Nichols Lab

Alexia Kalogeropulou, BSc
Research Assistant

B.S.  Neuroscience, UCLA

After graduating from the Neuroscience Program at UCLA, I gained substantial clinical experience as a medical assistant at a dermatology clinic in Beverly Hills, California. I then transitioned to basic science research and began working at the Parkinson’s Institute in 2015 as a Research Assistant in the Signal Transduction and LRRK2 Biology Program where I am also the Lab Manager. My work focuses on elucidating novel LRRK2 substrates and I also support most laboratory projects. 

Marcus Schonemann, Ph.D.
Staff Scientist

Post Graduate Training at UC San Francisco, HHMI, CIRM
Ph.D. in Developmental Neuroscience, UC San Diego, HHMI
B.S. in Pharmacological Science, UC Santa Barbara

I joined the Parkinson's Institute in the summer of 2015 as a Staff Scientist, where my expertise in the field of developmental neurobiology using stem cell derived neurons and oligodendrocytes to study important issues in developmental neurobiology complements the LRRK2 signal transduction program of the Nichols Lab.

The lessons learned from development can be re-purposed to study age related disorders and injury to the adult brain to search for clues in developing novel therapeutics.  I have been trained in HHMI laboratories at UC San Diego and UC San Francisco and prior to joining the Nichols lab, I was a part of a UCSF consortium focusing on a 4 year project on stem cell models of brain repair funded by the CIRM.

While the main focus of the Nichols lab revolves around LRRK2 signaling and Parkinson's disease, the focus of my main project is to develop a rapid in vivo bioassay for novel therapeutics looking at alpha-Synuclein pathology.

 A highlight of my career is to have had two of my publications featured on the front covers of the respective journals (1995, 2012).  The data presented in my 2012 Endocrinology paper is entirely by immunofluorescence images during human embryonic peripheral nervous system development, highlighting my ability as an accomplished histologist.

R. Jeremy Nichols
Director of Signal Transduction and LRRK2 Biology

Jeremy Nichols, PhD obtained a BS degree with honors from Austin Peay State University where he was involved in field biology studies of reptile and amphibian populations. He then obtained a PhD in the laboratory of Paula Traktman, PhD at the Medical College of Wisconsin. While there, he studied a novel family of protein kinases called the vaccinia related kinases (VRKs) and found that they regulate a protein required for meiotic cell division. He also studied proteins involved in the infectious cycle of the small pox vaccine agent vaccinia virus, characterizing viral proteins involved in virion entry and virulence. He pursued his interest in cellular signaling with a post-doctoral fellowship at the United Kingdom Medical Research Council Protein Phosphorylation Unit in Dundee, Scotland with Professor Dario Alessi (FRSE, FRS). While there, he sought to unravel the role of LRRK2 in cells and how disease associated mutations cause Parkinson’s disease. He also successfully developed assays for LRRK2 both in vitro and in the cell. He joined The Parkinson’s Institute in 2010 where his LRRK2 investigations can gain greater impact by integration with the clinical resources and basic science research at The Parkinson’s Institute.

Marc Bolliger, Ph.D.
Staff Scientist

PhD in Natural Sciences from Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (ETH)Diploma in Natural Sciences from Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (ETH)

I joined the Parkinson's Institute as a Staff Scientist in summer 2013. My projects focus on identifying the kinases and phosphatases that regulate LRRK2.

I earned my Ph.D. in biochemistry from ETH Zürich in 2001. Under the supervision of Dr. Sergio Gloor I discovered two neuroligin genes encoding cell adhesion proteins localized at the synapse. One of them, neuroligin 4, became the first gene shown to be implicated in autism. While working as a Postdoctoral Fellow in Dr. Peter Sonderegger's lab at University of Zürich, I investigated neurotrypsin, a neuronal protease associated with mental retardation. Based on the analysis of transgenic and knockout mice we succeeded in identifying the substrate of neurotrypsin, namely agrin, and a developmental analysis of these mice demonstrated that this proteolytic event regulates the maturation of the neuromuscular junction. Then I joined Dr. Thomas Südhof's lab at Stanford University to follow up on my graduate work. We identified a novel point mutation in neuroligin 4 in autistic patients and demonstrated that this mutation impairs protein folding. In addition, I screened for ligands of a brain-specific G-protein coupled receptor, and studied its signaling upon binding of these ligands.

Jing Zhao, Ph.D.
Postdoctoral Fellow

Ph.D. in Biochemistry from Kent State University
B.S. in Clinical Medicine from Peking University Health Science Center

 My name is Jing Zhao. I grew up in Northwest China, and finished my undergraduate education at Peking University Health Science Center, with a Bachelor of Clinical Medicine degree in 2004. I started my graduate studies in the Kent State University Chemistry Department in 2006.  My graduate research focused on the regulation of the nuclear hormone receptor LRH-1 transcriptional transactivation by phosphorylation.  I graduated from Kent State University with a PhD. in Biochemistry in 2010. From 2011 till now, I have worked as a Postdoctoral fellow with Dr. Nichols. My research has focused on the post-translational regulation of LRRK2.  I have identified upstream phosphatases that regulate LRRK2 and defined a phosphorylation-deubiquitination cycle that regulates LRRK2. 

Tyler Molitor, Ph.D.
Postdoctoral Fellow / Vivarium Manager

Ph.D. in Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, Medical College of Wisconsin B.A. in Biology, Lawrence University

Dr. Molitor focuses on understanding cellular signaling mechanisms, particularly kinase signaling, that go awry in PD. He employs multitude of disciplines and model systems in order to dissect pathologic signaling events. He started his scientific training during his undergraduate years at Lawrence University working to understand senescence (cellular aging) mechanisms in the marchantia polymorpha under Dr. Nicholas Maravolo PhD. His focus on kinase biology began during his doctoral training at the Medical College of Wisconsin under the renowned virologist Dr. Paula Traktman. He examined the influence of the viral F10 kinase on the life-cycle of the vaccinia virus. This research led to a body of work dissecting the mammalian Vaccinia Related Kinase (VRK) family culminating in two single author papers on the role of VRK1 in nuclear envelope breakdown and tumorigenesis in an orthotopic xenograft model of breast cancer. Since joining the PICC he has been working to understand the contribution of the Leucine Rich Repeat Kinase 2 (LRRK2) in Parkinson’s disease (PD) pathogenesis focusing on targeting the kinase domain as a potential therapeutic. In addition Dr. Molitor is also the Vivarium Manager at the Parkinson’s Institute and Clinical Center (PICC). He directs all facets of our research animal colony from regulatory oversight and personnel management to pre-clinical trial design. He has 10 years of experience working with and developing genetic rodent models of disease. Since his assignment we have expanded our colony to include 7 genetic models of PD in the 3 major genetic contributors to PD: leucine-rich-repeat kinase 2 (LRRK2),alpha-synuclein (SNCA) and glucocerebrosidase (GBA). These multiple models will further our investigation of prospective therapeutic for multiple genetic facets of PD.

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