Xianrui Cheng

Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences
Xianrui Cheng
Pronouns He / Him / His Email xianruic@usc.edu Office Phone (213) 740-5189


  • Ph.D. Computational Biology and Bioinformatics, Duke University, 2012
    • Basic life research scientist, Stanford University, 2019-2020
    • Postdoc, Stanford University, 2013-2019
  • Summary Statement of Research Interests

    The spatial organization of the cytoplasm is linked to the identity and physiological function of the cell. Dysregulation of this organization, especially that of the microtubule cytoskeleton and endoplasmic reticulum network, is linked to neurological diseases, developmental disorders and cancer. Therefore, understanding how cytoplasmic organization arises and how it is linked to cell function is of fundamental importance to improving human health.

    We are using frog egg extracts, a model system that recapitulates de novo generation of cytoplasmic spatial architecture in vitro, to dissect the underlying molecular mechanisms. With a better understanding of these mechanisms, we seek to elucidate the design logic of natural cellular systems and use that to guide the engineering of novel synthetic biological systems.

    Research Keywords

    Systems biology, Cell biology, Biochemistry, Biophysics, Self-organization of the cytoplasm, Physics of living systems, Biological signaling, Developmental biology, Origin of life

    • (Fall 2023) BISC 502A. Molecular Genetics and Biochemistry, MW 02:00pm – 03:50pm, RRI301
    • (Spring 2024) BISC 372. Cell Biology, MW 09:30am – 10:50am,
    • (Spring 2024) BISC 544. Advanced Reading in Molecular Biology, – , OFFICE
  • Journal Article

    • Huang, W. Y., Cheng, X., Ferrell, J. E. (2022). Cytoplasmic organization promotes protein diffusion in Xenopus extracts. Nature Communications. Vol. 13, pp. 5599. PubMed Web Address [Link]
    • Cheng, X., Ferrell, J. E. (2021). Xenopus laevis egg extract preparation and live imaging methods for visualizing dynamic cytoplasmic organization. Journal of Visualized Experiments. Vol. 172, e61923. PubMed Web Address [Link]
    • Cheng, X., Ferrell, J. E. (2019). Spontaneous emergence of cell-like organization in Xenopus egg extracts. Science. Vol. 366 (6465), pp. 631-637. PubMed Web Address [Link]
    • Cheng, X., Ferrell, J. E. (2018). Apoptosis propagates through the cytoplasm as trigger waves. Science. Vol. 361 (6402), pp. 607-612. PubMed Web Address [Link]
    • Cheng, X., Lyons, D. C., Socolar, J. E., McClay, D. R. (2014). Delayed transition to new cell fates during cellular reprogramming. Developmental Biology. Vol. 391 (2), pp. 147-157. PubMed Web Address [Link]
    • Cheng, X., Sun, M., Socolar, J. E. (2013). Autonomous Boolean modelling of developmental gene regulatory networks. Journal of The Royal Society Interface. Vol. 10 (78) PubMed Web Address [Link]