Shanthini Sockanathan, D.Phil.

Headshot of Shanthini Sockanathan
  • Vice Chair of Faculty, Department of Neuroscience
  • Professor of Neuroscience

Research Interests

Mechanistic Control of Cellular Differentiation; Degeneration in the Nervous System more


Dr. Shanthini Sockanathan is a professor of neuroscience at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Her research focuses on the mechanistic control of cellular differentiation and survival in the developing and adult nervous system.

Dr. Sockanathan’s lab team uses the developing spinal cord and brain as major paradigms to define the mechanisms that maintain an undifferentiated progenitor state and that trigger their differentiation into neurons and glia. Her more recent work explores pathways that preserve neuronal survival in the adult nervous system and investigates how their dysfunction contributes to neurodegenerative disease.

She received her B.Sc. from the Imperial College of Science and Technology (University of London) and her D.Phil. from the University of Cambridge (UK). more


  • Vice Chair of Faculty, Department of Neuroscience
  • Professor of Neuroscience

Departments / Divisions

Centers & Institutes



  • D.Phil.; Cambridge University (United Kingdom) (1991)
  • B.Sc.; Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine (United Kingdom) (1986)

Research & Publications

Research Summary

The nervous system consists of a 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 projections. Dr. Sockanathan works to define how these events unfold and integrate at the molecular level to provide insight into the basic mechanisms involved in establishing and maintaining the mature nervous system, and importantly provide an understanding of the links between development, disease and therapeutic strategies.

The major focus of the lab is the study of a new family of six-transmembrane proteins (6-TM GDEs) that play key roles in regulating cellular differentiation and neuronal survival. Dr Sockanathan's lab discovered that the 6-TM GDEs release GPI-anchored proteins from the cell surface through cleavage of the GPI-anchor. This discovery identified the 6-TM GDEs as the first vertebrate membrane bound GPI-cleaving enzymes that work at the cell surface to regulate GPI-anchored protein function. Current work in the lab involves defining how the 6-TM GDEs regulate cellular signaling events that control neuronal and glial differentiation and function, with a major focus on how GDE dysfunction relates to the onset and progression of disease. To solve these questions, they utilize an integrated approach that includes in vivo models, imaging, molecular biology, biochemistry, developmental biology, genetics and behavior.


Lab Website: Sockanathan Lab

Selected Publications

Park S, Lee C, Sabharwal P, Zhang M, Meyers C, Sockanathan S. “GDE2 Promotes Neurogenesis by Glycosylphosphatidylinositol-Anchor Cleavage of Reck”. Science 339:324-339. 2013

Sabharwal P, Lee C, Park S, Rao M, Sockanathan S. “GDE2 regulates subtype-specific motor neuron generation through inhibition of Notch signaling”. Neuron. 2011 Sep 22; 71(6):1058-70. Epub 2011 Sep 21.

Ye Y, Sabharwal P, Rao M, and Sockanathan S. “The Antioxidant Enzyme Prdx1 Controls Neuronal Differentiation by Thiol-Redox-Dependent Activation of GDE2”. Cell 138:1209-1221.

Nakamura M, Li YH, Choi B-R, Matas-Rico E, Troncoso J, Takahashi J, Sockanathan S. GDE2-RECK controls ADAM10 α secretase-mediated cleavage of amyloid precursor protein. Science Translational Medicine. 2021 mar17;13 (585)doi: 10.1126/scitranslmed.abe6178

Choi B-R, Cave C, Na CH, Sockanathan S. GDE2-Dependent Activation of Canonical Wnt Signaling in Neurons Regulates Oligodendrocyte Maturation. Cell Rep. 2020 May 5; 31(5): 107540.  doi: 10.1016/j.celrep.2020.107540

Contact for Research Inquiries

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Academic Affiliations & Courses

Graduate Program Affiliation

Biological Chemistry and Molecular Biology Graduate Program

Cellular and Molecular Medicine

Neuroscience Graduate Program

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