Dao-Qi Zhang

Assistant Professor of Biomedical Sciences
423 Dodge Hall of Engineering
(248) 370-2399


Dr. Dao-Qi Zhang received his Ph.D. in neurobiology from the Institute of Physiology, Chinese Academy of Sciences in 1997. He completed his post-doctoral training within the Department of Physiology at University of Kentucky. Before he joined the Eye Research Institute in 2010, he served as Research Assistant Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Vanderbilt University. Dr. Zhang has received a fellowship from the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology and Alcon Laboratories, as well as research awards from the National Eye Institute and Midwest Eye-Banks. 


Dr. Zhang’s research focuses on understanding the regulation of dopamine release in the vertebrate retina, a simple and accessible model of the CNS. Retinal dopamine acts as a neurotransmitter and plays vital roles in modulating retinal circuits, synchronizing the retinal clock, and influencing eye growth. As a result, dopamine deficiency in neurodegenerative diseases such as diabetic retinopathy, retinitis pigmentosa, and Parkinson’s disease leads to a number of visual defects effecting the spatial and temporal vision, as well as absolute visual sensitivity. However, the mechanisms responsible for regulating dopamine release are not well understood. The broad objective of Dr. Zhang’s laboratory is to determine how retinal dopaminergic neuron activity is regulated by environmental light and the biological circadian clock, and how it is altered by retinal degeneration. With further understanding of these mechanisms, we will be able to better comprehend the underlying problems of these diseases and develop effective treatment for them. Dr. Zhang’s laboratory utilizes a multidisciplinary approach that includes molecular, pharmacological, biochemical, optical imaging, and electrophysiological techniques.

Select Publications

Yu J., Wang L., Weng S.J., Yang X.L., Zhang D.Q.* and Zhong Y.M.* (2013) Hyperactivity of ON-type retinal ganglion cells in streptozotocin-induced diabetic mice. PloS One 8(9)e76049. (*co-corresponding authors).

Atkinson C.L., Feng J. and Zhang D.Q. (2013) Functional integrity and modification of retinal dopaminergic neurons in the rd1 mutant mouse: the roles of melanopsin and GABA. Journal of Neurophysiology 109:1589-99.

Zhang D.Q.*, Belenky, M.A., Sollars P.J., Pickard G.E. and McMahon D.G.* (2012) Melanopsin mediates retrograde visual signaling in the retina. PloS One 7(8):e42647 (*co-corresponding authors).

Sun Z.Y., Risner M.L., van Asselt J.B., Zhang D.Q., Kamermans M. and McMahon D.G. (2012) Physiological and molecular characterization of connexin hemichannels in zebrafish retinal horizontal cells.  Journal of Neurophysiology 107:2624-2632.  

Sun Z.Y., Zhang D.Q. and McMahon D.G. (2009) Zinc modulation of hemi-gap-junction channel currents in retinal horizontal cells. Journal of Neurophysiology 101:1774-1780.

Zhang, D.Q., Wong, K.Y., Sollars, P.J., Berson, D.M., Pickard, G.P. and McMahon, D.G. (2008) Intra-retinal signaling by ganglion cell photoreceptors to dopaminergic amacrine neurons. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, USA,105:14181-14186.

Zhang, D.Q., Zhou, T.R. and McMahon, D.G. (2007) Functional heterogeneity of retinal dopaminergic neurons underlying their multiple roles in vision. Journal of Neuroscience, 27:692-699.

Ruan, G.X., Zhang D.Q., Zhou, T.R., Yamazaki, S. and McMahon, D.G. (2006) Circadian organization of the mammalian retina. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, USA, 103:9703-9708.

Witkovsky, P., Veisenberger, E., LeSauter, J., Yan L., Johnson, M., Zhang, D.Q., McMahon D.G. and Silver, R. (2003) Cellular location and circadian rhythm of expression of the biological clock gene Period 1 in the mouse retina. Journal of Neuroscience, 23:7670-7676.

Zhang, D.Q., Ribelayga, C, Mangel, S.C. and McMahon, D.G. (2002) Suppression by zinc of AMPA receptors mediated synaptic transmission in the retina. Journal of Neurophysiology, 88:1245-1251.

Zhang, D.Q. and McMahon, D.G. (2000) Direct gating by retinoic acid of retinal electrical synapses. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, USA, 97:14754-14759.