Shelley J. Russek

Professor, GPN Director; Epilepsy, Alzheimer’s Disease, Transcriptomics

Shelley J. Russek
  • Title Professor, GPN Director; Epilepsy, Alzheimer’s Disease, Transcriptomics
  • Education B.A. Summa Cum Laude, Physiological Psychology, UCSD; M.S., Anatomy and Cell Biology, SUNY Downstate; Ph.D., Pharmacology, BU School of Medicine

Professor of Pharmacology & Experimental Therapeutics
Professor of Biology
Director, BU Graduate Program for Neuroscience

We are interested in deciphering the complex networks of gene regulation that control the function of inhibitory neurotransmission in the brain and harnessing them to develop treatments for epilepsy and other related neurological and developmental disorders.

Current Research

The plasticity of a neuron’s receptor systems at the membrane is a key feature of the brain that enables its development as well as its function throughout life, creating and responding to an ever-changing external and internal world. A glorious biological feature of existence, however, also contributes to mankind’s most devastating disorders. Dysregulated plasticity takes multiple forms, from the unrelenting seizures of an infant that later emerges with brain damage, to the manifestation of autism and schizophrenia, all begging for curative therapies. Our chief interests in the laboratory surround a desire to understand the genetic and epigenetic basis of neurotransmitter and neurotrophin receptor regulation. We believe that such an understanding will enable us to contribute to the future development of therapeutics that can tackle these complex human problems where plasticity has lost its balance in controlling brain inhibition and excitation.

We employ a variety of proteomic and transcriptomic techniques, including confocal fluorescence immunohistochemistry, western blot, siRNA silencing, RNA and chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) high density sequencing, methylation genome analysis, proximity ligation analysis, primary neuronal cultures, and in vivo models (rodent and zebrafish) to test hypotheses of disease etiology and potential strategies for novel molecular therapeutics using chemical libraries and re-purposed therapeutics.


Dr. Russek is the recipient of two Boston University awards for her dedication to the training of graduate students: the Dean’s Distinguished Faculty Service Award in 2001 and the Faculty Recognition Award at the BUSM John McCahan Medical Campus Education Day in 2017. She also received the Innovative Research Award from the American Epilepsy Society and was an elected member of the Society for Neuroscience’s Council on Departments and Programs. She is a member of the Executive Board of the Center for Systems Neuroscience at BU and is currently a member of the NIH Study Section Clinical Neuroplasticity and Neurotransmitters (CNNT).

Selected Publications

  • Li Z, Cogswell M, Hixson K, Brooks-Kayal AR, Russek SJ. (2018) Nuclear Respiratory Factor 1 (NRF-1) Controls the Activity Dependent Transcription of the GABA-A Receptor Beta 1 Subunit Gene in Neurons. Front. Mol. Neurosci., 2018 August 21 (11).
  • Ruan QT, Yazdani N, Beierle JA, Hixson KM, Hokenson KE, Apicco DJ, Luttik KP, Zheng K, Maziuk BF, Ash PEA, Szumlinski KK, Russek SJ, Wolozin B, Bryant CD. (2018) Changes in neuronal immunofluorescence in the C- versus N-terminal domains of hnRNP H following D1 dopamine receptor activation. Neurosci Lett. 2018 Jul 9;684:109-114. doi: 10.1016/j.neulet.2018.07.015. PMID: 30003938
  • Thomas AX, Cruz Del Angel Y, Gonzalez MI, Carrel AJ, Carlsen J, Lam PM, Hempstead BL, Russek SJ, Brooks-Kayal AR. (2016) Rapid Increases in proBDNF after Pilocarpine-Induced Status Epilepticus in Mice Are Associated with Reduced proBDNF Cleavage Machinery. eNeuro. 2016 Mar 30;3(1). pii: ENEURO.0020-15.2016. doi: 10.1523/ENEURO.0020-15.2016. PMID: 27057559
  • Huang S, Hokenson K, Bandyopadhyay S, Russek SJ, Kirkwood A. (2015) Brief Dark Exposure Reduces Tonic Inhibition in Visual Cortex. J Neurosci. 2015 Dec 2;35(48):15916-20. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1813-15.2015. PMID: 26631472
  • Raible DJ, Frey LC, Del Angel YC, Carlsen J, Hund D, Russek SJ, Smith B, Brooks-Kayal AR. (2015) JAK/STAT pathway regulation of GABAA receptor expression after differing severities of experimental TBI. Exp Neurol. 2015 Sep;271:445-56. doi: 10.1016/j.expneurol.2015.07.001. PMID: 26172316
  • Grabenstatter HL, Cogswell M, Cruz Del Angel Y, Carlsen J, Gonzalez MI, Raol YH, Russek SJ, Brooks-Kayal AR. (2014) Effect of spontaneous seizures on GABAA receptor α4 subunit expression in an animal model of temporal lobe epilepsy. Epilepsia. 2014 Nov;55(11):1826-33. doi: 10.1111/epi.12771. PMID: 25223733
  • Smith CC, Martin SC, Sugunan K, Russek SJ, Gibbs TT, Farb DH. (2014) A role for picomolar concentrations of pregnenolone sulfate in synaptic activity-dependent Ca2+ signaling and CREB activation. Mol Pharmacol. 2014 Oct;86(4):390-8. doi: 10.1124/mol.114.094128. PMID: 25057049
  • Kim JH, Roberts DS, Hu Y, Lau GC, Brooks-Kayal AR, Farb DH, Russek SJ. (2012) Brain-derived neurotrophic factor uses CREB and Egr3 to regulate NMDA receptor levels in cortical neurons. J Neurochem. 2012 Jan;120(2):210-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1471-4159.2011.07555.x. Epub 2011 Nov 28. PMID: 22035109
  • Grabenstatter HL, Russek SJ, Brooks-Kayal AR. (2012) Molecular pathways controlling inhibitory receptor expression. Epilepsia. 2012 Dec;53 Suppl 9:71-8. doi: 10.1111/epi.12036. Review. PMID: 23216580
  • Raible DJ, Frey LC, Cruz Del Angel Y, Russek SJ, Brooks-Kayal AR. (2012) GABA(A) receptor regulation after experimental traumatic brain injury. J Neurotrauma. 2012 Nov 1;29(16):2548-54. doi: 10.1089/neu.2012.2483. PMID: 22827467
  • Brooks-Kayal AR, Russek SJ. (2012) Regulation of GABAA Receptor Gene Expression and Epilepsy. In: Noebels JL, Avoli M, Rogawski MA, Olsen RW, Delgado-Escueta AV, editors. Jasper’s Basic Mechanisms of the Epilepsies [Internet]. 4th edition. Bethesda (MD): National Center for Biotechnology Information (US); 2012. PMID: 22787609

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