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Neuroscience Graduate Program at UCSF

Faculty - Aimee Kao, M.D., Ph.D.

The molecular basis neurodegenerative diseases

Research Description

Neurodegenerative diseases are fundamentally the result of aberrant proteostasis within neurons. My lab is interested in understanding the basic cell and molecular changes leading to this aberrant proteostasis in Alzheimer Disease, frontotemporal lobar degeneration and other neurodegenerative conditions. In particular, we are focused on the consequences of impaired autophagy and lysosomal function. The lysosome is not only the cell’s garbage can—rather, it is a central regulator of homeostasis, responsible for protein and lipid recycling, amino acid storage, appropriate stress response and regulated cell growth. We have shown that mutations responsible for neurodegenerative diseases can directly alter lysosome function with pleotropic downstream consequences. Our current work utilizes C. elegans, induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC) and other cellular models to decipher how alterations in lysosome function, autophagy, cell and organelle pH and stress response programs can lead to neuronal dysfunction and death.

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Current Projects

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Lab Members

Victoria Butler, Postdoctoral fellow
Carolina Alquezar, Postdoctoral fellow
Swetha Mohan, Postdoctoral fellow
Andrea Argouarch, Research associate
Loan Doan, Research assistant

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Selected Publications

Kao, A.W., R.J. Eisenhut, L.H. Martens, A. Nakamura, J.A. Bagley, A. Huang, A. de Luis, L.J. Neukomm, J. Cabello, R.V. Farese, Jr., C.J. Kenyon (2011). A neurodegenerative disease mutation that accelerates the clearance of apoptotic cells. PNAS 108:4441-6.

Judy,M., A. Nakamura, A. Huang, H. Grant, H. McCurdy, K.F. Weiburth, F. Gao, G. Coppola, C. Kenyon, A. W. Kao (2013). A Shift to Organismal Stress Resistance in Programmed Cell Death Mutants. PLoS Genetics 9(9):e1003714.

Salazar, N., V. Butler, A. Argouarch, T.Y. Hsu, A. Nakamura, H. McCurdy, D. Cox, R. Ng, G. Pan, W.W. Seeley, B.M. Miller, A.W. Kao (2015). The progranulin cleavage products, granulins, exacerbate TDP-43 toxicity and increase TDP-43 levels. J. Neurosci 35(25):9315-9328.

Lalli, M, B. Bettcher, M.L. Arcila, G. Garci, C. Guzman, L. Madrigal, L. Ramirez, J. Acosta-Uribe, A. Baena, K.J. Wojta, G. Coppola, R. Finch, M.D. deBoth, M.J. Huentelman, E.M. Reiman, M.E. Brunkow, G. Glusman, J.C. Roach, A.W. Kao, F. Lopera, K. Kosik (2015). Whole-genome sequencing suggests a chemokine gene cluster that modifies age at onset in familial Alzheimer's disease. Molecular Psychiatry 20(11):1294-300.

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Aimee Kao, M.D., Ph.D.


Phone 415-502-7123

Fax 415-502-7172

Office Address

675 Nelson Rising Lane
Box 1207, Sandler Neuroscience, Rm 211A
San Francisco, CA 94158

Other Websites

Lab Website