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Mitchell Goldfarb

Professor of Biology

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Office: Room 810HN
Phone: (212) 772-5289
Lab:  (212) 772-5295
Fax: (212) 772-5227


  • B. S. 1974, Massachusetts Institute of Technology 
  • Ph. D. 1979, Massachusetts Institute of Technology 


Current Research Projects


  • FGF Homologous Factors: Regulators of Sodium Channels Contolling Brain and Cardiac Function
    We have discovered and are studying proteins called fibroblast growth factor homologous factors (FHFs). FHF gene mutations engineered in mice or occurring naturally in humans are associated with a range of neurological disorders. FHFs were discovered by virtue of their sequence homology to fibroblast growth factors (FGFs). While FGFs exert pleiotropic biological effects through interactions with their cell surface FGF receptors, we have demonstrated that FHFs are intracellular and bind to specific neuronal protein targets. A principal set of targets are the alpha subunits for voltage-gated sodium channels.  Using FHF knockout mice, we have shown that FHFs are required for neurons to fire robustly, and this is accomplished by FHF modulation of sodium channel fast inactivation (Goldfarb et al., 2007).  We have also shown that some FHFs induce a rapid onset long-term inactivation of sodium channels, which is mediated by an inactivation particle in the effector N-terminus of these FHF isoforms (Dover et al., 2010).  Long-term inactivation progressively slows the firing rate of neurons, a process call accommodation or frequency adaptation (Venkatesan et al., 2014).  Ongoing studies are defining the physical mechanisms of FHF actions and the functional significance of  neuron-type-specific and neuron-compartment-specific distribution of FHF protein isoforms.  Some of these studies entail the use of fast-responsive voltage sensitive dyes to visualize action potentials along axons and dendrites.  An example on this technique applied to cultured cerebellar granule cells is shown in Figure 2 and has led to discovery that spike conduction occurs in an FHF-independent manner (Dover et al., 2016) We have also shown mechanistically how FHF dysfunction can lead to severe epilepsy (Siekierska et al., 2016) and temperature-dependent cardiac arrhythmia (Park et al., 2016).


  • Fig. 1.  A long-term inactivation schematic of voltage-dependent sodium channel transitions.  The core domain of FHF (green) is shown tethered to the channel cytoplasmic tail.  The channel’s intrinsic inactivation particle in the short cytoplasmic loop (small red oval) and the larger long-term inactivation particle at N-terminus of tethered A-type FHF (larger red oval) compete for access to inactivate the channel at more depolarized voltage-driven transitions near the open state, making long-term inactivation use-dependent.  (from Dover et al., 2010)
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  • Fig. 2.  Visualization of action potential conduction with voltage-sensitive dye.  A cultured granule cell was filled with fast-responsive voltage-sensitive dye by break-in with patch pipette, and viewed at either high spatial resolution (upper left panel) or high sensitivity (lower panel).   Voltage changes throughout cellular processes were subsequently monitored by fluorescescence imaging during cell stimulation by current injection.  The traces shown (upper right panel) correspond to color-highlighted dendrite and axonal regions (lower panel).  The action potential emerges from somatic region and propagates through all axonal branches.
  • Islet Brain-2, A Synaptic Protein Linked to Autism Spectrum Disorder
    Deletion of the human SHANK3 gene near the terminus of chromosome 22q is associated with Phelan McDermid syndrome and autism spectrum disorders.  Nearly all such deletions also span the tightly linked IB2 gene.  IB2 is a neuronal protein with poorly understood function, interacting with other proteins suggesting a role in scaffolding p38 MAPK signaling (Schoorlemmer and Goldfarb, 2001, 2002). More recently, we have shown that IB2 protein is broadly distributed in the brain and is highly enriched within postsynaptic densities.  Experimental disruption of the IB2 gene in mice reduces AMPA and enhances NMDA receptor-mediated glutamatergic transmission in cerebellum, changes the morphology of Purkinje cell dendritic arbors, and induces motor and cognitive deficits suggesting an autism phenotype (Giza et al., 2010).  These findings support a role for human IB2 mutation as a contributing genetic factor in Chr22qter-associated cognitive disorders.  More recent studies have shown that IB2 controls the organization of synaptic components required for faithful neurotransmissiion.

 Current Research Funding

NIH/NIGMS R01-GM098540-04


 Recent Publications

  • Dover, K., Marra, C., Solinas, S., Popovic, M., Subramaniyam, S., Zecevic, D., D'Angelo, E., Goldfarb, M. (2016)  FHF-independent conduction of action potentials along the leak-resistant cerebellar granule cell axon.  Nature Commun., in press.

  • Park, D., Shekhar, A., Marra, C., Lin X., Vasquez, C., Solinas, S., Kelley, K., Morley, G., Goldfarb, M., Fishman, G.I. (2016)  Fhf2 gene deletion causes temperature-sensitive cardiac conduction failure.  Nature Commun., in press.

  • Siekierska, A., Isrie, M., Liu, Y., Scheldeman, C., Vanthillo, N., Lagae, L., de Witte, P.A.M., Van Esch, H., Goldfarb, M., Buyse, G. (2016)  Gain-of-function FHF1 missense mutation causes early-onset epileptic encephalopathy with cerebellar atrophy.  Neurology 86, 2162-2170.

  • Venkatesan, K., Liu, Y., Goldfarb M. (2014) Fast-onset long-term open-state block of sodium channels by A-type FHFs mediates classical spike accommodation in hippocampal pyramidal neurons.  J. Neurosci. 34, 16126-16139.
  • Goldfarb, M. (2012) Voltage gated sodium channel associated proteins and alternative mechanisms of inactivation and block.  Cell. Mol. Life Sci. 69, 1067-1076.
  • Dover, K., Solinas, S., D’Angelo, E., and Goldfarb, M. (2010) Long-term inactivation particle for voltage-gated sodium channels.  J. Physiology (London) 588, 2695-2711.
  • Giza, J., Urbanski, M.J., Prestori, F., Bandhyopadhyay, B., Yam, A., Friedrich, V., Kelley, K., D’Angelo, E. and Goldfarb, M.  (2010)  Behavioral and cerebellar transmission deficits in mice lacking the autism-linked gene islet brain-2.  J. Neurosci. 30, 14805-14816.
  • Goetz, R., Dover, K., Laezza, F.,  Shtraizent, N., Huang, X., Tchetchik, D., Eliseenkova, A.V., Xu, C.-F., Neubert, T.A., Ornitz, D.M., Goldfarb, M., Mohammadi, M. (2009).  Crystal structure of FHF2 unveils a conserved binding site on FHFs for the C-terminal domain of voltage-gated sodium channels.  J.Biol. Chem. 284:17883.
  • Goldfarb, M., Schoorlemmer, J., Williams, A., Diwakar, S., Wang, Q., Huang, X., Giza, J., Tchetchik, D., Kelley, K., Vega, A., Matthews, G., Rossi, P., Ornitz, D. M., and D'Angelo, E. (2007). Fibroblast growth factor homologous factors control neuronal excitability through modulation of voltage-gated sodium channels. Neuron 55, 449-463.


Lab Members

          Click Here for people in the Goldfarb lab


 Active Collaborations

      Our laboratory is currently collaborating with the following principal investigators:

          Egidio D'Angelo, University of Pavia, Pavia

          Gunnar Buyse, University of Leuven, Belgium

          Dejan Zecevic,  Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven

          Glenn Fishman, NYU Medical Center

          Libor Velisek, NY Medical College



Courses Taught

BIOL370: Physiology of Nervous System (undergraduate)

BIOL 72301: Neuroscience Core I (graduate)