Dr. Xiuli Yang

Xiuli Yang, Research Assistant Professor

Pathogenesis of Lyme disease


2007 - 2012: Postdoctoral, Microbiology, Department of Veterinary Medicine, University of Maryland, College Park, MD, USA

2005: Ph.D. Immunology, Shanghai Medical School of Fudan University, Shanghai, China.

2002: MS Microbiology, Shanxi Medical University, China.

1997: M.D. Shanxi Medical University, China

Professional Experiences

2012 – present: Research Assistant Professor, Department of Veterinary Medicine, Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Maryland, College Park, MD, USA

2005 - 2006: Resident, Internal Medicine, Nephrology Department (patient care and treatment), Shanxi Province People’s Hospital, Shanxi, China

1997 - 1999: Resident, Internal Medicine, Gastroenterology Department (patient care and treatment), Coal and Electricity Incorporation Hospital, Shanxi, China

Research Interests

My research interest focuses on understanding the pathogenesis of Lyme disease, which is caused by the bacterial pathogen, Borrelia burgdorferi.  We seek to reveal the mechanisms by which the pathogen survives in hosts and causes the disease. We characterize several B. burgdorferi virulence determinants that support spirochete persistence in the host. We further investigated their functions in host-pathogen interactions and inflammatory responses. We have shown that spirochetes produce discrete surface proteins, such as Lmp1, that help pathogens to evade adaptive immunity and establish persistent infections, and that the protein processing by a periplasmic serine protease, termed as BbHtrA, is critical for microbial persistence.  We have demonstrated that a surface lipoprotein, BBA57, plays a role in spirochete evasion of the early innate immune response at the tick bite sites, by modulating multiple virulence determinants, cytokine induction, and neutrophil infiltration, and by acting as a trigger of Lyme arthritis in the later stages of infection.  In addition, we characterized the borrelial outer membrane, as this houses some of the most abundant outer surface proteins and is intimately involved in host-pathogen interactions, thereby supporting B. burgdorferi biology and infection.  Our results indicate that the spirochete outer membrane proteins interact with each other and form several stable protein complexes, although their biological significance remains enigmatic.  Our long-term goal is to use some of the basic information to contribute to the development of potential preventive or therapeutic strategies, such as the identification of novel vaccine candidates or anti-microbial therapeutic targets that may interfere with spirochete biology and infection.  

Representative Publications

Zhuang X, Yang X, Altieri AS, Nelson DC, Pal U. Borrelia burgdorferi surface-located Lmp1 protein processed into region-specific polypeptides that are critical for microbial persistence. Cell Microbiol. 20(9):e12855. 2018.

Bernard Q, Smith AA, Yang X, Koci J, Foor SD, Cramer SD, Zhuang X, Dwyer JE, Lin YP, Mongodin EF, Marques A, Leong JM, Anguita J, Pal U. Plasticity in early immune evasion strategies of a bacterial pathogen.  Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 17;115(16): E3788-E3797. 2018.

Yang X, Lin Y, Heselpoth RD, Buyuktanir O, Qin J, Kung F, Nelson DN, Leong JM, and Pal U. Middle region of a Borrelia burgdorferi surface protein interacts with host chondroitin-6-sulfate and independently facilitates infection. Cell Microbiol. 18(1):97-110. 2016.

Smith AA, Navasa N, Yang X, Wilder CN, Buyuktanir O, Marques A, Anguita J, Pal U. Cross-Species Interferon Signaling Boosts Microbicidal Activity within the Tick Vector. Cell Host Microbe. 13; 20(1):91-8. 2016.

Yang X, Smith AA, Williams MS, and Pal U. A Dityrosine Network Mediated by Dual Oxidase and Peroxidase Influences the Persistence of Lyme Disease Pathogens within the Vector. J Biol Chem 289: 12813-22, 2014.

Yang X, Qin J, Promnares K, Kariu T, Anderson JF, and Pal U. Novel Microbial Virulence Factor Triggers Murine Lyme Arthritis. J Infect Dis 207: 907-18, 2013.

Yang X, Hegde S, Shroder DY, Smith AA, Promnares K, Neelakanta G, Anderson JF, Fikrig E, Pal U. The lipoprotein La7 contributes to Borrelia burgdorferi persistence in ticks and their transmission to naïve hosts. Microbes Infect. 14. S1286-4579(13)00115-9. 2013.

Yang X, Lenhart TR, Kariu T, Anguita J, Akins DR and Pal U. Characterization of unique regions in Borrelia burgdorferi surface-located membrane protein 1. Infect Immun 78(11): 4477-87, 2010.

Yang X, Coleman AS, Anguita J, Pal U.  A chromosomally encoded virulence factor protects the Lyme disease pathogen against host-adaptive immunity. PLoS Pathog. 5(3):e1000326. 2009.

Yang X, Izadi H, Coleman AS, Wang P, Ma Y, Fikrig E, Anguita J, Pal U.  Borrelia burgdorferi lipoprotein BmpA activates pro-inflammatory responses in human synovial cells through a protein moiety. Microbes Infect. 10(12-13):1300-8. 2008.