Rice University
BioSciences at Rice

Michael Stern

Professor of BioSciences

Drosophila peripheral nerves, similar structurally to the peripheral nerves of mammals, comprise a central core of motor and sensory axons, surrounded by two layers of glia: an inner glial layer, termed the peripheral glia, and an outer, perineurial glial layer. Although it has been well established that intercellular signalling occurs among these cell types, neither the signalling pathways involved nor the functional effects of these pathways are completely understood. stern_CB_cover002.jpg We are using genetic methodology to address these questions. We have found that intercellular signalling controls at least two aspects of peripheral nerve structure or function. First, intercellular signalling controls growth of the perineurial glial layer. At least seven genes participate in this regulation. These genes include Ras and the Ras-GTPase activating protein encoded by the Drosophila orthologue of the gene responsible for the human genetic disease of Neurofibromatosis. Further studies of this pathway are underway. Second, neuron-glia signalling also affects neuronal excitability via regulation of axonal sodium channels. Loss of function mutations in the inebriated (ine)-encoded neurotransmitter transporter increase sodium currents, whereas overexpression of ine reduces sodium currents. Efforts are currently underway to identify and determine the functions of molecules responsible for this regulation.

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Faust JE, Manisundaram A, Ivanova PT, Milne SB, Summerville JB, Brown HA, Wangler M, Stern M, McNew JA Peroxisomes are required for lipid metabolism and muscle function in Drosophila melanogaster.  PLoS One, 9(6) 2014: e100213

McNew JA, Sondermann H, Lee T, Stern M, Brandizzi F. GTP-dependent membrane fusion.  Annu Rev Cell Dev Biol, 29 2013: 529-50

Johnson C, Chun-Jen Lin C, Stern M. Ras-dependent and Ras-independent effects of PI3K in Drosophila motor neurons..  Genes, Brain and Behavior, 11 2012: 848-858

Stern, M. Insulin signaling and autism.  Front. Endocrin., 2 2011: 54

Lin, C.-J., Summerville, J.B., Howlett, E., and Stern, M The metabotropic glutamate receptor activates the lipid kinase PI3K in Drosophila motor neurons through the calcium/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase II and the nonreceptor tyrosine protein kinase DFak.  Genetics, 188 2011: 601-613

Huang, Y., Howlett, E., Stern, M., and Jackson, F.R. Altered LARK expression perturbs development and physiology of the Drosophila PDF clock neurons.  Mol. Cell. Neurosci., 41 2009: 196-205In Press

Walkiewicz, M., and Stern, M. Increased insulin/insulin growth factor signalling advances the onset of metamorphosis in Drosophila.  PLoS One, 4 2009: e5072In Press

Howlett, E., Lin, C.C., Lavery, W., and Stern, M. A Pl3-kinase-mediated negative feedback regulates neuronal excitability.  PLoS Genet., 4(11) 2008: e1000277

Lavery, W., Hall, V., Yager, J., Rottgers, S., Wells, M., and Stern, M. Phosphatidyl inositol-3-kinase and Akt nonautonomously promote perineurial glial growth in Drosophila peripheral nerves.  J. Neurosci., 27 2007: 279-288

Cardnell, R.J.G., Dalle Nogare, D., Ganetzky, B. and Stern, M. In vivo analysis of a gain-of-function mutation in the Drosophila eag-encoded K channel.  Genetics, 172 2006: 2351-2358

Caldwell, P.E., Walkiewicz, M., and Stern, M. Ras activity in the Drosophila prothoracic gland regulates body size and developmental rate via ecdysone release.  Current Biology, 15 2005: 1785-1795

Huang, Y., and Stern, M. In vivo Properties of the Drosophila inebriated-Encoded Neurotransmitter Transporter.  J. Neurosci., 22 2002: 1698-1708

Schweers, B.A., Walters, K.J., and Stern, M. The Drosophila melanogaster translational regulator pumilio regulates neuronal excitability.  Genetics, 161 2002: 1175-1185

Huang, X., Huang, Y., Chinnappan, R., Bocchini, C., Gustin, M.C., and Stern, M. The Drosophila inebriated-Encoded Neurotransmitter/Osmolyte Transporter: Dual Roles in the Control of Neuronal Excitability and the Osmotic Stress Response.  Genetics, 160 2002: 561-569

Yager, J., Richards, S., Hekmat-Scafe, D., Hurd, D., Sunderesan, V., Caprette, D., Saxton, W., Carlson, J., and Stern, M. Control of Drosophila Perineural Glial Growth by Two Interacting Neurotransmitter-mediated Signaling Pathways.  Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci., 98 2001: 10445-10450

Arredondo, L., Nelson, H.B., Beckingham, K., and Stern, M. Increased Transmitter Release and Aberrant Synaptic Morphology in Drosophila calmodulin Mutants.  Genetics, 150 1998: 265-274

Nelson, H.B., Heiman, R.G., Bolduc, C., Kovalick, G.E., Whitley, P., Stern, M., and Beckingham, K. Calmodulin Point Mutations Affect Drosophila Development and Behavior.  Genetics, 147 1997: 1783-1798

Soehnge, H., Huang, X., Becker, M., Conover, D., and Stern, M. Cloning and Sequencing of Ribosomal Protein L27a and a Gene Similar to Human GS1 in Drosophila.  Gene, 185 1997: 257-263

Soehnge, H., Huang, X., Becker, M., Whitley, P., Conover, D., and Stern, M. A Neurotransmitter Transporter Encoded by the Drosophila inebriated Gene.  Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA, 93 1996: 13262-13267

Hurd, D.D., Stern, M., and Saxton, W.M. Mutation of the Axonal Transport Motor Kinesin Enhances paralytic and Suppresses shaker.  Genetics, 142 1996: 195-204

Richards, S., Hillman, T., and Stern, M. Mutations in the Drosophila pushover Gene Confer Increased Neuronal Excitability and Spontaneous Synaptic Vesicle Fusions.  Genetics, 142 1996: 1215-1223

Warbington, L., Hillman, T., Adams, C., and Stern, M. Reduced Transmitter Release Conferred by Mutations in the slowpoke-Encoded Ca2+-activated K+ Channel Gene of Drosophila.  Invertebrate Neuroscience, 2 1996: 51-60

Stern, M., Blake, N., Zondlo, N., and Walters, K. Increased Neuronal Excitability Conferred by a Mutation in the Drosophila bemused Gene.  J. Neurogen., 10 1995: 103-118

  • B.S. Biochemistry (1978) Stanford University
  • Ph.D. Biochemistry (1985) University of California, San Francisco
  • Institute of Biosciences and Bioengineering
Research Areas
  • Neuron-glia interactions within the Drosophila peripheral nerve, regulation of motor neuron excitability, regulation of ecdysone synthesis
Professional Experience
  • Postdoctoral Fellow
    University of Wisconsin
    1985-1990
  • Associate Professor
    Rice University
    1997-present
Contact Information
Email: stern@rice.edu
Phone: 713-348-5351
Office: Bioscience Research Collaborative, Room 715