Dr Yang Zhang

Institute of Immunology and Immunotherapy
Research Fellow

Contact details

Institute of Immunology and Immunotherapy
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT


  • PhD in Immunology, University of Birmingham, 2010
  • MSc in Immunology, University of Birmingham, 2006
  • MA in Health Service Management, University of Manchester, 2005
  • Bachelor of Medicine, Medicine, Nanjing University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, China, 2003


Postgraduate supervision

Yang is interested in supervising doctoral research students in the following areas:

  • B cell immunity in tumours
  • Regulate the response of anergic B cells in tumours
  • Cancer vaccine, inducing antibody response to autoantigens in tumours


Research interests

I am interested in vaccination-induced B cell differentiation leading to potentially self-reactive antibodies, as well as the generation of memory B cells with regulatory capacity.

My expertise in signals regulating plasma cell differentiation from GC may help understanding similar processes in locally inflamed tissues.

Current projects

My current work is focusing on how to break tolerance promoting the production of autoantibodies from B cells, particularly anergic B cells, by using conjugated vaccination. The immune system harbours large number of autoreactive B cells maintained anergy. Tolerance can be broken if sufficient stimulation signals are available, e.g. after immunisation with memory T cell recruiting conjugate vaccines. Recent work shows that anergic autoreactive B cells are competent to join germinal centre reaction and acquire mutations. Therefore, anergic B cells could be targets to induce response to tumour associated antigens. We recently developed a new genetically manipulated mouse model with hyperactive B cell receptor signalling. Most B cells in these mice are anergic, and we hope to utilize this new model to understand the phenotype of anergic B cells, and how to regulate anergic B cells to responding auto-antigens.


Highlight publications

Roco, J, Mesin, L, Binder, SC, Nefzger, C, Gonzalez-Figueroa, P, Canete, PF, Ellyard, J, Shen, Q, Robert, PA, Cappello, J, Vohra, H, Zhang, Y, Nowasad, CR, Schiepers, A, Corcoran, LM, Toellner, K, Polo, JM, Meyer-Hermann, M, Victora, GD & Vinuesa, CG 2019, 'Class-switch recombination occurs infrequently in germinal centers', Immunity, vol. 51, no. 2, pp. 337-350.e7. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.immuni.2019.07.001

Zhang, Y, Tech, L, George, LA, Acs, A, Durrett, RE, Hess, H, Walker, LSK, Tarlinton, DM, Fletcher, AL, Hauser, AE & Toellner, K-M 2018, 'Plasma cell output from germinal centers is regulated by signals from Tfh and stromal cells', The Journal of Experimental Medicine, vol. 215, no. 4, pp. 1227-1243. https://doi.org/10.1084/jem.20160832

Toellner, K-M, Sze, D & Zhang, Y 2018, 'What are the primary limitations in B cell affinity maturation? How much affinity maturation can we drive with vaccination? A role for antibody feedback', Cold Spring Harbor Perspectives in Biology, vol. 10, no. 5, a028795. https://doi.org/10.1101/cshperspect.a028795, https://doi.org/10.1101/cshperspect.a028795

Zhang, Y, García Ibáñez, L, Brown, G & Toellner, K-M 2017, Detecting gene expression in lymphoid microenvironments by laser microdissection and quantitative RT-PCR. in Germinal Centers: Methods and Protocols. Methods in Molecular Biology, vol. 1623, Springer, pp. 21-36. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4939-7095-7_2

Zhang, Y, Garcia Ibanez, L & Toellner, K-M 2016, 'Regulation of germinal center B-cell differentiation', Immunological Reviews, vol. 270, no. 1, pp. 8-19. https://doi.org/10.1111/imr.12396

Recent publications


Zhang, Y & Toellner, K-M 2022, 'Germinal center derived B cell memory without T cells', The Journal of Experimental Medicine, vol. 219, no. 3, e20220012. https://doi.org/10.1084/jem.20220012

Zhang, Y, Garcia-Ibanez, L, Ulbricht, C, Lok, LSC, Pike, JA, Mueller-Winkler, J, Dennison, TW, Ferdinand, JR, Burnett, CJM, Yam-Puc, JC, Zhang, L, Alfaro, RM, Takahama, Y, Ohigashi, I, Brown, G, Kurosaki, T, Tybulewicz, VLJ, Rot, A, Hauser, AE, Clatworthy, MR & Toellner, K-M 2022, 'Recycling of memory B cells between germinal center and lymph node subcapsular sinus supports affinity maturation to antigenic drift', Nature Communications, vol. 13, no. 1, 2460. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-022-29978-y

