123-34.
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Ma YC, Song MR, Park JP, Henry Ho HY, Hu L, Kurtev MV, Zieg J, Ma Q, Pfaff SL, Greenberg ME. Regulation of motor neuron specification by phosphorylation of neurogenin 2. Neuron. 2008 Apr 10; 58(1):65-77.
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Xu Y, Lopes C, Qian Y, Liu Y, Cheng L, Goulding M, Turner EE, Lima D, Ma Q. Tlx1 and Tlx3 coordinate specification of dorsal horn pain-modulatory peptidergic neurons. J Neurosci. 2008 Apr 09; 28(15):4037-46.
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Liu Y, Yang FC, Okuda T, Dong X, Zylka MJ, Chen CL, Anderson DJ, Kuner R, Ma Q. Mechanisms of compartmentalized expression of Mrg class G-protein-coupled sensory receptors. J Neurosci. 2008 Jan 02; 28(1):125-32.
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Woolf CJ, Ma Q. Nociceptors--noxious stimulus detectors. Neuron. 2007 Aug 02; 55(3):353-64.
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Schüller U, Kho AT, Zhao Q, Ma Q, Rowitch DH. Cerebellar 'transcriptome' reveals cell-type and stage-specific expression during postnatal development and tumorigenesis. Mol Cell Neurosci. 2006 Nov; 33(3):247-59.
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Ma Q. Transcriptional regulation of neuronal phenotype in mammals. J Physiol. 2006 Sep 01; 575(Pt 2):379-87.
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Chen CL, Broom DC, Liu Y, de Nooij JC, Li Z, Cen C, Samad OA, Jessell TM, Woolf CJ, Ma Q. Runx1 determines nociceptive sensory neuron phenotype and is required for thermal and neuropathic pain. Neuron. 2006 Feb 02; 49(3):365-77.
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Cheng L, Samad OA, Xu Y, Mizuguchi R, Luo P, Shirasawa S, Goulding M, Ma Q. Lbx1 and Tlx3 are opposing switches in determining GABAergic versus glutamatergic transmitter phenotypes. Nat Neurosci. 2005 Nov; 8(11):1510-5.
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Gray PA, Fu H, Luo P, Zhao Q, Yu J, Ferrari A, Tenzen T, Yuk DI, Tsung EF, Cai Z, Alberta JA, Cheng LP, Liu Y, Stenman JM, Valerius MT, Billings N, Kim HA, Greenberg ME, McMahon AP, Rowitch DH, Stiles CD, Ma Q. Mouse brain organization revealed through direct genome-scale TF expression analysis. Science. 2004 Dec 24; 306(5705):2255-7.
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Cheng L, Arata A, Mizuguchi R, Qian Y, Karunaratne A, Gray PA, Arata S, Shirasawa S, Bouchard M, Luo P, Chen CL, Busslinger M, Goulding M, Onimaru H, Ma Q. Tlx3 and Tlx1 are post-mitotic selector genes determining glutamatergic over GABAergic cell fates. Nat Neurosci. 2004 May; 7(5):510-7.
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Cheng L, Chen CL, Luo P, Tan M, Qiu M, Johnson R, Ma Q. Lmx1b, Pet-1, and Nkx2.2 coordinately specify serotonergic neurotransmitter phenotype. J Neurosci. 2003 Nov 05; 23(31):9961-7.
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Qian Y, Shirasawa S, Chen CL, Cheng L, Ma Q. Proper development of relay somatic sensory neurons and D2/D4 interneurons requires homeobox genes Rnx/Tlx-3 and Tlx-1. Genes Dev. 2002 May 15; 16(10):1220-33.
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Research Departments:

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