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Senior Investigator

Chris J. McBain, Ph.D.

Laboratory of Cellular and Synaptic Neurophysiology, NICHD
Building 35 Room 3C-903
35 Convent Drive MSC3715
Bethesda MD 20892
Office: (301) 402-4778
Lab: (301) 402-4778
Fax: (301) 402-4777

Dr. McBain received his BSc from the University of Aberdeen, Scotland and Ph.D. from the University of Cambridge, England, where he worked with Ray Hill studying spontaneously arising epileptiform activity in the rat hippocampus. During a postdoctoral fellowship with Raymond Dingledine at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, he studied glutamate receptor function, regulation of the extracellular volume fraction and hippocampal synaptic transmission with particular relevance to the epilepsies. After a brief period in the laboratory of Julie Kauer at Duke University, Dr. McBain joined NICHD as an Investigator within the Laboratory of Cellular and Molecular Neurophysiology. He is currently a Senior Investigator and Chief of the Laboratory of Cellular and Synaptic Neurophysiology within the NICHD. His laboratory is studying mechanisms of synaptic transmission and the role of voltage-gated channels in the regulation of excitability within hippocampal circuits.

Local circuit GABAergic inhibitory interneurons comprise a heterogenous cell population with distinct molecular, morphological, and electrophysiological properties. Despite representing only ~20% of the total cortical neuron population, their diversity endows them with the ability to provide exquisite spatiotemporal control over principal cell activity to regulate information flow within and between established cortical circuits. Moreover, each cortical interneuron subtype is unique in its proliferative history, migration during corticogenesis as well as postnatal integration into cortical circuitry. Indeed several developmentally regulated neurological disorders such as epilepsy, schizophrenia and autism are associated with deficits in the numbers and function of distinct interneuron cohorts.

Work from my lab has contributed to a rapidly expanding body of literature demonstrating that the properties of both afferent (excitatory and inhibitory) and efferent synaptic drive, the repertoire of intrinsic voltage-gated conductances and downstream signaling cascades often differ between subpopulations of local circuit inhibitory interneurons. Moreover, these properties are intimately linked to the particular function each cell type plays within its respective network. As a result it has become increasingly clear that to elucidate the role(s) played by well-defined subpopulations of inhibitory neurons in a particular brain function or pathology, each of these parameters must be carefully and systematically studied.

Current work in my Section focuses on three main aspects of inhibitory interneuron function: (1) The properties and roles of glutamatergic and GABAergic synapses made onto inhibitory interneurons and their downstream targets within the hippocampal formation. (2) The modulation of well-defined inhibitory interneuron subtypes by cholinergic and glutamatergic mechanisms. (3) Genetic approaches to examine the embryogenesis, migration and development of specific cohorts of medial- and caudal-ganglionic eminence derived inhibitory interneurons.

