Shanthini Sockanathan, Ph.D.

Faculty Information
Department Affiliation(s) Neuroscience
Rank Professor
Office 410-502-3084
Fax 410-614-8423
SOM Address PCTB 1004
Students ChangHee Lee 2006 - 2013

Mai Nakamura 2013

Research Interests

The nervous system consists of a great variety of neurons and glia that together form the components and circuits necessary for nervous system function. Neuronal and glial diversity are generated through a series of highly orchestrated events that control cell numbers, subtype identity, cell morphology and axonal projection patterns. Defining how these events unfold and integrate at the molecular level during development will provide significant insight into the basic mechanisms involved in establishing the mature nervous system, and importantly provide an understanding of the links between development, disease and therapeutic strategies.

My laboratory uses the developing spinal cord as our major paradigm to define the mechanisms that maintain an undifferentiated progenitor state and the molecular pathways that trigger their differentiation into postmitotic, terminally differentiated neurons and glia. Our experimental systems are the mouse and chick, and we utilize an integrated approach that includes molecular biology, biochemistry, developmental biology, genetics and behavior. Current projects include the functional analysis of a new family of six transmembrane proteins and the regulatory roles of thiol-redox cascades in nervous system development. We are particularly interested in how these control systems integrate with known signaling pathways to regulate the onset and progression of neuronal and glial differentiation. In related projects, we hope to explore if developmental dysfunction contributes to neurodegeneration, and if developmental mechanisms can be exploited to increase axonal regeneration and repair.


  • Rao, M. and Sockanathan, S. (2005) Transmembrane protein GDE2 induces motor neuron differentiation in vivo. Science 309, 2212-2215.
  • Ji, S.J., Zhuang, B.Q., Falco, C., Schneider, A., Schuster-Gossler, K., Gossler, A. and Sockanathan, S. (2006) Mesodermal and neuronal retinoids regulate the induction and maintenance of limb innervating spinal motor neurons. Dev. Bio. 297, 249-61
  • Rajaii, F., Bitzer, Z.T., Qing, X. and Sockanathan, S. (2008) Expression of the dominant negative retinoid receptor, RAR403, alters telencephalic progenitor proliferation, survival and fate specification. Dev.Bio. 316, 371-382.
  • Ji, S.J., Periz, G., and Sockanathan, S. (2009) Nolz1 is induced by retinoid signals and controls motor neuron subtype identity through distinct repressor activities. Development 136, 231-240.
  • Zhuang, B.Q., Su, Y.S., and Sockanathan, S. (2009) FARP1 promotes the dendritic growth of spinal motor neuron subtypes through ttransmembrane Semaphorin6A and PlexinA4 signaling. Neuron 61, 359-372.
  • Yan, Y., Sabharwal, P., Rao, M., and Sockanathan, S. (2009) The antioxidant Prdx1 controls motor neuron differentiation by thiol-redox dependent activation of GDE2. Cell 138, 1209-21.