Office for the Promotion of Women in Science, Engineering, and Mathematics
Faculty Profile
Firestein, Bonnie L.
Bonnie's Profile
Bonnie's Story
Firestein, Bonnie L.

Phone: 732-445-8045

Ph.D., University of California, San Diego, 1995

Professional Summary/CV [.PDF]

Department of Cell Biology and Neuroscience, School of Arts and Sciences, New Brunswick; Rutgers
Areas of Interest
Molecular mechanisms underlying synaptic protein targeting and dendritic branching.
Teaching Areas
Advanced neurobiology and biochemistry.
Memberships and Professional Service
Permanent member, ZRG1 F03A study section (NRSA), NIH; Ad hoc reviewer for National Science Foundation; Charter Member, New Jersey Commission on Traumatic Brain Injury Research; Editorial Board Member, Open Neuroscience Journal; Frequent reviewer for Journal of Neuroscience; Ad hoc reviewer for American Journal of Physiology, Molecular Pharmacology, European Journal of Biochemistry, Journal of Biological Chemistry, Journal of Cell Science, Molecular Biology of the Cell, Molecular and Cellular Biology, Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience, PNAS, FASEB Journal, Developmental Biology, and Trends in Cell Biology; Member Society for Neuroscience and American Society for Cell Biology; Biophysical Society Chair; Admissions and Recruitment Committees, Molecular Biosciences Graduate Program, Rutgers University/UMDNJ.
Grants, Honors, and Awards
New Jersey Commission Spinal Cord Research, 2007-2009; National Science Foundation, 2003-2009; American Heart Association Grant in Aid, 2005-2008; NJ Governorís Council on Autism Pilot Grant, 2005-2007; Awardee, Paralyzed Veterans of America, Spinal Cord Research Foundation, Postdoctoral Fellowship, 1998-2000; Awardee, NRSA Postdoctoral Fellowship, NICHD, 1996-1998; Excellence in Renal Physiology Award, American Physiological Society, 1994.
Academic Interests and Plans
During neuronal development, proper connections are set up. Dendrites are extended and retracted to yield a mature dendritic arbor. Proteins that are needed for interneuronal communication are trafficked to synapses. Since starting my own laboratory at Rutgers University in 2000, I have focused on understanding how these two processes are related. It has been generally accepted that signaling proteins play no role in neuronal development until they are synaptically localized. My laboratoryís findings strongly suggest that while these synaptic signaling proteins are in transit and serve no synaptic role, they regulate dendrite number, branching, and outgrowth. Until now, there have been numerous reports that activity sculpts the dendritic arbor. The most important aspect of my work thus far is the novel finding that regulation of dendritic arborization during development has an activity-independent component and is determined by local alterations in the microtubule cytoskeleton. It was previously thought that in order to make a dendrite branch, microtubules are transported from the cell body to the distal end of the dendrite. Our data suggest otherwise. Importantly, we have found that positive regulators of dendritic branching, such as the protein cypin, promote local microtubule assembly. In contrast, negative regulators of dendrite number, such as the proteins PSD-95 and snapin, either inhibit local microtubule assembly or cause local disorganization of microtubules. Our work defines a completely novel mechanism by which dendrites are sculpted during development.