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Peng Yi, Ph.D.

Research Summary

Dr. Yi’s laboratory aims at understanding the mechanism of pancreatic beta cell proliferation in various physiological conditions, hoping to find a way to regenerate pancreatic beta cell mass in Type 1 or late Type 2 diabetics. Dr. Yi’s laboratory set up a new acute insulin resistance mouse model by infusion of an insulin receptor antagonist, S961, which induces dramatic and specific pancreatic beta cell replication. This model has been used as a gene discovery platform to search for novel secreted proteins and hormones that can drive beta cell proliferation.

The major focus in Dr. Yi’s laboratory right now is to characterize a newly discovered liver/fat secreted protein, Betatrophin (also known as RIFL, Lipasin and Angptl8), that can specifically promote pancreatic beta cell proliferation in rodents. Using proteomics, biochemical and genetic approaches, Dr. Yi’s laboratory is investigating the regulation mechanism of Betatrophin, the active form of Betatrophin in circulation and searching for receptors of Betatrophin. Together with other Joslin investigators, Dr. Yi’s laboratory is also trying to determine whether human circulating Betatrophin level correlates with Type 1 diabetes, obese or Type 2 diabetes, and whether Betatrophin can serve as a biomarker for the risk of diabetes progression.

Dr. Yi’s laboratory is also investigating the mechanism controlling the human beta cell proliferation and regeneration. Using a whole-genome gain-of-function and loss-of-function in vivo screen, Dr. Yi’s laboratory aims to identify positive and negative regulators for human beta cell replication, which will provide novel drug candidates and targets for Type 1 diabetes and late stage Type 2 diabetes patients treatment.


Dr. Peng Yi grew up in Shandong, China. He graduated from University of Science and Technology of China in 2003 with a B.S. degree on Molecular and Cell Biology. He then joined Professor Eric Olson’s laboratory in University of Texas, Southwestern Medical Center and obtained a Ph.D. degree on Genetics and Developmental Biology in 2007. In 2008, he moved to Boston and completed a Postdoctoral training in the laboratory of Professor Douglas Melton in Harvard University. He received the Helen Hays Whitney Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship in 2009. During his postdoc training, he focused on pancreatic beta cell replication and expansion, and discovered a hormone called Betatrophin, which specifically controls beta cell proliferation. In 2013, Dr. Yi became an Assistant Investigator at the Joslin Diabetes Center and Assistant Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School.



  1. Yi P, Zhang W, Zhai Z, Miao L, Wang Y, Wu M. Bcl-rambo beta, a special splicing variant with an insertion of an Alu-like cassette, promotes etoposide- and Taxol-induced cell death. FEBS Lett. 2003 Jan 16; 534(1-3): 61-8. PMID: 12527362
  2. Miao L, Yi P, Wang Y, Wu M. Etoposide upregulates Bax-enhancing tumour necrosis factor-related apoptosis inducing ligand-mediated apoptosis in the human hepatocellular carcinoma cell line QGY-7703. Eur J Biochem. 2003 Jul; 270(13): 2721-31. PMID: 12823542
  3. Han Z, Yi P, Li X, Olson EN. Hand, an evolutionarily conserved bHLH transcription factor required for Drosophila cardiogenesis and hematopoiesis. Development. 2006 Mar; 133(6): 1175-82. PMID: 16467358
  4. Yi P, Han Z, Li X, and Olson EN. The Mevalonate Pathway Controls Heart Formation in Drosophila by Isoprenylation of G{gamma}1. Science, 2006 Sep 1;313(5791):1301-3. Epub 2006 Jul 20. PMID: 16857902
  5. Yi P, Aaron Johnson, Zhe Han, Wu J, Li X, Olson EN. Heterotrimeric G proteins regulate a non-canonical function of septate junction proteins to maintain cardiac integrity in Drosophila. Dev Cell, 2008, Nov 11;15(5): 704-713. PMID: 19000835, PMCID: PMC2736786.
  6. Yi P, Park J, Melton DA. Betatrophin: a hormone that controls pancreatic beta cell proliferation. Cell. 2013 May 9;153(4):747-58. PMID: 23623304, PMCID: PMC3756510.
  7. Yi P, Park J, Melton DA. Perspectives on the Activities of ANGPTL8/Betatrophin. Cell. 2014 October 23, 159: 467-68.

Page last updated: September 19, 2019