Yao Yao, MS, PhD

Department of Pharmacy Practice and Pharmaceutical Sciences

Yao Yao

Contact Info


Office Phone 218-726-6082

Office Address:
117 Life Science, Duluth

Mailing Address:
University of Minnesota
College of Pharmacy, Duluth
Department of Pharmacy Practice and Pharmaceutical Sciences
232 Life Science
1110 Kirby Drive
Duluth, MN 55812-3003

Administrative Assistant Name
Julie Smith

Administrative Phone

Administrative Email

PhD, Molecular and Cellular Pharmacology, Stony Brook University

Master of Pharmacology, Sichuan University

Bachelor of Pharmacy, Sichuan University


Dr. Yao's expertise lies in the fields of neurobiology, stroke, neuropharmacology, and stem cell biology. Specifically, Dr. Yao has been studying: (1) how the Blood Brain Barrier integrity is regulated at the cellular and molecular levels in both physiological and pathological conditions; (2) the roles of laminin (a major component of the basement membrane) and pericytes (perivascular multi-potent cells) in muscle development and regeneration after injury, and (3) laminin/pericyte-based therapies in neurological disorders and muscular dystrophy.

Awards & Recognition

  • Gordon Research Conference Travel Award, 2015
  • MDF Travel Awards for IDMC-10 and MDF Annual Meeting, 2015
  • Fund-A-Fellow Postdoctoral Fellowship from MDF, 2014
  • MDF Travel Award for MDF Annual Meeting, 2014
  • Certificate of Excellence in Reviewing for Neurobiol Dis., 2013
  • Merck Postdoctoral Fellowship, 2012
  • BD Bioscience Stem Cell Grant, 2012
  • Sigma Xi Travel Award, 2010
  • Gordon Research Conference Travel Grant, 2010
  • BioLegend Young Investigator Travel Award, 2010
  • Sigma Xi Grant-in-Aid of Research, 2009


Research Summary/Interests

Research Interests

  • Blood Brain Barrier
  • Laminin Biology
  • Pericyte Biology
  • Stem Cell Biology
  • Muscle Development/ Regeneration
  • Ischemic Stroke
  • Hemorrhagic Stroke
  • Neurodegeneration

Research Projects

Dr. Yao's lab is working on two major projects: the Blood Brain Barrier (BBB) Project and the Muscle Project.

1. Blood Brain Barrier Project
The BBB is a dynamic structure that maintains the homeostasis of the CNS. It is composed of the cellular components (brain microvascular endothelial cells, pericytes, astrocytes, et al) and non-cellular component (basement membrane). Dr. Yao's group is studying how laminin, a major component of the basement membrane, regulates the integrity of BBB by using various (endothelia-, pericyte-, and astrocyte-specific) conditional laminin knockout mouse-lines.

2. Muscle Project
Recent studies showed that pericytes are able to undergo myogenesis and contribute to muscle regeneration. Pericytes, on the other hand, can also differentiate into adipocytes leading to muscle degeneration. How pericyte differentiation and fate determination are regulated, however, remains elusive. Dr. Yao found that laminin is a key regulator in these processes. Following studies will focus on determining the underlying molecular mechanisms and exploring the therapeutic potential of exogenous laminin in various muscle disorders, including muscular dystrophy.


  • Yao Yao, Stella E Tsirka. The C-terminus of mouse monocyte chemoattractant protein 1 (MCP1) mediates MCP1 dimerization while blocking its chemotactic potency. Journal of Biological Chemistry 2010, 285(41): 31509-31516. 
  • Yao Yao, Stella E Tsirka. Truncation of monocyte chemoattractant protein 1 by plasmin promotes blood-brain barrier disruption. Journal of Cell Science 2011, 124 (Pt 9): 1486-1495. 
  • Yao Yao, Stella E Tsirka. Mouse MCP1 C-terminus inhibits human MCP1-induced chemotaxis and BBB compromise. Journal of Neurochemistry 2011, 118 (2): 215-223. 
  • Yao Yao, Stella E Tsirka. The CCL2-CCR2 system affects the progression and clearance of intracerebral hemorrhage. Glia 2012, 60 (6): 908-918. 
  • Yao Yao, Stella E Tsirka. Chemokines and Their Receptors in Intracerebral Hemorrhage. Translational Stroke Research 2012, 3 (suppl. 1): 70-79.
  • Zu-Lin Chen, Yao Yao, Erin H. Norris, Anna Kruyer, Odella Jno-Charles, Akbarshakh Akhmerov, and Sidney Strickland. Ablation of astrocytic laminin leads to hemorrhagic stroke and impairs vascular smooth muscle cell differentiation. Journal of Cell Biology 2013, 202(2): 381-395.
  • Yao Yao, Stella E Tsirka. Monocyte Chemoattractant Protein-1 and Blood-Brain Barrier. Cellular and Molecular Life Science 2014, 71(4): 683-697. 
  • Yao Yao, Zu-Lin Chen, Erin H. Norris, and Sidney Strickland. Astrocytic laminin regulates blood-brain barrier integrity and pericyte differentiation. Nature Communications 2014, 5: 3413. 
  • Yarong He#, Yao Yao#, Stella E. Tsirka, Yu Cao. Cell-Culture Models of the Blood-Brain Barrier. Stroke 2014, 45(8): 2514-2526. (#These authors contributed equally to this work)
  • Yao Yao, Stella E Tsirka. Mouse Monocyte Chemoattractant Protein 1 (MCP1) Functions as a Monomer. The International Journal of Biochemistry & Cell Biology 2014, 55C: 51-59. 
  • Yao Yao, Erin H. Norris, Sidney Strickland. The cellular origin of laminin determines its role in blood pressure regulation. Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences 2015, 72: 999-1008.
  • Yao Yao, Erin H. Norris, Christopher Mason, and Sidney Strickland. Laminin regulates PDGFR?+ cell stemness and muscle development. Nature Communications 2016, 7: 11415.
  • Young Cheul Chung, Anna Kruyer, Yao Yao, Emily Feierman, Allison Richards, Sidney Strickland, Erin H. Norris. Hyperhomocysteinemia exacerbates Alzheimer’s disease pathology by way of the A?-fibrinogen interaction. Journal of Thrombosis and Haemostasis 2016, 14: 1-11.
  • Yao Yao. Laminin: loss-of-function studies. Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences 2016, 1095-1115.
  • Jyoti Gautam, Xuanming Zhang, and Yao Yao. The role of pericytic laminin in blood brain barrier integrity maintenance. Scientific Reports 2016, 6: 36450.
  • Jyoti Gautam, Abhijit Nirwane, and Yao Yao. Laminin differentially regulates the stemness of type I and type II pericytes. Stem Cell Research & Therapy 2017, 8: 28.
  • Abhijit Nirwane, Jyoti Gautam, and Yao Yao*. Isolation of type I and type II pericytes from mouse skeletal muscles. Journal of Visualized Experiments (JoVE) 2017, In press.

Book Chapters

  • Yao Yao and Stella E. Tsirka (2014). Recovery from ICH – Potential Targets, Intracerebral Hemorrhage, Dr. Vikas Chaudhary (Ed.), ISBN: 978-953-51-1722-3, InTech, DOI: 10.5772/58477.