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Valina L. Dawson, Ph.D.

Director, Neuroregeneration and Stem Cell Programs, Institute for Cell Engineering,
Professor of Neurology

See Research on Pubmed | See Research on Google Scholar



  • Director, Neuroregeneration and Stem Cell Programs, Institute for Cell Engineering,
  • Professor of Neurology
  • Professor of Neuroscience
  • Professor of Physiology

Centers & Institutes

  • Cell Engineering, Institute for

Research Interests

Neuronal cell survival; Neuronal cell death; Neuronal stem cell development; Parkinson's disease

Technology Expertise

Neuronal cell death, Neuronal cell survival, Parkinson's disease, Neuronal stem cell development


Valina L. Dawson, PhD, is a Professor of Neurology, Neuroscience, Physiology and the Graduate Program in Cellular & Molecular Medicine. She is co-director of the Neuroregeneration and Stem Cell Programs in the Institute for Cell Engineering. Dr. Dawson’s laboratory is actively engaged in discovering and defining cell signaling pathways that lead to either neuronal survival or neuronal death. We have characterized neuronal injury and survival pathways in cell, fly and mouse models of Parkinson’s disease and stroke. She explores the role of the monogenic forms of Parkinson’s disease with a focus on parkin, EIF4G1 and LRRK2 in order to begin to define the biochemical signaling important to Parkinson’s disease. She has developed yeast, cellular, fly and mouse models to explore the Parkinson’s disease causing mutations as well as studying human neuronal cultures and human postmortem tissue explore survival and disease signaling events relevant to Parkinson’s disease. and stroke as well as to define neuron survival networks.

Dr. Dawson’s laboratory in studying mechanisms of brain cell death in stroke, has defined the excitotoxic signaling pathway mediated by nitric oxide, poly(ADP-Ribose) polymerase and apoptosis inducing factor and named it Parthanatos, to distinguish it from other distinct forms of cell death including apoptosis, autophagy and necrosis. She has identified and characterized new survival molecules which include a transcription factor NFIA, a novel E3 ligase Iduna, a novel Notch regulatory protein Botch and a novel AAA+ ATPase Thorase that acts to disassemble the GRIP1/GluR2 complex, thus regulating excitability, plasticity and behavior, as well as a microRNA, mIR-223 that regulates neuronal survival in part through regulation of glutamate receptor expression. Recently we have found overlap between our investigations in Parthanatos and Parkinson’s disease in that age dependent loss of dopamine neurons due to expression of the parkin substrate AIMP2 is dependent on Parthanatos. She is currently exploring if Parthanatos generally contributes to DA neurodegeneration and PD and has exciting new preliminary data that Parthantos is a common feature in many PD models as well as in human PD postmortem tissue.

The Dawson laboratory employs advanced technologies in high throughput screening, next generation sequencing including RNA Seq and ChIP Seq, ribosomal foot printing, and high throughput proteomic analysis coupled with advanced computational biology to investigate signaling networks important in stroke, Parkinson’s disease and other neurodegenerative disorders. The overarching goal of the research is to understand death and survival signaling in order to identify new targets for therapeutic development.


  • English


Society for Neuroscience

Women in Neuroscience

American Association for the Advancement of Science

American Neurologic Association

American Heart Association

The New York Academy of Sciences

International Society for Cerebral Blood Flow and Metabolism (ISCBFM)

International Society for Stem Cell Research

Additional Resources +
  • Education +


    • Ph.D., University of Utah School of Medicine, Salt Lake City, UT, 1989, Pharmacology
    • B.S., University of California at Davis, Davis, CA, 1983, Environmental Toxicology
  • Research & Publications +

    Research Summary

    The Dawson lab studies neuronal cell death and survival, the molecular underpinnings of Parkinson’s disease (PD) and the development of neuronal stem cells. The lab has named a new cell death process Parthanatos. In the brain, Parthanatos is important in ischemic and excitotoxic injury and in models of Parkinson’s disease. The cell death mechanism involves nuclear activation of poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase and mitochondrial release of apoptosis inducing factor in the integration of the death signal; current research aims to further understand how this pathway works. In addition to cell death, the team also strives to understand how cells survive by characterizing survival genes and proteins involved in preconditioning. The team uses induced pluripotent stem cells to identify pharmaceutical agents that might be used therapeutically to protect the brain.

