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. Globa AK, Bamji SX. (2017) Protein palmitoylation in the development and plasticity of neuronal connections.Curr Opin Neurobiol.  45:210-220.
  2. 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 conditioningNat Neurosci. 20(4):540-549.
  3. Liu S, Globa AK, Mills F, Naef L, Qiao M, Bamji SX, Borgland SL. (2016) Consumption of palatable food primes food approach behavior by rapidly increasing synaptic density in the VTA. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A113(9):2520-5.
  4. Brigidi S, Santyr B, Shimell J, Jovellar B, Bamji SX. (2015) Activity-Regulated Trafficking of the Palmitoyl-Acyl Transferase DHHC5. Nature Communications. 6:8200.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. Mills F, Bartlett T, Dissing-Olessen L, Wisniewska MB, Kuznicki K, MacVicar BA, Wang YT, Bamji SX. (2014) Cognitive flexibility and long-term depression (LTD) are impaired following β-catenin stabilization in vivo. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 111:8631-6.
  8. 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.
  9. Brigidi GS, Bamji SX. (2013) Detection of protein palmitoylation in cultured hippocampal neurons by immunoprecipitation and acyl-biotin exchange (ABE). J Vis Exp. (72).
  10. Mehran AE, Templeman NM, Brigidi GS, Lim GE, Chu KY, Hu X, Botezelli JD, Asadi A, Hoffman BG, Kieffer TJ, Bamji SX, Clee SM, Johnson JD. (2012) Hyperinsulinemia drives diet-induced obesity independently of brain insulin production.Cell Metab. 16(6):723-37.
  11. Aiga M, Levinson JN, Yoshida E, Bamji SX. (2011) N-cadherin and neuroligins cooperate to regulate synapse formation in hippocampal cultures. Journal of Biological Chemistry. 286:851-8.
  12. Brigidi GS, Bamji SX. (2011) Cadherin-catenin adhesion complexes at the synapse.Curr Opin Neurobiol. 21(2):208-14.
  13. 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.
  14. 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.
  15. Sun Y, Bamji SX. (2011) β-pix modulates actin-mediated recruitment of synaptic vesicles to synapses. Journal of Neuroscience. 31:17123-33.
  16. Guo A, Tapia L, Bamji SX, Cynader MS, Jia W. (2010) Progranulin deficiency leads to enhanced cell vulnerability and TDP-43 translocation in primary neuronal cultures.Brain Res. 1366:1-8
  17. O’Connor TP, Cockburn K, Wang W, Tapia L, Currie E, Bamji SX. (2009) Semaphorin 5B mediates synapse elimination in hippocampal neuronsNeural Dev. 4:18.
  18. 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.
  19. Lee SH, Peng IF, Ng YG, Yanagisawa M, Bamji SX, Elia LP, Balsamo J, Lilien J, Anastasiadis PZ, Ullian EM, Reichardt LF. (2008) Synapses are regulated by the cytoplasmic tyrosine kinase Fer in a pathway mediated by p120catenin, Fer, SHP-2, and beta-cateninJ Cell Biol. 183(5):893-908.
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.