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Neuroscience Graduate Program at UCSF

Faculty - Anna Molofsky, M.D., Ph.D.

Astrocytes in neural circuit formation and function

Research Description

Astrocytes, the most numerous cells in the brain, are increasingly implicated in neurodevelopment and disease. Our lab studies astrocyte-neuron interactions at the molecular level by identifying novel astrocyte-encoded genes and studying their functional role in circuit and synapse formation during development.  The finding that astrocytes are heterogeneous based on their location in the central nervous system provides a powerful tool to begin to identify novel astrocyte-encoded genes, and explore their functions in the developing nervous system. Using circuits in the developing spinal cord and other CNS regions, we study the role of specific astrocyte-encoded proteins on neuronal positioning, neuronal survival, and synapse formation. We are also interested in how astrocytes communicate with microglia to regulate synapse number and circuit function, and may serve as agents of the innate immune system in the brain. These types of molecular studies will form a basis for understanding the role of astrocytes in psychiatric diseases of neural circuit formation, including schizophrenia, autism, and others.

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Current Projects

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Lab Members

Hiromi Inoue, Lab Manager
John Miller, Research Specialist

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Selected Publications

Molofsky AV, Kelley, KW, TsaiHH, Redmond SA, Chang S, Madireddy L, Chan JR, Baranzini SE, Ullian EM, Rowitch DH (2014). Astrocyte-encoded positional cues maintain sensorimotor circuit integrity. Nature 509:189-194.

MolofskyAV, Krencik R, Ullian E, Tsai HH, Deneen B, Richardson WD, Barres BA, Rowitch DH (2012). Astrocytes and disease: a neurodevelopmental perspective. Genes and Development 26:891-907. 

Molofsky, A. V., Slutsky, S. G., Joseph, N.M., He, S-H. Pardal, R., Krishnamurthy J., Sharpless, N.E., and Morrison, S. J. (2006). Increasing p16INK4a expression decreases forebrain progenitors and neurogenesis during ageing. Nature 443: 448-52.  

Molofsky, A.V., Pardal,R., Iwashita,T., Park,I.K., Clarke,M.F., and Morrison,S.J. (2003.) Bmi-1 dependence distinguishes neural stem cell self-renewal from progenitor proliferation. Nature 425:962-967.

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Anna Molofsky, M.D., Ph.D.


Phone 415-502-3609

Fax 415-514-2346

Office Address

1550 4th Street
Box 2711, Rock Hall, room 384B
San Francisco, CA 94158

Other Websites

Lab Website

Eli and Edythe Broad Center of Regeneration Medicine and Stem Cell Research