Staff Image
  • Gulcan Akgul, Ph.D.
    Visiting Fellow

  • Ramesh Chittajulla, Ph.D.
    Staff Scientist

  • Michael Craig, Ph.D.
    Predoctoral Fellow

  • Steven Hunt

  • Ken Pelkey, Ph.D.
    Staff Scientist
    (301) 402-4781

  • Elizabeth Stancik, Ph.D.
    IRTA Fellow

  • Geoff Vargish
    Graduate Student

  • Jason Wester, Ph.D.
    IRTA Fellow

  • Megan Wyeth, Ph.D.
    Postdoctoral Fellow

  • Xiao-qing Yuan
    Research Assistant

  • 1) Pelkey KA, Barksdale E, Craig MT, Yuan X, Sukumaran M, Vargish GA, Mitchell RM, Wyeth MS, Petralia RS, Chittajallu R, Karlsson RM, Cameron HA, Murata Y, Colonnese MT, Worley PF, McBain CJ. (2015)
  • Pentraxins coordinate excitatory synapse maturation and circuit integration of parvalbumin interneurons.
  • Neuron, 85(6), 1257-72
  • 2) Craig MT, McBain CJ. (2015)
  • Fast gamma oscillations are generated intrinsically in CA1 without the involvement of fast-spiking basket cells.
  • Journal of Neuroscience, 35(8), 3616-24
  • 3) Wyeth M.S., Pelkey K.A., Petralia R.S., Salter M.W., McInnes R.R., McBain C.J. (2014)
  • Neto auxiliary protein interactions regulate kainate & NMDA receptor subunit localization at mossy fiber-CA3 pyramidal cell synapses
  • Journal of Neuroscience, 34, 622-628
  • 4) Chittajallu, R., Pelkey, K.A. McBain, C.J. (2013)
  • Neurogliaform cells dynamically regulate somatosensory integration via synapse specific modulation
  • 5) Chittajallu R., *Craig M.C., *McFarland A., Yuan X.-Q., Gerfen C.S., Tricoire L., Erkkila B., Barron S.C., Lopez C.M., Liang B.J., Jeffries B.W., Pelkey K.A., McBain C.J. (2013)
  • Dual embryonic origins of functionally distinct hippocampal O-LM cells revealed by differential 5-HT3AR expression
  • Nature Neuroscience, 16, 1598-1607
  • 6) Matta J.A., Pelkey K.A., Craig M.T., Chittajallu R., Jeffries B.W., McBain C.J. (2013)
  • Developmental origin dictates interneuron AMPA and NMDA receptor subunit composition and plasticity
  • Nature Neuroscience, 16, 1032-1041
  • 7) Nakashiba, T., Cushman, J., Pelkey, K.A., Renaudineau, S., Buhl, D.L., McHugh, T.J., Rodriguez Barrera, V., Chittajallu, R., Iwamoto, K.S., McBain, C.J., Fanselow, M.S., Tonegawa, S. (2012)
  • Young dentate granule cells mediate pattern separation whereas old granule cells facilitate pattern completion
  • Cell , 149, 188-201
  • 8) Tricoire, L., *Pelkey, K.A., Erkkila B.E., Jeffries B,G., Yuan X.Q, McBain, C.J (2011)
  • A blueprint for the spatiotemporal origins of hippocampal interneuron diversity.
  • Journal of Neuroscience, 31, 10948-10970
  • 9) Torborg, C.L., Nakashiba, T., Tonegawa, S., & McBain, C.J. (2010)
  • Control of CA3 output by feedforward inhibition despite developmental changes in the excitation-inhibition balance
  • Journal of Neuroscience, 30, 15628-15637
  • 10) Chang, M.C., Park, J.M., Pelkey, K.A., Grabenstatter, H., Xu, D., Linden, D.J., Sutula, T.P., McBain, C.J., Worley, P.F. (2010)
  • Narp regulates homeostatic scaling of excitatory synapses on parvalbumin interneurons
  • Nature Neuroscience, 13, 1090-1097
  • 11) Pelkey, KA., Topolnik, L., Yuan X.-Q., Lacaille, J.-C., & McBain, C.J. (2008)
  • State-dependent cAMP sensitivity of presynaptic function underlies metaplasticity in a hippocampal feedforward inhibitory circuit
  • Neuron, 60, 980-987
  • 12) Terashima, A*., Pelkey, K.A*., Rah, J.-C., Suh, Y.H., Roche, K.W., Collingridge G.L., McBain, C.J., & Isaac, J.T.R. (2008)
  • An essential role for PICK1 in NMDA receptor-dependent bidirectional synaptic plasticity.
  • Neuron, 57, 872-882
  • 13) Pelkey, KA., Topolnik, L., Lacaille, J.-C., & McBain, C.J. (2006)
  • Compartmentalized Ca2+ channel regulation at functionally divergent release sites of single mossy fibers underlies target-cell dependent plasticity
  • Neuron, 52, 497-510
  • 14) Pelkey, K.A., Lavezzari, G., Racca, C., Roche, K.W. & McBain, C.J. (2005)
  • mGluR7 is a metaplastic switch controlling bi-directional plasticity of feedforward inhibition
  • Neuron, 46, 89-102
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