Murray & Xiao laboratory: Neurotrophin and myelin

  • Joint Heads of Laboratory

    Dr Simon Murray & Dr Junhua Xiao
    T: +61 3 8344 5813, +61 3 9035 9759 (JX)
    Location: E716, E641 (JX)

Research Overview

Myelin is the insulating sheath wrapping around many axons in both the peripheral (PNS) and central nervous system (CNS).  Schwann cells in the PNS and oligodendrocytes in the CNS produce myelin, which provides not only electrical insulation to axons, but also metabolic support to neurons.

Human demyelinating diseases, such as Multiple Sclerosis (MS), have a devastating impact on quality of life.   It is the failure of the nervous system to repair myelin after a demyelinating insult that leads to disease progression and increasing disability.   There is currently an incomplete understanding of the molecular and cellular events that initiate, promote and maintain the interactions between neurons and glial cells that are vital for myelination in both the PNS and CNS.  Our laboratory is particularly interested in the interactions between neurons and glial cells that are vital for myelination during development, and also myelin repair after injury.  We use a variety of molecular, cellular, biochemical, genetic and confocal imaging techniques, as well as behavioural analyses and animal models of demyelinating disease to investigate these events.

Simon Murray

Simon Murray is a Lecturer in the Department of Anatomy and Neuroscience, and jointly heads the Neurotrophin and Myelin Laboratory with Dr. Junhua Xiao.  Dr. Murray graduated as a Physiotherapist in 1992, worked for several years before returning to study and graduating with his PhD in 2000.  He spent 3 years as a post-doctoral fellow at the Skirball Institute at the New York School of Medicine, before returning to Australia to work at the Florey Neuroscience Institutes in the Multiple Sclerosis Research Division.  He moved his laboratory to the Centre for Neuroscience in 2005, and joined the Department of Anatomy and Neuroscience in 2010.  His scientific training is in the molecular and cellular biology of neurotrophin signalling, and is applying this to the analysis of myelination, and how neurotrophin-based strategies could be developed to promote remyelination in the context of demyelinating disease such as Multiple Sclerosis. Find an Expert

Junhua Xiao

Dr Junhua Xiao is a Lecturer in the Department of Anatomy and Neuroscience and jointly heads the Laboratory of Neurotrophin and Myelin with Dr. Simon Murray.   Dr. Xiao graduated with Bachelor of Medicine from Nanjing Medical University (China) in 2000, undertook postgraduate studies in the field of autonomic nervous system function at The University of Melbourne, and was awarded her Doctor of Philosophy in 2005.  She undertook her postdoctoral training investigating myelin biology at the Centre for Neuroscience.  In 2013, she joined the Department of Anatomy and Neuroscience as a Lecturer and established a laboratory focusing on the molecular mechanisms of myelin development and repair.  Dr Xiao has been the recipient of NH&MRC/MS Research Australia Betty Cuthbert Fellowship (2007), Society for Neuroscience (USA) Postdoctoral Chapter Travel Award (2009), Asia Pacific Society of Neuroscience Young Investigator Award (2010) and ARC Discovery Early Career Research award (2012).  Her research primarily focuses on understanding how myelination is orchestrated in health and how myelin repair is perturbed in diseases. Find an Expert. Email Junhua Xiao


David Gonsalves, NHMRC Early Career Postdoctoral Fellow
Dr Jessica Fletcher, MS Research Australia Postdoctoral Fellow
Rhiannon Wood, Research Assistant
Dustin Flanagan, Research Assistant
Haley Peckham, PhD Student
Alistair Cole, PhD Student
Fatemeh Daemi, PhD Student
David Homewood, 3rd year research student
Jacqueline Nguyen, 3rd year research student



