Hong, Weizhe


Assistant Professor, Biological Chemistry


Member, Bioinformatics GPB Home Area

Gene Regulation GPB Home Area

Molecular, Cellular & Integrative Physiology GPB Home Area

Neuroscience GPB Home Area

Contact Information



The Hong Lab employs a multidisciplinary approach to identify the molecular and neural circuit mechanisms underlying normal social behaviors as well as their dysregulations in neuropsychiatric disorders. Social behaviors are essential for the survival and reproduction of animals. The control of social behavior is of particular importance in social species such as humans. Abnormalities in social behaviors are associated with several neuropsychiatric disorders, such as autism spectrum disorders and schizophrenia.  Despite its importance, many fundamental questions regarding social behavior and its disorders still remain unanswered. We aim to understand how social behavior is regulated at the molecular and circuit level and how social behavior and social experience lead to molecular and circuit level changes in the brain.

We study these questions across molecular, circuit, and behavioral levels, by linking genes to circuits to behaviors. To do that, we take a multi-disciplinary approach and utilize a variety of experimental and computational technologies, including but not limited to optogenetics/chemogenetics, in vivo/vitro calcium imaging and electrophysiology, various genetic and molecular biology techniques, systems approaches such as next-generation sequencing and bioinformatics, and engineering and computational approaches such as machine learning and computer vision.

Research Interests

Neural circuit mechanism of social behavior

Social behaviors are exhibited by a wide range of animal species and are of ubiquitous adaptive value; many social behaviors, such as aggression, pair bonding, and mating, are essential for the health, survival, and reproduction of animals. The control of social behavior is of vital importance in social species such as humans; impairment in social function is a prominent feature of several neuropsychiatric disorders, such as autism and schizophrenia. However, despite its importance, many fundamental questions regarding the neural mechanisms underlying social behavior and its disorders still remain unanswered. One central question is how neural circuits, important computing units in the brain, process and integrate information for the decision and execution of specific social behaviors.  To address this question, the Hong lab applies a multidisciplinary approach to investigating social behavior, using techniques including but not limited to:

  • Single-cell RNA-seq and bioinformatics  to comprehensively identify and characterize diverse neuronal cell types in social behavior circuits and their molecular profiles with single-cell resolution.
  • Optogenetics and chemogenetics  to manipulate neuronal circuit activities in different neuronal subtypes in different social behaviors, to determine their causal roles, and to map their functional connections.
  • Fiber photometry, miniscope imaging, and neural computation  to map neural network activities during social behaviors and to uncover the encoding of sensory processing and behavioral decisions in neuronal ensembles.
  • Advanced engineering technology and machine learning  to make the analysis of social behaviors more efficient, objective, quantitative, and ethologically relevant.


A selected list of publications:

Chen P, Hong W^   Neural Circuit Mechanisms of Social Behavior Neuron, 2018; 98(1): 16-30.
Wu YE, Pan L, Zuo Y, Li X, Hong W^   Detecting Activated Cell Populations Using Single-Cell RNA-Seq Neuron, 2017; 96(2): 313-329.e6.
Hong W^, Kennedy A, Burgos-Artizzu XP, Zelikowsky M, Navonne SG, Perona P^, Anderson DJ^   Automated measurement of mouse social behaviors using depth sensing, video tracking, and machine learning Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA, 2015; 112(38): E5351-60.
Pearce MM, Spartz EJ, Hong W, Luo L, Kopito RR   Prion-like transmission of neuronal huntingtin aggregates to phagocytic glia in the Drosophila brain Nature communications, 2015; 6(38): 6768.
Hong W^, Luo L   Genetic control of wiring specificity in the fly olfactory system Genetics, 2014; 196(1): 17-29.
Hong W^   Science & SciLifeLab Prize. Assembly of a neural circuit Science, 2013; 342(6163): 1186.
Hong W*, Wu YE*, Fu X, Chang Z   Chaperone-dependent mechanisms for acid resistance in enteric bacteria Trends in microbiology, 2012; 20(7): 328-35.
Hong W, Mosca TJ, Luo L   Teneurins instruct synaptic partner matching in an olfactory map Nature, 2012; 484(7393): 201-7.
Mosca TJ*, Hong W*, Dani VS, Favaloro V, Luo L   Trans-synaptic Teneurin signalling in neuromuscular synapse organization and target choice Nature, 2012; 484(7393): 237-41.
de Wit J*, Hong W*, Luo L, Ghosh A   Role of leucine-rich repeat proteins in the development and function of neural circuits Annual review of cell and developmental biology, 2011; 27(7393): 697-729.
Hong W, Luo L   Dendritic tiling through TOR signalling The EMBO journal, 2009; 28(24): 3783-4.
Hong W, Zhu H, Potter CJ, Barsh G, Kuruzu M, Zinn K, Luo L   Leucine-rich repeat transmembrane proteins instruct discrete dendrite targeting in an olfactory map Nature Neuroscience, 2009; 12(12): 1542-50.
Wu YE*, Hong W*, Zhang L, Liu C, Chang Z   Conserved amphiphilic feature is essential for periplasmic chaperone HdeA to support acid resistance in enteric bacteria The Biochemical journal, 2008; 412(2): 389-97.
Jiao W, Hong W, Li P, Sun S, Ma J, Qian M, Hu M, Chang Z   The dramatically increased chaperone activity of small heat-shock protein IbpB is retained for an extended period of time after the stress condition is removed The Biochemical journal, 2008; 410(1): 63-70.
Hong W, Jiao W, Hu J, Zhang J, Liu C, Fu X, Shen D, Xia B, Chang Z   Periplasmic protein HdeA exhibits chaperone-like activity exclusively within stomach pH range by transforming into disordered conformation Journal of Biological Chemistry, 2005; 280(29): 27029-34.
Liu Y, Fu X, Shen J, Zhang H, Hong W, Chang Z   Periplasmic proteins of Escherichia coli are highly resistant to aggregation: reappraisal for roles of molecular chaperones in periplasm Biochemical and biophysical research communications, 2004; 316(3): 795-801.