Michael Ferns, Ph.D.

 Michael  Ferns, Ph.D.


  • Professor
  • Anesthesiology


Cholinergic Synapse Formation and Disease

Research Summary

Our research focuses on the cellular and molecular basis of synapse formation in the mammalian nervous system. Synapse formation is critical for the formation, maintenance and plasticity of the nervous system and perturbations in synaptic structure and function have been implicated in a range of neurological disorders. Our research focuses on cholinergic neuromuscular and interneuronal synapses in the peripheral nervous system. Our main aims are (1) to characterize the external trans-synaptic signals that regulate synapse formation and maintenance; and (2) to define the internal protein interactions that regulate the localization and trafficking of the transmitter receptor (nicotinic acetylcholine receptor).

Select Publications

Borges, L., & Ferns, M. (2001) Agrin-induced phosphorylation of the acetylcholine receptor regulates cytoskeletal anchoring and clustering. J. Cell Biol. 153:1-11.

Ferns, M., & Carbonetto, S. (2001) Challenging the neurocentric view of neuromuscular synapse formation. (minireview) Neuron 30(2):311-314.

Gingras, J., Rassadi, S., Cooper, E., & Ferns, M. (2002) Agrin plays an organizing role in the formation of sympathetic synapses. J. Cell Biol. 158(6):1109-1118.

Gingras, J., Spicer, J., Altares, M., Zhu, Q., Kuchel, G.A. and Ferns, M. (2005) Agrin becomes concentrated at neuroeffector junctions in developing rodent urinary bladder. Cell & Tissue Research, 320: 115-125.

Gingras, J., Rassadi, S., Cooper, E., and Ferns, M. (2007) Synaptic transmission is impaired at neuronal autonomic synapses in agrin null mice. Dev. Neurobiol. 67(5): 521-534.

Lee, Y., Rudell, J., Yechikhov, S., Taylor, R., Swope, S., and Ferns, M. (2008) Rapsyn carboxyl terminal domains mediate muscle specific kinase-induced phosphorylation of the muscle acetylcholine receptor. Neuroscience, 153: 997-1007.

Borges LS, Yechikhov S, Lee YI, Rudell JB, Friese MB, Burden SJ, Ferns MJ (2008) Identification of a motif in the acetylcholine receptor beta subunit whose phosphorylation regulates rapsyn association and postsynaptic receptor localization. J Neurosci. 28:11468-11476.


Anesthesiology & Pain Medicine

Physiology and Membrane Biology

Cell and Developmental Biology

Molecular Cellular and Integrative Physiology