    To understand the role of LRRK2 in the function and dysfunction of neurons and in Parkinson’s disease, the team has generated LRRK2 knockout mice and LRRK2 transgenic mice and human dopaminergic cultures from reprogrammed patient fibroblasts to identify and characterize the interaction of LRRK2 and its protein targets through state-of-the art protein biochemistry with the hope of finding new strategies to treat PD.

    Selected Publications View all on PubMed

    1. Msp1/ATAD1 maintains mitochondrial function by facilitating the degradation of mislocalized tail-anchored proteins. Chen YC, Umanah GK, Dephoure N, Andrabi SA, Gygi SP, Dawson TM, Dawson VL, Rutter J. EMBO J. 2014 May 19. pii: e201487943. [Epub ahead of print] PMID: 24843043
    2. The c-Abl inhibitor, Nilotinib, protects dopaminergic neurons in a preclinical animal model of Parkinson's disease. Karuppagounder SS, Brahmachari S, Lee Y, Dawson VL, Dawson TM, Ko HS. Sci Rep. 2014 May 2;4:4874. doi: 10.1038/srep04874. PMID: 24786396
    3. Botch Is a γ-Glutamyl Cyclotransferase that Deglycinates and Antagonizes Notch. Chi Z, Byrne ST, Dolinko A, Harraz MM, Kim MS, Umanah G, Zhong J, Chen R, Zhang J, Xu J, Chen L, Pandey A, Dawson TM, Dawson VL. Cell Rep. 2014 May 8;7(3):681-8. doi: 10.1016/j.celrep.2014.03.048. Epub 2014 Apr 24. PMID: 24767995
    4. Parkin and PINK1: much more than mitophagy. Scarffe LA, Stevens DA, Dawson VL, Dawson TM. Trends Neurosci. 2014 Apr 13. pii: S0166-2236(14)00043-5. doi: 10.1016/j.tins.2014.03.004. [Epub ahead of print] Review. PMID: 24735649
    5. Ribosomal protein s15 phosphorylation mediates LRRK2 neurodegeneration in Parkinson's disease. Martin I, Kim JW, Lee BD, Kang HC, Xu JC, Jia H, Stankowski J, Kim MS, Zhong J, Kumar M, Andrabi SA, Xiong Y, Dickson DW, Wszolek ZK, Pandey A, Dawson TM, Dawson VL. Cell. 2014 Apr 10;157(2):472-85. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2014.01.064. PMID: 24725412
  • Academic Affiliations & Courses +
  • Activities & Honors +


    Javits Neuroscience Investigator Award, 2014

    Thomson Reuters, The Worlds Most Influential Minds, 2014

    Thomson Reuters Highly Cited Researcher, 2014

    Fellow of the American Heart Association (F.A.H.A.) and the Council on Basic Cardiovascular Sciences, 2014

    American Association for the Advancement of Science, Fellow, 2013

    Potter Lectureship, Thomas Jefferson University, 2012

    SfN Program Committee, 2011

    NINDS Stroke Progress Review Group, Genomics/Proteomics section, Chair, 2011

    Senior Editor, Journal of Neuroscience, 2010-present.

    Dean’s Lecture, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, 2010.