A/Prof Tony Hughes, Department of Pharmacology, The University of Melbourne
Prof Trevor Kilpatrick, Department of Anatomy and Neuroscience, The University of Melbourne
Prof Erica Fletcher, Department of Anatomy and Neuroscience, The University of Melbourne
Dr Suzanne Hodgkinson, South Western Sydney Clinical School, University of NSW
A/Prof Matthias Klugmann, Translational Neuroscience Facility, University of NSW


Dr Ben Emery, Oregon Health& Science University (USA)
Prof Rashmi Bansal, University of Connecticut (USA)
Prof Fang Wu, Shanghai JiaoTong University (China)



NHMRC Project Grant: 'Novel strategies to promote myelin repair in the brain'
NHMRC Project Grant: 'Developing a new strategy for treating peripheral demyelinating neuropathy'
MS Research Australia Project Grant: 'Novel neurotrophin-based strategies to promote remyelination in the brain'


National Multiple Sclerosis Society (USA) Project Grant: 'BDNF signalling and its impact upon oligodendrocyte myelination in vivo'
ARC DECRA: 'The phosphorylation by transcription factors upon the myelinating process'
MS Research Australia Project Grant: 'Analysis of myelination'
NHMRC Project Grant: 'The role of BDNF in central nervous system myelination'
NHMRC Project Grant: 'Modulation of Neurotrophin Receptor signaling'

Research Publications

  1. Fyn is an intermediate kinase that BDNF utilizes to promote oligodendrocyte myelination. Peckham H, Giuffrida L, Wood R, Gonsalvez D, Ferner A, Kilpatrick TJ, Murray SS, Xiao J. Glia 2015; Oct 9. doi: 10:1002/glia.22927
  2. The roles of extracellular related-kinases 1 and 2 signaling in CNS myelination. Gonsalvez D, Ferner AH, Peckham H, Murray SS, Xiao J. Neuropharmacology 2015; May 8. pii: S0028-3908(15)00153-7. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropharm.2015.04.024
  3. TDP6, a brain-derived neurotrophic factor-based trkB peptide mimetic, promotes oligodendrocyte myelination. Wong AW, Giuffrida L, Wood R, Peckham H, Gonsalvez D, Murray SS, Hughes RA, Xiao J. Mol Cell Neurosci 2014; Nov 63:132-40.
  4. A small peptide mimetic of brain-derived neurotrophic factor promotes peripheral myelination. Xiao J, Hughes RA, Lim JY, Wong AW, Ivanusic JJ, Ferner AH, Kilpatrick TJ, Murray SS. J Neurochem 2013 May;125(3):386-98. doi: 10.1111/jnc.12168. Epub 2013 Feb 24.
  5. Oligodendroglial expression of TrkB independently regulates myelination and progenitor cell proliferation. Wong AW, Xiao J, Kemper D, Kilpatrick TJ, Murray SS. J Neurosci 2013 Mar 13;33(11):4947-57. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3990-12.2013.
  6. Extracellular signal-regulated kinase 1/2 signaling promotes oligodendrocyte myelination in vitro. Xiao J, Ferner AH, Wong AW, Denham M, Kilpatrick TJ, Murray SS. J Neurochem 2012 Sep;122(6):1167-80. doi: 10.1111/j.1471-4159.2012.07871.x. Epub 2012 Aug 3.
  7. Brain-derived neurotrophic factor promotes central nervous system myelination via a direct effect upon oligodendrocytes. Xiao J, Wong AW, Willingham MM, van den Buuse M, Kilpatrick TJ, Murray SS. Neurosignals 2010;18(3):186-202. doi: 10.1159/000323170. Epub 2011 Jan 18.
  8. BDNF exerts contrasting effects on peripheral myelination of NGF-dependent and BDNF-dependent DRG neurons. Xiao J, Wong AW, Willingham MM, Kaasinen SK, Hendry IA, Howitt J, Putz U, Barrett GL, Kilpatrick TJ, Murray SS. J Neurosci 2009 Apr 1;29(13):4016-22. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3811-08.2009.