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Sungjin Park

Assistant Professor of Neurobiology

Sungjin Park

B.S. Seoul National University

Ph.D. Johns Hopkins University



Sungjin Park's Lab Page

Sungjin Park's PubMed Literature Search


Molecular Biology Program

Cell Signaling, Neuron-Glial Interaction, GPI-anchored Proteins, extracellular matrix organization


Cell-to-cell and cell-to-extracellular matrix (ECM) communication is critical for development and function of the nervous system. We study signaling pathways mediated by glycosylphosphatidylinositol (GPI)-anchored proteins (GPI-APs). GPI-APs play key roles in multiple processes including neurogenesis, axon guidance, synapse development and ECM formation. GPI-APs are a unique hybrid class of proteins that are both membrane bound, as well as cleaved and released from the membrane and thus play versatile roles in signal transduction on the cell surface and in the extracellular space. However, how GPI-dependent signaling pathways are regulated is poorly understood. By focusing on understudied pathways we hope to identify novel therapeutic targets for neurodevelopmental diseases caused by synaptogenic defects such as autism spectrum disorders and schizophrenia.

  1. Mechanisms of bi-directional neuron-astrocyte communication regulating synapse development and function

Astrocytes play important roles in multiple steps of synapse formation and function, many of which are mediated by released factors. However, the mechanism of release of these factors remains elusive. We have identified a novel pathway to release GPI-anchored synaptogenic factors from astrocytes via an astrocyte-specific GPI-anchor cleaving enzyme. We are investigating its regulatory mechanism and specific downstream effectors.

Is the release of synaptogenic factors constitutive or regulated by neuronal activity? We are working to identify specific signaling molecules secreted from neurons that facilitate the release of synaptogenic factors from astrocytes. Specifically, we are studying the regulated release of glypican-4, a GPI-anchored protein and how the GPI-anchor itself may play a role in this mechanism. We have generated a knock-in mouse line to study the contribution of the released vs membrane-bound forms of glypican-4 signaling both in vitro and in vivo

  1. Molecular mechanisms mediating the formation of highly ordered ECM structures

How are complex ECM structures established outside the cell? What molecular mechanisms drive the assembly of the ECM? We focus on a specialized ECM structure in the inner ear, the tectorial membrane, which plays roles in amplification and propagation of sound waves. We found that GPI-anchorage of alpha-tectorin is required to prevent diffusion of ECM components and allow assembly of the tectorial membrane. We are currently investigating how its growth and characteristic ultrastructure are specified at the molecular level using newly generated knock-in mouse lines.

  1. Development and applications of a high-throughput live neuronal activity assay

Can we perform high-thought drug screen assay to identify drugs that modulate synapse development and function? Can we generate mutant neurons that bear a disease-causing mutation and simultaneously monitor altered neuronal activity only in the mutated neurons? We have developed a simple and robust assay to monitor the neuronal activity in live neurons by combining activity-dependent promoters and secreted reporters. We are optimizing this assay to establish large-scale analyses, drug screens and to combine it with cutting edge gene-editing techniques in order to study the effects of disease-causing mutations.


  1. Cave, C., Park, S., Rodriguez, M., Nakamura, M., Hoke, A., Pletnikov, M., Sockanathan, S. (2017). GDE2 is essential for neuronal survival in the postnatal mammalian spinal cord. Mol Neurodegener, 12(1), 8.

  2. Kim, D.K., Kim, J.A., Park, J., Niazi, A., Almishaal, A., Park, S. (2019). The release of surface-anchored α-tectorin, an apical extracellular matrix protein, mediates tectorial membrane organization. Sci Adv, 5(11), eaay6300.
  3. Kim, B.J., Kim, D.-K., Han, J.H., Oh, J., Kim, A.R., Lee, C., Kim, N.K.D., Park, H.-R., Kim, M.Y., Lee, S., Lee, S., Oh, D.Y., Park, W.J., Park, S.*, and Choi, B.Y.*. Clarification of glycosylphosphatidylinositol anchorage of OTOANCORIN and human OTOA variants associated with deafness. Human Mutation 2019 May;40(5):525-531.* Corresponding author. 

  4. Dobrowolski, M., Cave, C., Levy-Myers, R., Lee, C., Park, S, Choi, B, Xiao, B, Yang, W, and Sockanathan, S. GDE3 regulates oligodendrocyte precursor proliferation via release of soluble CNTFRα, Development. Accepted. 

  5. Na, Y.*, Park, S.*, Lee, C., Kim, D.K., Park, J.M., Sockanathan, S., Huganir, R.L., and Worley, P.F. (2016). Real-Time Imaging Reveals Properties of Glutamate-Induced Arc/Arg 3.1 Translation in Neuronal Dendrites. Neuron Jul 5, pii: S0896-6273(16)30294-X.
  6. Choi, J., Park, S., and Sockanathan, S. (2014). Activated retinoid receptors are required for the migration and fate maintenance of subsets of cortical neurons. Development 141, 1151-1160.
  7. Park, J.M., Hu, J.H., Milshteyn, A., Zhang, P.W., Moore, C.G., Park, S., Datko, M.C., Domingo, R.D., Reyes, C.M., Wang, X.J., et al. (2013a). A prolyl-isomerase mediates dopamine-dependent plasticity and cocaine motor sensitization. Cell 154, 637-650.
  8. Kim, Y.S., Kang, E., Makino, Y., Park, S., Shin, J.H., Song, H., Launay, P., and Linden, D.J. (2013). Characterizing the conductance underlying depolarization-induced slow current in cerebellar Purkinje cells. Journal of Neurophysiology 109, 1174-1181.
  9. Park, S.*, Lee, C.*, Sabharwal, P., Zhang, M., Meyers, C.L., and Sockanathan, S. (2013). GDE2 promotes neurogenesis by glycosylphosphatidylinositol-anchor cleavage of RECK. Science 339, 324-328.
  10. Rodriguez, M., Choi, J., Park, S., and Sockanathan, S. (2012). Gde2 regulates cortical neuronal identity by controlling the timing of cortical progenitor differentiation. Development 139, 3870-3879.
  11. Sabharwal, P., Lee, C., Park, S., Rao, M., and Sockanathan, S. (2011). GDE2 regulates subtype-specific motor neuron generation through inhibition of Notch signaling. Neuron 71, 1058-1070.
  12. Hu, J.H.*, Park, J.M.*, Park, S.*, Xiao, B., Dehoff, M.H., Kim, S., Hayashi, T., Schwarz, M.K., Huganir, R.L., Seeburg, P.H., et al. (2010). Homeostatic scaling requires group I mGluR activation mediated by Homer1a. Neuron 68, 1128-1142.
  13. Butkinaree, C., Cheung, W.D., Park, S., Park, K., Barber, M., and Hart, G.W. (2008). Characterization of beta-N-acetylglucosaminidase cleavage by caspase-3 during apoptosis. Journal of Biological Chemistry 283, 23557-23566.
  14. Park, S.*, Park, J.M.*, Kim, S., Kim, J.A., Shepherd, J.D., Smith-Hicks, C.L., Chowdhury, S., Kaufmann, W., Kuhl, D., Ryazanov, A.G., et al. (2008). Elongation factor 2 and fragile X mental retardation protein control the dynamic translation of Arc/Arg3.1 essential for mGluR-LTD. Neuron 59, 70-83. *: equal contribution

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Last Updated: 1/4/21