    SfN Professional Development Committee (2009-2011)

    SfN Committee on Women in Neuroscience (2007-2010)

    ISI Highly Cited, 2006

    SfN Young Investigator Award Committee, Society for Neuroscience (2007-2009)

    NINDS Stroke Progress Review Group, Genomics/Proteomics section, Chair, 2006

    NINDS K99-R00 Review Panel, Chair, 2006-present

    Faculty of 1000, 2006-present

    American Heart Steering Committee, 2005-present

    American Academy of Neurology, Frontiers in Clinical Neuroscience, 2005

    ISI Highly Cited, 2004

    McKnight Neuroscience of Brain Disorders, 2004

    Co-Chair, American Heart Association National Review, BS2, 2004

    Reviewing Editor, Journal of Neuroscience, 2003-present

    Leadership Development Program – Johns Hopkins University, 2002

    NINDS NSDA Section Reviewer, 2000-2004

    American Heart Association Establish Investigator Award, 2001

    Mary Lou McIlhany Scholar, 1999-2007

    International Society for Neurochemistry Young Investigator, 1999.

    Staglin Music Festival Investigator, 1998.

    NARSAD Independent Investigator Award, 1998-2001

    Virginia Davids Scholar, 1998

    Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Association, 1997-1999

    Muscular Dystrophy Association, 1997-1999

    American Heart Association Grant-In-Aid Award, 1996-1999

    National Institutes of Health, NINDS R29 NS33142-01A1, 1995-2000

    Muscular Dystrophy Association, 1995-1997

    Alzheimer's Association Scholar Award, 1994-1997

    NARSAD Young Investigator Award, 1994-1996

    American Heart Association Grant-In-Aid Award, 1994-1996

    AmFAR Scholar Award, 1994-1997

    ADAMHA: Intramural Research Training Award. 1992-1993

    National Institute on Drug Abuse Staff Fellow Award, 1992

    Winter Conference on Brain Research Fellowship, Vail, CO, 1991

    National Institutes of Health: PRAT Fellowship, 1990-1992

    National Institutes of Health Training Grant #GMO 7579-07. 1985-1987

    Bekins Scholarship Foundation, 1979-1983

    University of California at Davis - Student Orientation Leader Traineeship, 1981

    Italian-American Club Scholarship Foundation, 1979

    Beta Sigma Pi Scholarship Foundation, 1979

    Professional Activities

    Laboratory for Energy Health Research, University of California at Davis, Davis, CA; Staff Research Associate II - Analytical Organic Chemist and Toxicologist. 1985

    California State Department of Justice, Division of Forensic Toxicology, Sacramento, CA; Forensic Toxicology Trainee. 1984

    Assistant Professor, Departments of Neurology, Neuroscience and Physiology, The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD, 1994 –1996

    Associate Professor, Departments of Neurology, Neuroscience, and Physiology, The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD, 1996-2001

    Professor, Departments of Neurology, Neuroscience, and Physiology, The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD, 2001- present.

    Vice-Chair, Department of Neurology, The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD, 2001- 2008.

    Director, Neuroregeneration and Repair Program, Institute for Cell Engineering, The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD, 2002- present.

    Director, Stem Cell Program, Institute for Cell Engineering, The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD, 2008- present.

    Director, Stem Cell Core, Institute for Cell Engineering, The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD, 2009-2013

    Director, Neurobiology of Disease Program, Departments of Neurology, The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD, 2002- present.

  • Videos & Media +


    The Institute for Cell Engineering (ICE) at Johns Hopkins

    Neuroscientist Valina Dawson introduces the Institute for Cell Engineering (ICE), where researchers are working to solve problems such as transplant rejection, Parkinson's disease, and coronary artery disease using regenerative medicine. For more information visit

    Lectures and Presentations

    Academic Presentations - Most Recent (Frome 186):

