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Michael Akins

Michael Akins, PhD

Assistant Professor
Office: PISB 319
Phone: 215.571.4453
Lab Location: PISB 312
Lab Phone: 215.571.4529
Additional Sites: The Akins Lab


  • AB, Molecular Biology, Princeton University, 1999 (Advisor: Joe Tsien)
  • PhD, Neuroscience, Yale University, 2005 (Advisor: Charles Greer)
  • Postdoc, Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry, Yale University, 2005-2007 (Advisor: Thomas Biederer)
  • Postdoc, Neuroscience, Brown University (Advisor: Justin Fallon)

Research Interests:

My laboratory studies the neural mechanisms underlying how organisms interact with the environment. Arising from this are parallel interests in circuit formation, particularly of sensory circuits, and neural diseases including autism and Fragile X syndrome (FXS). FXS, which arises from mutations in the RNA-binding protein FMRP, is the leading form of inherited intellectual disability and autism; its study, therefore, provides insights into diseases that afflict large segments of the population. FMRP is expressed in the somatodendritic domain of essentially every neuron. FMRP additionally localizes to axonal ribonucleoprotein particles termed FXGs (Fragile X granules) in a subset of neural circuits, including sensory, motor, and hippocampal circuits. The discovery of FXGs points to a heretofore unknown role for axonal protein synthesis in the vertebrate central nervous system. We are following up on these observations to elucidate how local protein synthesis in the axonal and presynaptic compartments contributes to neural circuit formation and function, and how disruption of this process contributes to the symptoms of diseases including FXS and autism.


Biosketch (doc)

Selected Publications:

  • Akins MR, LeBlanc HF, Stackpole EE, Chyung E, and Fallon JR. 2012. Systematic mapping of Fragile X granules in the mouse brain reveals a potential role for presynaptic FMRP in sensorimotor functions. J Comp Neurol. 520:3687-706. Pubmed
  • Bath KG, Akins MR, and Lee FS. 2012. BDNF control of adult SVZ neurogenesis. Dev Psychobiol. 54:578-89. Pubmed
  • Akins MR*, Berk-Rauch HE*, Fallon JR. 2009. Presynaptic translation: stepping out of the postsynaptic shadow. Front Neural Circuits. 3:17. Article
  • Christie SB*, Akins MR*, Schwob JE, and Fallon JR. 2009 The FXG: A presynaptic Fragile X granule expressed in a subset of developing brain circuits. J Neurosci. 29:1514-24. Article Highlighted in "This Week in the Journal"
  • Thomas LA*, Akins MR*, and Biederer T. 2008 Expression and Adhesion Profiles of SynCAM Adhesion Molecules Indicate Distinct Neuronal Functions. J Comp Neurol. 510:47-67. Article
  • Fogel AI, Akins MR*, Krupp AJ*, Stagi M*, Stein V, Biederer T. 2007 SynCAMs organize synapses through heterophilic adhesion. J Neurosci. 27:12516-30. Article
  • Akins MR, Benson DL, and Greer CA. 2007 Cadherin Expression in the Developing Mouse Olfactory System. J Comp Neurol. 501:483-497. Pubmed
  • Akins MR and Greer CA. 2006 Axon behavior in the olfactory nerve reflects the involvement of catenin-cadherin mediated adhesion. J Comp Neurol. 499:979-89. Pubmed
  • Akins MR and Biederer T. 2006 Cell-cell interactions in synaptogenesis. Curr Opin Neurobiol. 16:83-9. Pubmed
  • Akins MR and Greer CA. 2006 Cytoskeletal organization of the developing mouse olfactory nerve. J Comp Neurol. 494:358-67. Pubmed