Personal profile

Research Interests

My broad research interest lies in understanding the molecular basis of human genetic diseases and developing therapeutics for their treatment. Specifically, my research primarily focuses on neuromuscular diseases, which are those that affect muscle, the nerves that innervate muscle or the neuromuscular junction, which is the connection between the two. One way to approach this problem is to study mutations that disrupt normal neural development. Proximal spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) is a prime example. After cystic fibrosis, SMA is the most common autosomal recessive childhood disease. The disease affects 1/10,000 live born children. It is characterized by degeneration of the a-motor neurons in the spinal cord, which causes proximal, symmetrical limb and trunk muscle weakness that progresses to paralysis and ultimately death. Currently, there is no available treatment for SMA patients. Mutations in survival motor neuron 1 (SMN1) gene are responsible for SMA. In humans, two virtually identical copies of SMN are present, SMN1 and SMN2. SMN1 produces only full-length transcripts (FL-SMN) and is therefore the SMA-determining gene, whereas the predominant transcript from SMN2 is an exon 7 alternatively spliced form. The SMN2 gene also produces a low level of FL-SMN transcript, which explains why SMA is not embryonic lethal in humans. Nevertheless, lower motor neurons eventually succumb to the reduced SMN dosage and degenerate. Why motor neurons are specifically affected is not clear but it has been proposed that this may be due to a distinct role for SMN in this cell type. We have developed a translational research program for SMA. The research is multi-faceted and uses biochemistry, cell biology, molecular biology, and animal modeling. We use these approaches to decipher SMN function within nerve and muscle, the two tissues affected in SMA. We have also generated a hypomorphic allelic series of Smn mutations in mice that mimic human SMN2 splicing.


  • Gene Regulation
  • Developmental genetics
  • Molecular Genetics
  • Neuroscience
  • Gene Therapy
  • Developmental Neurobiology
  • Pharmacokinetics
  • Spinal Muscular Atrophy
  • MicroRNA
  • Muscular Dystrophy

Fingerprint Fingerprint is based on mining the text of the person's scientific documents to create an index of weighted terms, which defines the key subjects of each individual researcher.

  • 3 Similar Profiles
Spinal Muscular Atrophy Medicine & Life Sciences
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Electrocardiography Medicine & Life Sciences

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Research Output 1994 2017

  • 1470 Citations
  • 31 Article
  • 3 Review article
  • 2 Chapter

In vitro and in vivo effects of 2,4 diaminoquinazoline inhibitors of the decapping scavenger enzyme DcpS: Context-specific modulation of SMN transcript levels

Cherry, J. J. , Didonato, C. J. , Androphy, E. J. , Calo, A. , Potter, K. , Custer, S. K. , Du, S. , Foley, T. L. , Gopalsamy, A. , Reedich, E. J. , Gordo, S. M. , Gordon, W. , Hosea, N. , Jones, L. H. , Krizay, D. K. , Larosa, G. , Li, H. , Mathur, S. , Menard, C. A. , Patel, P. & 5 others Ramos-Zayas, R., Rietz, A., Rong, H., Zhang, B. & Tones, M. A. Sep 1 2017 In : PLoS ONE. 12, 9, e0185079

Research output: Research - peer-reviewArticle

muscular atrophy
motor neurons
Motor Neurons

Mammalian Models of Spinal Muscular Atrophy

Burghes, A. H. M. B., DiDonato, C. J., McGovern, V. & Arnold, W. D. 2017 Spinal Muscular Atrophy. Sumner, C. (ed.). USA: Elsevier

Research output: ResearchChapter

Absence of UCHL 1 function leads to selective motor neuropathy.

b, G., jara, J. H., mc, S., m, M., stanford, M. J., gautam, M., klessner, J. L., sekerkova, G., heller, D. B., Cox, G. A., Heckman, C. J., DiDonato, C. J. & Ozdinler, P. H. Mar 2016 In : Ann Clin Transl Neurol. 3, 5, p. 331-345 15 p.

Research output: ResearchArticle

1 Citations

Mammalian Models of Spinal Muscular Atrophy

Burghes, A. H. M., DiDonato, C. J., McGovern, V. L. & Arnold, W. D. Nov 4 2016 Spinal Muscular Atrophy: Disease Mechanisms and Therapy. Elsevier Inc., p. 241-260 20 p.

Research output: ResearchChapter

Spinal Muscular Atrophy
Motor Neurons

ECG in neonate mice with spinal muscular atrophy allows assessment of drug efficacy

Heier, C. R. & DiDonato, C. J. Jan 15 2015 In : Frontiers in Bioscience - Elite. 7E, 1, p. 122-133 12 p.

Research output: Research - peer-reviewArticle

Spinal Muscular Atrophy
Pharmaceutical Preparations