Christopher Deppmann


  • BS, Western Michigan University
  • Postdoc, John Hopkins University

Primary Appointment

  • Assistant Professor, Biology


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Our previous work exploited the relative simplicity of the sympathetic nervous system to delineate the rules for competition. Other populations of neurons, such as those in the dorsal root ganglia, are more complex. We hypothesize that in these more complex systems the sensitization process is likely to remain very similar to what we observe in the sympathetic nervous system. Punishment signaling may function differently however, as the punishment cues identified in sympathetic neurons--BDNF-induced p75 signaling for instance--would actually have trophic effects in some neighboring TrkB positive neurons.

2. Delineate signaling underlying protection and punishment cross-talk

This has been a long-standing issue in the trophic factor field, however very little is known. We have developed several promising leads as to how these signaling pathways communicate with one another. Understanding how these antagonistic programs communicate with each other not only has implications for the development of the nervous system, but may also lead to insights into pathologies such as neuroblastoma or neurodegeneration.

3. Examine if signaling programs involved in competition for survival are also involved in competition for synaptic connectivity

After a developmental critical period, neurons no longer rely on target derived trophic factor for survival even though its availability and signaling persist into adulthood. If this signaling is not functioning as a pro-survival cue, what is it doing after this critical period? Synapse formation is an attractive candidate for this since it occurs after competition for survival. Therefore, this project will center around determining whether this signaling is important for synapse formation.

4. Examine the role of novel target derived neurotrophin regulated genes in developmental processes such as competition, axon extension, axon branching, changes in metabolism, and acquisition of neurotransmitter phenotype.

We previously performed a microarray analysis to identify genes regulated by target derived trophic factor in vivo. There are still 100's of interesting genes yet to be characterized in these processes. We have already begun characterizing genes that are important for cytoskeletal re-arrangement, signaling endosome function, and axon guidance.

5. Determine if re-engagement of developmental competition programs can participate in diseases of the nervous system.

The notion of pathologies co-opting developmental programs has been proposed in certain types of cancer as well as in complications in nerve regeneration. While there has been significant progress made identifying causative factors underlying neurodegenerative pathologies, the mechanism by which the pathology spreads to asymptomatic neurons in diseases such as Parkinson's or ALS has been largely unexplored.

To learn more about potential research projects,

visit my lab webpage.

Selected Publications

  • Suo D, Park J, Young S, Makita T, Deppmann C. Coronin-1 and calcium signaling governs sympathetic final target innervation. The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience. 2015;35(9): 3893-902. PMID: 25740518 | PMCID: PMC4348186
  • Wheeler M, Heffner D, Kim S, Espy S, Spano A, Cleland C, Deppmann C. TNF-α/TNFR1 signaling is required for the development and function of primary nociceptors. Neuron. 2014;82(3): 587-602. PMID: 24811380 | PMCID: PMC4046273
  • Suo D, Park J, Harrington A, Zweifel L, Mihalas S, Deppmann C. Coronin-1 is a neurotrophin endosomal effector that is required for developmental competition for survival. Nature neuroscience. 2013. PMID: 24270184
  • Mitchell D, Blasier K, Jeffery E, Ross M, Pullikuth A, Suo D, Park J, Smiley W, Lo K, Shabanowitz J, Deppmann C, Trinidad J, Hunt D, Catling A, Pfister K. Trk activation of the ERK1/2 kinase pathway stimulates intermediate chain phosphorylation and recruits cytoplasmic dynein to signaling endosomes for retrograde axonal transport. The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience. 2012;32(44): 15495-510. PMID: 23115187 | PMCID: PMC3500848
  • Sharma N, Deppmann C, Harrington A, St Hillaire C, Chen Z, Lee F, Ginty D. Long-distance control of synapse assembly by target-derived NGF. Neuron. 2010;67(3): 422-34. PMID: 20696380 | PMCID: PMC2949359
  • Deppmann C, Mihalas S, Sharma N, Lonze B, Niebur E, Ginty D. A model for neuronal competition during development. Science (New York, N.Y.). 2008;320(5874): 369-73. PMID: 18323418 | PMCID: PMC3612357
  • Deppmann C, Ginty D. Retrograde control of neural circuit formation. Cell. 2006;127(7): 1306-7. PMID: 17190596
  • Deppmann C, Acharya A, Rishi V, Wobbes B, Smeekens S, Taparowsky E, Vinson C. Dimerization specificity of all 67 B-ZIP motifs in Arabidopsis thaliana: a comparison to Homo sapiens B-ZIP motifs. Nucleic acids research. 2004;32(11): 3435-45. PMID: 15226410 | PMCID: PMC443529
  • Deppmann C, Thornton T, Utama F, Taparowsky E. Phosphorylation of BATF regulates DNA binding: a novel mechanism for AP-1 (activator protein-1) regulation. The Biochemical journal. 2003;374 423-31. PMID: 12809553 | PMCID: PMC1223616
  • Johansen L, Deppmann C, Erickson K, Coffin W, Thornton T, Humphrey S, Martin J, Taparowsky E. EBNA2 and activated Notch induce expression of BATF. Journal of virology. 2003;77(10): 6029-40. PMID: 12719594 | PMCID: PMC154003