    1. “PAR Network Regulating Survival and Death in the Brain.” The 2012 William Potter lecture, Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia PA (2012).
    2. “Parthanatos Signaling in Stroke and Parkinson’s disease.” Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology, Neuroscience Program, Washington University, St. Louis MO (2012).
    3. “Neuronal cell death in acute brain injury: an overview.” Keynote Lecture, Versailles International Neurointensive Care Symposium 2012 “Brain Injury, Brain Repair: Bench to Bedside” Versaille, France (2012).
    4. “Parthanatos” 2012 Cell Death - Gordon Research Conference, Castel Vecchio Pascoli, Lucca, Italy (2012).
    5. “Cell survival and death events following brain ischemia.” Fellows Lecture Series, Department of Neurology, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD (2012).
    6. “PARP activation and AIF release as mediators of parthanatos and neuronal injury.” Neurons Under Stress - Bioenergetics, Autophagy and Protein Translation in Neurological Disorders, Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, Dublin, Ireland (2012).
    7. “PAR Regulation of Survival and Death in the Brain.” Bioscience Seminar, Department of Molecular Medicine, University of South Florida, Tampa, FL (2012).
    8. “The parkin substrate, AIMP2 mediates selective dopaminergic neurotoxicity by Parthanatos.” 17th Takeda Science Symposium on Bioscience, Osaka, Japan (2012).
    9. “Regulation of Life and Death Decisions by Novel Cell Signaling Molecules” Ajou University, Suwon, South Korea (2012).
    10. “Mechanisms of Cell Death in Neurodegeneration,” New Frontiers in Neurodegenerative Disease Research, Keystone Symposium, Santa Fe, New Mexico (2013).
    11. Novel Signaling Pathways in Models of Parkinson’s Disease” 2013 Bevill Conference on Mechanisms of Neurodegeneration at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Alabama (2013).
    12. “Unraveling Cell Death Pathways in Parkinson’s disease.” 5th Annual Tufts Neuroscience Symposium & William Shucart Lecture, Tufts University School of Medicine, Boston, MA (2013).
    13. “Life and Death Decisions: Influence of Poly (ADP-Ribose) Signaling.” Keynote, Annual Emerging Scientist Symposium, Research and Education in Memory Impairments and Neurological Disorders (ReMIND), Institute for Memory Impairments and Neurological Disorders (iMIND), University of California, Irvine (2014).
    14. “Therapeutic Opportunities From the Study of Molecular Mechanisms of Parkinson’s disease.” Grand Rounds Department of Neurology, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD (2014).
    15. “Unraveling Cell Death Pathways in Parkinson’s disease.” Department of Molecular & Comparative Pathobiology,
Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore MD (2014).
    16. “Exploring the biochemical and molecular signaling of familial Parkinson’s disease reveals new pathways to neurodegeneration.” Salk, IPSEN, Science Symposium on Biological Complexity: Neurodegenerative Diseases, Salk Institute San Diego, CA (2015).
    17. “AMPA Receptor Surface Expression is Regulated by S-Nitrosylation of Thorase.” Gordon Research Conference – Nitric Oxide, Ventura CA (2015).

    Presentations to the Lay Public

    1. Nitric Oxide and Schizophrenia. National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression, New York, NY (1996).
    2. Nitric Oxide and Schizophrenia. National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, Washington, DC (1996).
    3. Rebuilding the Brain. Breakers, Palm Beach, FL (2005)
    4. Genetic Clues to the Mystery of Parkinson''s Disease. 4th Annual Young-Onset Parkinson Network Conference, National Parkinson Foundation, Reston, Virginia (2006)
    5. Stroke. The American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (AAHPERD) and the American Heart Association National Convention, Baltimore, MD (2007)
    6. New Opportunities to Repair the Brain. Legacy Lunch, Department of Neurology, Johns Hopkins, Baltimore MD (2007)
    7. Changes to the Maryland Stem Cell Commission, WYPR Maryland Morning with Sheilah Kast, March 9, 2009.
    8. Stem Cells, A Woman’s Journey, Johns Hopkins University

    Recent News Articles & Media Coverage

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    • Neuroscience
    • Physiology

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    Phone: 410-614-3361
    Fax: 410-614-9568

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