Shernaz X. Bamji, Professor

Tula Foundation Investigator (Brain Research Centre)
CIHR New Investigator
MSFHR Scholar
Head, Neuroscience Research Group

University of California, San Francisco (Postdoc)
Montreal Neurological Institute – McGill University (PhD)
University of Toronto (BSc, MSc)

Office:  604-822-4746, Lab: 604-827-4158
E-mail:  shernaz.bamji@ubc.caLab Website:




R e s e a r c h    I n t e r e s t s

Synapses are the essential point of contact between neurons and their targets for the directional flow of information in the nervous system. The study of how synapses form and how they function is fundamental to our understanding of nervous system connectivity and communication. It is now believed that deficiencies in synaptic function are central to many psychiatric and neurodegenerative diseases such as schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s disease. Thus, it is anticipated that a better understanding of the molecular mechanisms that control these highly specialized structures holds great promise for the development of urgently needed, novel therapies for these diseases.

The principle research objective of my laboratory is to elucidate the cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying the formation, stability, and elimination of CNS synapses. We primarily utilize cultured hippocampal neurons as a model system, and extend these studies to genetically modified mouse models when appropriate. Fundamental questions addressed in the lab include; 1) how does cell-cell contact result in the assembly of pre- and postsynaptic compartments, 2) what are the contributions of pre- and postsynaptic elements to the integrity of the synapse, 3) what are the transsynaptic signals that regulate synaptic plasticity, and 4) is synapse elimination a stereotypical process and, if so, what is the sequence of molecular events underlying synapse disassembly?

Answers to these questions will not only reveal mechanisms underlying developmental and neurodegenerative disorders, but will also provide insight into the molecular signals involved in synaptic strengthening, a process believed essential for learning and memory.

S e l e c t e d   P u b l i c a t i o n s
    1. Brigidi S, Santyr B, Shimell J, Jovellar B, Bamji SX*. (2015) Activity-Regulated Trafficking of the Palmitoyl-Acyl Transferase DHHC5. Nature Communications. Sep 3;6:8200.
    2. Baronas V, McGuinness B, Brigidi GS, Gomm R, Vilin Y, Kim R, Lynn F, Bamji SX, Yang R, Kurata H. (2015) Use-dependent activation of neuronal Kv1.2 channel complexes. J. Neurosci 35:3515-24.
    3. Brigidi GS, Sun Y, Beccano-Kelly D, Pitman K, Mobasser M, Borgland SL, Milnerwood AJ, Bamji SX*. (2014) Palmitoylation of δ-catenin by DHHC5 mediates activity-induced synapse plasticity. Nat Neurosci 17:522-32.
    4. Mills F, Bartlett T, Dissing-Olessen L, Wisniewska MB, Kuznicki K, MacVicar BA, Wang YT, Bamji SX*. (2014) Behavioral flexibility and synapse plasticity requires weakening of cadherin adhesion complexes. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 111:8631-6.
    5. Petoukhov E, Fernando S, Mills F, Shivji F, Hunter D, Krieger C, Silverman MA, Bamji SX*. (2013) Activity-dependent secretion of progranulin from synapses. J Cell Sci 126:5412-21.
    6. Brigidi GS, Bamji SX*. (2013) Detection of protein palmitoylation in cultured hippocampal neurons by immunoprecipitation and acyl-biotin exchange (ABE). J Vis Exp.
    7. Aiga M, Levinson JN, Yoshida E, Bamji SX*. (2011) Functional interaction between N-cadherin and neuroligin-1 in synapse formation. Journal of Biological Chemistry 286:851-8.
    8. Tapia L, Milnerwood A, Guo A, Mills F, Yoshida E, Vasuta C, Mackenzie I, Raymond L, Cynader M, Jia W, Bamji SX*. (2011) PGRN deficiency decreases neural connectivity but enhances synaptic efficacy. Journal of Neuroscience 31:11126-32.
    9. Diering G, Mills F, Bamji SX*, Numata M*. (2011) Regulation of Dendritic Spine Growth Through Activity-Dependent Recruitment of the Na+/H+ Exchanger, NHE5. Molecular Biology of the Cell 22:2246-57.
    10. Sun Y, Bamji SX*. (2011) b-pix modulates actin-mediated recruitment of synaptic vesicles to synapses. Journal of Neuroscience 31:17123-33.
    11. Sun Y, Aiga M, Yoshida E, Humbert PO, Bamji SX*. (2009) Scribble interacts with β-catenin to regulate the localization of synaptic vesicles.  Molecular Biology of the Cell 20:3390-3400.
    12. Mills F, Globa AK, Liu S, Cowan CM, Mobasser M, Phillips AG, Borgland SL, Bamji SX. (2017) Cadherins mediate cocaine-induced synaptic plasticity and behavioral conditioning. Nature Neurosci. Apr;20(4):540-549. doi: 10.1038/nn.4503. Epub 2017 Feb 13.
    13. Globa AK, Bamji SX. (2017) Protein palmitoylation in the development and plasticity of neuronal connections. Curr Opin Neurobiol. 2017 Mar 30. PMID:28366531
Further publications can be found here.
J o i n   t h e  L a b
There are currently positions available for graduate students and postdoctoral fellows. Candidates should apply directly to Dr. Bamji via email with an attached CV.