Lin Tian

image of Lin Tian



Biochemistry and Molecular Medicine

Offices and Labs

2700 Stockton Blvd, Sacramento, CA


2007 Ph.D. Northwestern University

Research Contribution

A major contribution of my research has been the development and application of new genetically encoded indicators of neural activity to enable large-scale recording of neural activity in living behaving animals. My lab is currently focusing on development of intensity based neurotransmitter sensors to enable multiplex imaging of synaptic activity with sub-cellular resolution.

Research Interests

Optical Neurophysiology, Biosensor Engineering, Neural circuitry mapping

My lab develops new optical tools for multiplex, large-scale recording of neural activity and employs these tools to study the brain mechanisms over the control of behaviors in health and disease. We stand at the interface of neuroscience, protein engineering, optics, iPSC technology and computational modeling. To make a long-lasting impact in the field, we also distribute these tools, in the format of collaborations, to other neuroscientists and cell biologists who apply them to tackle challenging questions that are difficult to be addressed with currently available methods. Current projects include: development of fluorescent indicators for monitoring all kinds of neural activity, including neurotransmitters and neuromodulators, ion channels and GPCRs; development of optical probes for deep-brain imaging; development of microsensing systems for astrocyte-neuron interaction in human iPSC stem cell models of neurological disorders.


NIH Director’s Innovator Award
The Rita Allen Young Scholar
Individual Biomedical Research Award, The Hartwell Foundation
Young Investigator Award, Human Frontier Science Program

Department and Center Affiliations

Center for Neuroscience


Society of Neuroscience
Frontier in Cellular Neuroscience

CBS Grad Group Affiliations

Biochemistry, Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology
Molecular, Cellular, and Integrative Physiology

Specialties / Focus

Biochemistry, Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology
  • Molecular Medicine
  • Biochemistry
  • Neurobiology
  • Structural Biology
  • Stem Cell Biology
Molecular, Cellular, and Integrative Physiology
  • Cellular Physiology
  • Molecular Physiology
  • Neurophysiology
  • Developmental Physiology
  • Integrative


  • Y. Gao, G. Broussard, A. Haque, A. Revzin, and L. Tian, "Functional imaging of neuron-astrocyte interactions in a compartmentalized microfluidic device," Nature: Microsystems & Nanoengineering 2, (2016).

    Y. Wang, G. Shi, D. J. Miller, G. Broussard, L. Tian*, and G. Yu*, "FASP: A machine learning approach to functional astrocyte phenotyping from time-lapse calcium imaging data," IEEE 13th International Symposium on Biomedical Imaging (ISBI), 351-354 (2016). *equal contribution

    Y. Zhi, G. Shi, D. J. Miller, G. Broussard, L. Tian*, and G. Yu, "Graphical Time Warping for Joint Alighment of Multiple Curves", paper 1815, Neural Information Processing Systems, 2016

    R. Liang, G. Broussard, and L. Tian, "Imaging chemical neurotransmission with genetically encoded fluorescent sensors," ACS chemical neuroscience 6, 84-93 (2015).

    L. Qin, M. Fan, D. Candas, G. Jiang, S. Papadopoulos, L. Tian, G. Woloschak, D. J. Grdina, and J. J. Li, "CDK1 enhances mitochondrial bioenergetics for radiation-induced DNA repair," Cell reports 13, 2056-2063 (2015).

    G. Broussard, R. Liang, & L. Tian, "Monitoring activity in neural circuits with genetically encoded indicators," Frontiers in molecular neuroscience 7, 97 (2014).

    J. Macklin, J. Akerboom, E. R. Schreiter, L. Tian, R. Patel, V. Iyer, B. Karsh, J. Colonell, and T. D. Harris, "Two Photon Photophysics of Fluorescent Protein Calcium Indicators," Biophysical Journal 104, 682a (2013).

    J. Akerboom, N. Carreras Calderon, L. Tian et al, "Genetically encoded calcium indicators for multi-color neural activity imaging and combination with optogenetics," Frontiers in molecular neuroscience 6, 2 (2013).

    J. Marvin, B. G. Borghuis, L. Tian et al. "An optimized fluorescent probe for visualizing glutamate neurotransmission," Nature methods 10, 162-170 (2013).

    L. Tian, Y. Yang, L. M. Wysocki, A. C. Arnold, A. Hu, B. Ravichandran, S. M. Sternson, L. L. Looger, and L. D. Lavis, "Selective esterase-ester pair for targeting small molecules with cellular specificity", Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 109, 4756-4761 (2012).