Yam-Puc, JC, Zhang, L, Maqueda Alfaro, R, Garcia Ibanez, L, Zhang, Y, Davies, J, Senis, Y, Snaith, M & Toellner, K 2021, 'Enhanced BCR signaling inflicts early plasmablast and germinal center B cell death', iScience, vol. 24, no. 2, 102038, pp. 102038. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.isci.2021.102038

Li, T, Yeung, J, Li, J, Zhang, Y, Melody, T, Gao, Y, Wang, Y, Lian, Q, Gao Smith, F & Investigators, RAGA-D 2017, 'Comparison of regional with general anaesthesia on postoperative delirium (RAGA-delirium) in the older patients undergoing hip fracture surgery: study protocol for a multicentre randomised controlled trial', BMJ open, vol. 7, no. 10, e016937. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmjopen-2017-016937

Bénézech, C, Luu, N-T, Walker, JA, Kruglov, AA, Loo, Y, Nakamura, K, Zhang, Y, Nayar, S, Jones, LH, Flores-Langarica, A, McIntosh, A, Marshall, J, Barone, F, Besra, G, Miles, K, Allen, JE, Gray, M, Kollias, G, Cunningham, AF, Withers, DR, Toellner, KM, Jones, ND, Veldhoen, M, Nedospasov, SA, McKenzie, ANJ & Caamaño, JH 2015, 'Inflammation-induced formation of fat-associated lymphoid clusters', Nature Immunology, vol. 16, no. 8, pp. 819-828. https://doi.org/10.1038/ni.3215

Zhuang, X, Ahmed, F, Zhang, Y, Ferguson, H, Steele, JC, Steven, NM, Nagy, Z, Heath, VL, Toellner, K-M & Bicknell, R 2015, 'Robo4 vaccines induce antibodies that retard tumor growth', Angiogenesis, vol. 18, no. 1, pp. 83-95. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10456-014-9448-z

Zhang, Y, Meyer-Hermann, M, George, LA, Figge, MT, Khan, M, Goodall, M, Young, SP, Reynolds, A, Falciani, F, Waisman, A, Notley, CA, Ehrenstein, MR, Kosco-Vilbois, M & Toellner, K-M 2013, 'Germinal center B cells govern their own fate via antibody feedback', The Journal of Experimental Medicine, vol. 210, no. 3, pp. 457-64. https://doi.org/10.1084/jem.20120150

Meyer-Hermann, M, Mohr, E, Pelletier, N, Zhang, Y, Victora, GD & Toellner, K-M 2012, 'A theory of germinal center B cell selection, division, and exit', Cell Reports, vol. 2, no. 1, pp. 162-74. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.celrep.2012.05.010

Marshall, J, Zhang, Y, Pallan, L, Hsu, MC, Khan, M, Cunningham, AC, MacLennan, I & Toellner, K-M 2011, 'Early B blasts acquire a capacity for Ig class switch recombination that is lost as they become plasmablasts.', European Journal of Immunology, vol. 41, no. 12, pp. 3506-12. https://doi.org/10.1002/eji.201141762

Bretz, J, Garcia, J, Huang, X, Kang, L, Zhang, Y, Toellner, K-M & Chen-Kiang, S 2011, 'Noxa mediates p18(INK4c) cell-cycle control of homeostasis in B cells and plasma cell precursors', Blood, vol. 117, no. 7, pp. 2179-2188. https://doi.org/10.1182/blood-2010-06-288027

Hong, FC, Liu, J, Feng, TJ, Liu, XL, Pan, P, Zhou, H, Cai, YM, Ling, L, Huang, XM, Zhang, D, Zhang, Y & Zeegers, M 2010, 'Congenital syphilis: an economic evaluation of a prevention program in China', Sexually transmitted diseases, vol. 37, no. 1, pp. 26-31. https://doi.org/10.1097/OLQ.0b013e3181b3915b

Review article

Roth, K, Oehme, L, Zehentmeier, S, Zhang, Y, Niesner, R & Hauser, AE 2014, 'Tracking plasma cell differentiation and survival.', Cytometry, vol. 85, no. 1, pp. 15-24. https://doi.org/10.1002/cyto.a.22355

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