Synaptic Physiology and Development


The Stewart Lab at Cold Spring Harbor, Neurobiology of Drosophila 2017


Bryan Stewart, PhD

Bryan finished his PhD in 1996, graduating from the University of Toronto's Department of Physiology under the supervision of Professor H.L. Atwood. Initially trained in classic electrophysiological analysis of synaptic transmission and the ultrastructure of synapses, postdoctoral training at Stanford University (1996-98) with Professor T.L. Schwarz and at The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto (1998-2001) with Dr. G.L. Boulianne expanded the research areas into molecular genetics and developmental biology.

Since establishing an independent laboratory at the University of Toronto in 2001, the group has continued to work at the interface of structure and function of synapses, examining the relationship between synaptic development and physiology, using the fruit fly as the main experimental system.

Bryan held the Canada Research Chair in Molecular Genetics of Neural Communication from 2002-2012 and was awarded the Genetics Society of Canada Young Scientist Award in 2005. He previously served as the Vice-Principal, Research for the University of Toronto Mississauga campus and as the Chair for the Department of Biology.

Katie Harris, PHD

Katie is a Research Associate who is studying synaptic development and function, focusing primarily on the postynaptic elements and the role scaffolding proteins and intracellular trafficking can play to shape the synapse. Katie recently joined the lab after a postdoctoral fellowship at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Here are Katie's recent papers:

Postsynaptic Syntaxin 4 negatively regulates the efficiency of neurotransmitter release. Harris KP, Littleton JT, Stewart BA.                J Neurogenet. 2018 Sep 3:1-9. doi: 10.1080/01677063.2018.1501372.

Shank Modulates Postsynaptic Wnt Signaling to Regulate Synaptic Development. Harris KP, Akbergenova Y, Cho RW, Baas-Thomas MS, Littleton JT. J Neurosci. 2016 May 25;36(21):5820-32. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.4279-15.2016.PMID:27225771

The postsynaptic t-SNARE Syntaxin 4 controls traffic of Neuroligin 1 and Synaptotagmin 4 to regulate retrograde signaling. Harris KP, Zhang YV, Piccioli ZD, Perrimon N, Littleton JT. Elife. 2016 May 25;5. pii: e13881. doi: 10.7554/eLife.13881.PMID:27223326

ChristinE Nguyen Msc

After finishing an MSc in the lab on the role of postsynaptic structure and synaptic strength, Christine is continuing her PhD studies on two projects. She is further examining Drosophila neuromuscular synapses and the role of ubiquitin pathway in synaptic development and strength, while she is collaborating with The Gilbert Lab to advance our understanding of the electrophysiological properties of nerve and muscle cells in cultures derived from human stem cells.

Here is Christine's paper published from her MSc work:

The influence of postsynaptic structure on missing quanta at the Drosophila neuromuscular junction. Nguyen CT, Stewart BA. BMC Neurosci. 2016 Jul 26;17(1):53. doi: 10.1186/s12868-016-0290-7.

abi Karunendiran MSc

Abi completed her undergraduate studies with a double major in biology and physics and she continues to work at the interface of these two disciplines. Abi completed her MSc studies on the use of non-linear optical methods to monitor development of the Drosophila compound eye. The unique structure of the eye, combined with the high concentration of rhodopsin make it excellent biological tissue for imaging nonlinear microscopy. Abi contibues her PhD work studying the structure and development of muscle.

Here is Abi's paper published from her MSc work:

Examination of Drosophila Eye Development with Third Harmonic Generation Microscopy Abiramy Karunendiran, Richard Cisek, Danielle Tokarz, Virginijus Barzda, and Bryan A. Stewart 2017. doi: 10.1364/BOE.8.004504

Gordana Scepanovic MSc

Gordana defended her MSc thesis in December 2017 and is now a PhD Student with Rodrigo Fernandez-Gonzalez at UofT

After completing her undergraduate degree at UTM, Gordana joined the lab in the spring of 2016 as an MSc student. Her current project focuses on the potential impacts of early alcohol exposure on the developing nervous system. Her goal is to determine if Drosophila can be developed as a model for research into the effects of alcohol on neural development and use Drosophila genetics to understand the potential intracellular pathways affected by alcohol.

Ashley Hogg MSc

Ashley just defended her MSc in August 2018. Congrats!

Ashley finished her undergraduate studies at the University of Guelph. After working in the lab for the summer, Ashley started her MSc project in September 2016. She is working towards understanding the roles that postsynaptic scaffolding proteins play in synapse development by looking for genetic modifiers of Shank alleles.

Lab Alumni

Postdocs / Research Associates

  • Dr. Xinping Qiu, 2005-2016

  • Dr. Marta Kisiel, 2013-2014

  • Dr. Melissa Massey, 2012-2013

  • Dr. Nicola Haines, 2004-2008

Visiting Scientists and Students

  • Megan O'Hare, 2013 PhD student from King's College London

  • Taro Kaneuchi, 2006, PhD student from Tokyo Metropolitan University

  • Prof. N. Reist, 2003, from Colorado State University

  • Prof. D. Deitcher, 2002, from Cornell University

Graduate Students

  • Marta Kisiel, PhD (2013)

  • Colin DeMill, PhD (2013)

  • Sara Seabrooke, PhD (2010)

  • Ashley Hogg MSc (2018)

  • Gordana Scepanovic MSc (2018)

  • Abi Karunendiran, MSc (2015)

  • Christine Nguyen, MSc (2015)

  • Marzena Serwin, MSc (2012)

  • Matthew Laviolette, MSc (2008)

  • Debolina Majumdar, MSc (2006)

Undergraduate Students

  • Arif Sarowar, NSERC USRA 2018 Summer Scholar and Bio481 student

  • Anuj Kushal, Bio481 student

  • Tamara Scepanovic, Undergraduate Research Assistant

  • Christine N. Nguyen, Undergraduate Research Assistant

  • Sam Nguyen, Undergraduate Research Assistant

  • Nathashi Jayawardena, NSERC USRA 2016 Summer Scholar

  • Mary Bautista, Undergraduate Research Assistant

  • Urfa Arain, Bio481 student

  • Rachelle Dinchong, Undergraduate Research Assistant

  • Miki Gams, NSERC USRA Summer Scholar

  • Alicja Nowicki, Bio481 student

  • Eunice Furtado, Undergraduate Research Assistant

  • Andrea Massey, Undergraduate Resesarch Assistant

  • Renuka Ramlogan, Undergraduate Research Assistant

  • Saba Haroon, NSERC USRA Summer Scholar

  • Julieta Lazarte, Undergraduate Research Assistant

  • Zara Ali, Undergrauate Research Assistant

  • Alanna Bolotta, Bio481 student

  • Kris McKenzie, Bio481 student

  • Abdullah Ishaque, Bio481 student

  • Jessica Monteiro, NSERC USRA Summer Scholar

  • Alexandra Quimby, NSERC USRA Summer Scholar

  • Marzena Serwin, Bio481 student

  • Farah Jazuli, Bio481 student

  • Nicole Novroski, Bio481 student

  • Ahmed Faress, NSERC USRA Summer Scholar

  • Marta Kisiel, NSERC USRA Summer Scholar

  • Owen Randlett, NSERC USRA Summer Scholar

  • Ann George, NSERC USRA Summer Scholar

  • Paula Nunes, NSERC USRA Summer Scholar

  • Matthew Laviolette

  • Jammie Tosevski, NSERC USRA Summer Scholar

  • Sara Seabrooke

  • Jesse McLean, 4th year thesis

  • Rhadika Khorana

  • Tina Khandihadia

  • Christelle Gideon

  • Manpreet Kaur