     J. Akerboom, T.-W. Chen, T. J. Wardill, L. Tian et al. Optimization of a GCaMP calcium indicator for neural activity imaging. The Journal of neuroscience 32, 13819-13840 (2012).

    D. C. Huber, D. A. Gutnisky, S. Peron, D. H. O‚ Connor, J. S. Wiegert, L. Tian, T. G. Oertner, L. L. Looger, and K. Svoboda,  "Multiple dynamic representations in the motor cortex during sensorimotor learning," Nature 484, 473-478 (2012).

    L. Tian, S.A. Hires, & L.L. Looger, "Imaging neuronal activity with genetically encoded calcium indicators," Cold Spring Harbor Protocols (2012)

    J. Akerboom, L. Tian, J.  Marvin, & L.L. Looger,  "Engineering and application of genetically encoded calcium indicators," Genetically Encoded Functional Indicators 125-147 (2012).

    L. Petreanu, D. A. Gutnisky, D. Huber, N.-l. Xu, D. H. O‚ Connor, L. Tian, L. L. Looger, and K. Svoboda, "Activity in motor-sensory projections reveals distributed coding in somatosensation," Nature 489, 299-303 (2012).

    H.A. Zariwala, B. G. Borghuis, T. M. Hoogland, L. Madisen, L. Tian, C. I. De Zeeuw, H. Zeng, L. L. Looger, K. Svoboda, and T.-W. Chen, "A Cre-dependent GCaMP3 reporter mouse for neuronal imaging in vivo," The Journal of Neuroscience 32, 3131-3141 (2012).

    B.G. Borghuis, L. Tian, Y. Xu, S. S. Nikonov, N. Vardi, B. V. Zemelman, and L. L. Looger, "Imaging light responses of targeted neuron populations in the rodent retina," The Journal of Neuroscience 31, 2855-2867 (2011).

    T. Knopfel, M. Z. Lin, A. Levskaya, L. Tian, J. Y. Lin, and E. S. Boyden, "Toward the second generation of optogenetic tools," The Journal of Neuroscience 30, 14998-15004 (2010).

    D. A. Dombeck, C. D. Harvey, L. Tian, L. Looger, & D. W. Tank, "Functional imaging of hippocampal place cells at cellular resolution during virtual navigation," Nature neuroscience 13, 1433-1440 (2010).

    L. Tian, S. A. Hires, T. Mao, D. Huber, M. E. Chiappe, S. H. Chalasani, L. Petreanu, J. Akerboom, S. A. McKinney, E. R. Schreiter, C. I. Bargmann, V. Jayaraman, K. Svoboda, L. Looger,  "Imaging neural activity in worms, flies and mice with improved GCaMP calcium indicators," Nature methods 6, 875-881 (2009).

    J. Akerboom, J. D. V. Rivera, M. M. R. Guilbe, L. Tian, S. A. Hires, J. S. Marvin, L. L. Looger, and E. R. Schreiter, "Crystal structures of the GCaMP calcium sensor reveal the mechanism of fluorescence signal change and aid rational design," Journal of biological chemistry 284, 6455-6464 (2009).

    S. A. Hires, L. Tian, & L. L. Looger, "Reporting neural activity with genetically  encoded calcium indicators," Brain cell biology 36, 69-86 (2008).

    L. Tian, & L. L. Looger, "Genetically encoded fluorescent sensors for studying healthy and diseased nervous systems," Drug Discovery Today: Disease Models 5, 27-35 (2008).

    L. Tian, & Matouschek, A., "Where to start and when to stop," Nature structural & molecular biology 13, 668-670 (2006).

    L. Tian, R. A. Holmgren, & A. Matouschek, "A conserved processing mechanism regulates the activity of transcription factors Cubitus interruptus and NF-kB," Nature structural & molecular biology 12, 1045-1053 (2005).

    A. Matouschek, S. Prakash, L. Tian, & Mensah, K., "Protein unfolding by the proteasome," FASEB JOURNAL 18(8), C308-C308 (2004).

    S. Prakash, L. Tian, L., K. S. Ratliff, R. E. Lehotzky, & A. Matouschek, "An unstructured initiation site is required for efficient proteasome-mediated degradation," Nature structural & molecular biology 11, 830-837 (2004).

    Q. Wang, L. Tian, Y. Huang, Q. Song, L. He, J. N. Zhou, "Olfactory identification and apolipoprotein E ε4 allele in mild cognitive impairment," Brain research 951, 77-81 (2002).