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Mollie K. Meffert, M.D., M.S., Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Biological Chemistry
Dr. Mollie Meffert is an associate professor of biological chemistry and neuroscience at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Her research focuses on the regulation of neuronal gene expression in health and disease.
Dr. Meffert received her undergraduate degree from Stanford University. She also earned her MD/Ph.D in neuroscience from Stanford University. She completed a postdoctoral fellowship at California Institute of Technology. Dr. Meffert joined the Johns Hopkins faculty in 2004.
The Meffert lab studies mechanisms underlying enduring changes in brain function. We are interested in understanding how programs of gene expression are coordinated and maintained to produce changes in synaptic, neuronal, and cognitive function. Rather than concentrating on single genes, our research is particularly focused on understanding the upstream processes that allow neuronal stimuli to synchronously orchestrate both up and down-regulation of the many genes required to mediate changes in growth and excitation.
Our laboratory recently elucidated a mechanism responsible for pro-growth programs of protein synthesis in which activity-dependent regulation of microRNA (miRNA) production governs the selection of gene targets for protein synthesis. An RNA-binding protein, Lin28, is one activity-responsive factor that promotes pro-growth protein synthesis by downregulating only select miRNAs (e.g. Let-7 ‘tumor suppressor’ miRNAs), which repress pro-growth genes. In neurons, pro-growth mRNA targets of the Let-7 miRNAs include mRNA for proteins involved in excitatory synaptic function, with examples being AMPA receptor subunits (GluA1), CaMKIIa, Homer, BDNF, and TrkB. Ongoing investigations in our laboratory are aimed at further exploration of the importance of miRNA biogenesis in determining rapid and specific changes in the neuronal and synaptic proteome and the in vivo roles of these pathways in healthy and dysregulated brain function.
Dr. Meffert’s work has been recognized with a number of awards including the March of Dimes research scholar, a Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative award, the Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellow Award, and the Sontag Foundation Distinguished Scientist Award.
- Associate Professor of Biological Chemistry
- Associate Professor of Neuroscience
- B.S., Stanford University (California) (1990)
- M.S., Stanford University (California) (1990)
- Ph.D., Stanford University (California) (1997)
- M.D., Stanford University (California) (1997)
California Inst. of Technology, Pasadena, CA
Research & Publications
Exploring how gene expression determines synaptic function
Mollie Meffert is a neuroscientist whose laboratory investigates how gene programs modify the brain during experience and disease. The Meffert Lab uses mouse genetics and animal models, molecular and biochemical strategies, expression arrays and bioinformatics, virology, histology, live confocal imaging and electrophysiology to explore the importance of gene expression in information storage at both transcriptional and post-transcriptional levels.
The Meffert laboratory is particularly interested in how changes in synaptic activity are converted into long-term alterations in the function and connectivity of neurons through the modulation of gene expression. How do gene programs modify the brain during experience and disease?
The laboratory integrates multiple approaches to address the importance of gene expression in information storage at both transcriptional and post-transcriptional levels. They use animal models and techniques of molecular biology, cell biology, biochemistry, high-throughput expression analysis and bioinformatics, virology, histology, confocal imaging, electrophysiology, mouse genetics and behavior. Neuronal gene products of interest include both proteins and non-coding RNAs.
Lab Website: Mollie Meffert Lab
Yu-Wen A. Huang*, Claudia R. Ruiz*, E.C.H. Eyler*, Kathie Lin, and Mollie K. Meffert. "Dual regulation of miRNA biogenesis generates target specificity in neurotrophin-induced protein synthesis." Cell, 148(5); 933-946. 2012.
Matthew C. Boersma*, Erica C. Dresselhaus*, Lindsay M. De Biase, Anca B. Mihalas, Dwight E. Bergles, and Mollie K. Meffert. "A requirement for NF-kB in developmental and plasticity-associated synaptogenesis." J.Neurosci. 31; 5414-5425. 2011.
Cynthia K. Shrum, Daniel Defrancisco, and Mollie K. Meffert. "Stimulated nuclear translocation of NF-kB and shuttling differentially depend on dynein and the dynactin complex." PNAS, 106; 2647-2652. 2009.
Matthew C. Boersma and Mollie K. Meffert. "Novel roles for the NF-kB signaling pathway in regulating neuronal function." Science Signaling 1, pe7. 2008.
Cynthia K. Shrum and Mollie K. Meffert. "The NF- kB Family in Learning and Memory. In J. David Sweatt(Ed.). "Molecular Mechanisms of Memory." Vol.  of Learning and Memory: A Comprehensive Reference (J.Byrne Editor), pp. [567-586] Oxford: Elsevier. 2008.
Academic Affiliations & Courses
Graduate Program Affiliation
Graduate Program in Biological Chemistry
Biochemistry, Cellular and Molecular Biology Graduate Program
Neuroscience Graduate Program
Activities & Honors
- Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellow Award, 2008
- Distinguished Scientist Award, Sontag Foundation , 2008
- Della Martin Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship Award, 1998 - 2000
- Beckman Scholar in Cell Sciences Award, 1994 - 1995