In This Section

Michael B. Robinson, PhD
Michael B. Robinson
Professor of Pediatrics

Dr. Robinson has a longstanding research interest in the function and regulation of brain glutamate transport under physiologic and pathologic conditions.



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Unlike most other classical neurotransmitters that are recycled into the presynaptic nerve terminal, most glutamate is cleared into astrocytes. Dr. Robinson was among the first to demonstrate that neurons instruct astrocytes to express the predominant glutamate transporter, called GLT-1 or EAAT2. Recently, Dr. Robinson and his lab demonstrated that endothelia instruct astrocytes to express GLT-1. Expression of GLT-1 is increased during synaptogenesis and is a marker of astrocyte maturation. Dr. Robinson was the first to demonstrate that trafficking of glutamate transporters on and off the plasma membrane provides a mechanism to rapidly regulate glutamate transporter activity.

In addition, Dr. Robinson and his laboratory were the first to demonstrate that glutamate transporters co-compartmentalize with and functionally interact with mitochondria in astrocyte processes.

Current research by Dr. Robinson centers on determining if neurons and endothelia engage distinct signaling pathways and promoter elements to induce expression of GLT-1. In collaboration with Dr. Jeffrey Rothstein (Johns Hopkins), his group is also determining if subtypes of astrocytes engage different mechanisms to control expression of GLT-1. These studies should help the field determine the signals that contribute to astrocyte maturation.

In collaboration with Drs. Douglas Coulter and Hajime Takano (Division of Neurology at CHOP), the laboratory is investigating the hypothesis that glutamate uptake activates signals in astrocytes that contribute to the increases in blood flow that accompany increased neuronal activity using 2-photon in vivo imaging.

Finally, Dr. Evelyn Shih (Division of Neurology) and other members of the laboratory are determining how stroke affects astrocytic mitochondria and glutamate transport-dependent neurovascular coupling using photothromobosis to occlude the middle cerebral artery in mice.

Education and Training

BS, Bates College (Chemistry), 1980

PhD, University of Minnesota (Biochemistry), 1985

Fellowship, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine (Neuroscience), 1998

Titles and Academic Titles

Director, Neuroscience Research Affinity Group

Director, The Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Research Center (IDDRC) at CHOP/Penn

Director, Training Program in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities

Professor of Pediatrics

Professor of Systems Pharmacology & Translational Therapeutics

Professional Memberships

Society for Neuroscience, 1982-

International Society for Neurochemistry, 1992-

American Society for Neurochemistry, 1997-

American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics, 1998-

American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, 2002-

Council for the International Society for Neurochemistry, 2015-

Professional Awards

Cyrus P. Barnum Jr. Memorial Teaching Fellowship, Minnesota Medical Foundation, 1985

Bacaner Basic Science Award for Achievement in Graduate Medical Research, Minnesota Medical Foundation, 1986

Sloan Research Fellowship in Neuroscience, 1989

University of Pennsylvania, School of Medicine, Dean's Award for Excellence in Graduate Student Training, 1994

Stokes Investigator Award, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, 1998

Faculty Mentor Award, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, 2008

Publication Highlights

O’Donnell JC, Jackson JG, and Robinson MB. Transient oxygen glucose deprivation causes a delayed loss of mitochondria and increases spontaneous calcium signaling in astrocytic processes. J Neurosci. 2016 Jul; 36(27):7109-27. PMCID: PMC4938859
Jackson JG, and Robinson MB. Reciprocal regulation of mitochondrial dynamics and calcium signaling in astrocyte processes. J Neurosci. 2015 Nov; 35(45):15199-213. PMCID: PMC4642244
Jackson JG, O’Donnell JC, Takano H, Coulter DA, and Robinson MB. Neuronal activity and glutamate uptake decrease mitochondrial mobility and position mitochondria near glutamate transporters. J Neurosci. 2014 Jan; 34(5):1613-24. PMCID: PMC3905137
Genda EN, Jackson JG, Sheldon AL, Locke SF, Greco TM, O’Donnell JC, Spruce LA, Xiao R, Guo W, Putt M, Seeholzer S, Ischiropoulos H, and Robinson MB. Co-compartmentalization of the astroglial glutamate transporter, GLT-1, with glycolytic enzymes and mitochondria. J Neurosci. 2011 Dec; 1(50):18275-88. PMCID: PMC3259858
Ghosh M, Yang Y, Rothstein JR, and Robinson MB. Nuclear factor–kB contributes to neuron-dependent induction of GLT-1 expression in astrocytes. J Neurosci. 2011 Jun; 31(25): 9159-9169. PMCID: PMC3138498

Links of Interest