Moses V. Chao, PhD

Professor; Departments of Neuroscience and Physiology, Cell Biology, Molecular Neurobiology and Psychiatry

Chao Lab

Cell Biology, Physiology and Neuroscience, Psychiatry




Contact Information

540 First Avenue
Skirball Institute of Biomolecular Medicine
Floor 5, Lab 15-17
New York, NY 10016

Office Tel: 212-263-0721
Lab Tel: 212-263-0722
Fax: 212-263-8214

Admin Contact

Edna Normand
Tel: 212-263-6354

Research Summary

The development of the nervous system is dependent upon many growth factors, of which the neurotrophins, such as NGF and BDNF, play essential roles in neuronal growth and survival. They also modulate synaptic transmission, learning and memory, pain and neuropsychiatric disorders. We are particularly interested in the mechanism of action of BDNF, which uses two different receptors, the TrkB tyrosine kinase receptor and the p75 receptor. We wish to determine how specificity in BDNF action is encoded in receptor signaling and in the adaptor proteins and enzymatic activities that are recruited to the TrkB and p75 receptors. Alterations in the levels of neurotrophins are highly influenced by neuronal activity and have been implicated in neurodegenerative disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease, Rett syndrome and Huntington’s disease. Genetic and environmental factors that disrupt BDNF expression or signaling have also been associated with other pathways such as glucocorticoid signaling and hypothalamic factors. We have identified molecule agonists that promote trophic functions, which may ultimately be clinically relevant. Several ligands of G-protein coupled receptors can transactivate Trk receptors. Alternative ways of activating Trk receptors raise the possibility that small molecules may be used to elicit neurotrophic effects for the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases. Understanding the signaling mechanisms used by neurotrophins offer the opportunity to identify biochemical events and pathways that underlie cognitive function and complex neurological and psychiatric disorders at a molecular and cellular level.