Full Name
Jennifer Morgan

Senior Scientist and Director, Bell Center

Jennifer Morgan
Contact Information
Ph.D., Neurobiology, Duke University School of Medicine, 2001
B.S. with Honors, Biology, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 1995
MBL Affiliation

The laboratory of Dr. Jennifer Morgan studies the cellular and molecular mechanisms by which neurons communicate with each other at synapses, a process called synaptic transmission. We study mechanisms of normal synaptic transmission, as well as how neurotransmission is impacted by spinal cord injury and disease. One ongoing project involves identifying how synapses are deleteriously affected by Parkinson's disease, and we are currently developing strategies to slow or reverse disease-associated synaptic dysfunction. Another project is focused on understanding how neurotransmission can be restored after spinal cord injury by regenerative processes, such as axon and synapse regrowth, or other forms of neural plasticity. Ultimately, we want to understand how these regenerative processes contribute to restoring normal behaviors after injury and how to improve functional outcomes.

For these projects, we use sea lampreys (Petromyzon marinus) as our model organism. Lampreys are cyclostomes, which are the most basal extant group of vertebrates. Lampreys possess a subset of very large neurons that can be identified across animals, the giant reticulospinal (RS) neurons, which provides several advantages for our studies. First, as the name indicates, these RS neurons are giant! They have especially large axons (20-80 microns) and synapses (1-2 microns), which are easily an order of magnitude larger than in most vertebrate models. Second, these giant neurons are experimentally tractable and amenable to molecular manipulations both in the normal and regenerating state. To approach our questions, we utilize a variety of technical approaches including, candidate gene and transcriptome analyses, molecular perturbations, biochemistry, fluorescence imaging, histology, electron microscopy, electrophysiology, and behavior.

Selected Publications

Maxson Jones K, Morgan JR (2023) Lampreys and spinal cord regeneration: “a very special claim on the interest of zoologists,” 1830s-present. Frontiers in Cell and Developmental Biology. 11:1113961. doi: 10.3389/fcell.2023.1113961. PMID: 37228651. 

Hamlet C, Fauci L, Morgan JR, Tytell ED (2023) Proprioceptive feedback amplification restores effective locomotion in a neuromechanical model of lampreys with spinal injuries. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 120(11):e2213302120. doi: 10.1073/pnas.2213302120. PMID: 36897980. 

Brady EB, McQuillan M, Medeiros AT, Bubacco L, Sousa R, Lafer EM, Morgan JR (2023). Hsc70 rescues the synaptic vesicle trafficking defects caused by α-synuclein dimers. microPublication Biology. 10.17912/micropub.biology.000737. PMID: 3698331. doi: 10.17912/micropub.biology.000737

Pattanayak R, Underwood R, Crowley MR, Crossman DK, Morgan JR, Yacoubian TA (2022) Deletion in chromosome 6 spanning alpha-synuclein and multimerin1 loci in the Rab27a/b double knockout mouse. Scientific Reports 12:9837 doi: 10.1038/s41598-022-13557-8

Katz HR, Arcese AA, Bloom O, Morgan JR (2022) Activating transcription factor 3 (ATF3) is a highly-conserved pro-regenerative transcription factor in the vertebrate nervous system. Frontiers in Cell and Developmental Biology.10:824036. doi: 10.3389/fcell.2022.824036

Fouke KE, Wegman ME, Weber SA, Brady EB, Román-Vendrell C, Morgan JR (2021) Synuclein regulates synaptic vesicle clustering and docking at a vertebrate synapse. Frontiers in Cell and Developmental Biology.  9:774650. doi: 10.3389/fcell.2021.774650

Fies J, Gemmell BJ, Fogerson SM, Morgan JR, Tytell E, Colin SP (2021) Swimming kinematics and performance of spinal transected lampreys with different levels of axon regeneration. Journal of Experimental Biology. jeb.242639. doi: 10.1242/jeb.242639

Haspel G, Severi KE, Fauci LJ, Cohen N, Tytell ED, Morgan JR (2021) Resilience of neural networks for locomotion. Journal of Physiology. doi: 10.1113/JP279214.

Román-Vendrell C, Medeiros AT, Sanderson JB, Jiang H, Bartels T, Morgan JR (2021) Effects of excess brain-derived human a-synuclein on synaptic vesicle trafficking. Frontiers in Neuroscience. 15:639414 doi: 10.3389/fnins.2021.639414.

Katz HR, Fouke KE, Losurdo NA*, Morgan JR (2020) Recovery of burrowing behavior after spinal cord injury in the larval sea lamprey. Biological Bulletin. December 2020. doi/10.1086/711365.

Soll L, Eisen JN, Vargas KJ, Medeiros AT, Hammar KM, Morgan JR (2020) a-Synuclein-112 impairs synaptic vesicle recycling consistent with enhanced membrane binding properties. Frontiers in Cell and Developmental Biology. 8:405. doi: 10.3389/fcell.2020.00405.

Banks SML*, Medeiros AT*, McQuillan M, Wang L, Ibarraran-Viniegra AS, Busch DJ, Sousa R, Lafer EM, Morgan JR.  (2020) Hsc70 Ameliorates the Vesicle Recycling Defects Caused by Excess α-Synuclein at Synapses. eNeuro 7(1). pii: ENEURO.0448-19.2020. doi: 10.1523/ENEURO.0448-19.2020. (* equal contributors)   

Chanaday N, Cousin M, Milosevic I, Watanabe S, Morgan JR (2019) The synaptic vesicle cycle revisited:  new insights into the modes and mechanisms. Journal of Neuroscience.  39:8209-8216. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1158-19.2019.

Hanslik K, Allen SR, Fogerson SM, Harkenrider T, Guadarrama E, Morgan JR.  (2019) Behavioral and functional recovery in the sea lamprey after spinal cord re-transection. PLoS One. 14(1):e0204193. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0204193. (Featured in Nature: Research Highlights Feb. 6, 2019)