Watkins Lab Happenings

November 28, 2023
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April 27, 2023

Two full-time postdoctoral positions are available in the Department of Neurology at the Sandler Neurosciences Center (UCSF Mission Bay) to take leadng roles in NIH-funded projects to understand how axonal injury signaling can be harnessed to promote neuroprotection and neural repair. The Watkins Lab recently moved to UCSF from Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, generating opportunities for exciting new directions at the interface between intrinsic neuronal stress responses and other active projects within the Division of Neuroimmunology and Glial Biology. Our lab specializes in using relatively simple models of axon damage to decipher how cellular stress signaling controls the fates of neurons during injury and disease. These responses can, at least in the case of the peripheral nervous system, sometimes support remarkable recovery of function. Yet they can also become a major driver of neurodegeneration in the CNS. A combination of approaches -- from molecular engineering of new tools to cell culture to mouse models -- is allowing us to decipher the transcriptional factor combinatorial code at the heart of these divergent outcomes. Postdocs have the opportunity to drive fundamental research with direct relevance to peripheral nerve regeneration, glaucoma, and other neurodegenerative diseases, while generating insights that may ultimately guide CNS repair after spinal cord injury or traumatic brain injury.

UCSF is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer. We seek candidates whose experience, teaching, research, or community service has prepared them to contribute to diversity and excellence. We strive to create a supportive and inclusive environment for everyone, regardless of their...

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April 18, 2023

The Watkins Lab preprint, "Coordinated stimulation of axon regenerative and neurodegenerative transcriptional programs by Atf4 following optic nerve injury," has been selected for review as a Research Advance at eLife. The research study, headed by postdoctoral scholar Preethi Somasundaram, PhD, now a Scientist at GENEWIZ, uncovers an integral role for the Integrated Stress Response (ISR) pathway following CNS axon injury. Our work revealed that the ISR, working primarily through the Activating Transcription Factor-4 (ATF4), coordinates with another transcription factor, c-Jun, to regulate both neuronal survival and axon regenerative potential. Innovative cross-study comparisons of new and published transcriptomics datasets enabled these new insights regarding the crosstalk between injury response pathways that control the fates of neurons following axon injury.

As a Research Advance, this study represents an important step forward from our previous study of the ISR published in eLife, "Dual leucine zipper kinase-dependent PERK activation contributes to neuronal degeneration following insult."

With eLife's innovative publishing model, the manuscript will ultimately be published by eLife with an assessment provided by reviewers and editors. That assessment will...

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April 18, 2023

With the generous support of an anonymous donor, Trent Watkins, PhD, has been appointed to the Distinguished Professorship in Neurology at UCSF. The Distinguished Professorship will support the research, teaching and service activities of the holder, enabling work in the research, diagnosis and treatment of multiple sclerosis and related inflammatory and immune conditions of the central nervous system, exclusively focused on advancing research on axon biology.



April 18, 2023

After seven great years at Baylor College of Medicine, the Watkins Lab has transitioned to UCSF. We're excited to join wonderful new colleagues in the Division of Neuroimmunology and Glial Biology in the Department of Neurology. This move represents a fantastic opportunity to initiate new collaborative efforts to understand how intrinsic neuronal and axonal stress signaling interacts with neuroinflammation to determine disease course and severity in conditions such as multiple sclerosis (MS). We also continue our ongoing NIH-funded efforts in CNS and PNS traumatic axon injury as models for understanding how neuronal stress signaling controls the fates of neurons in injury and disease, from axon regeneration to neurodegeneration.

Our lab is located on the second floor of the Sandler Neurosciences Center at the UCSF Mission Bay campus.