John Rubenstein, MD, PhD

Nina Ireland Distinguished Professor in Child Psychiatry

Education and Training
B.S. in Chemistry at Stanford University
Ph.D. in Biophysics with Harden McConnell and James Rothman
M.D. at Stanford School of Medicine
Postdoctoral fellow with Francois Jacob, Pasteur Institute, Paris, France
Resident in Adult and Child Psychiatry, Stanford School of Medicine

Since 1991 John has been on the faculty of the Department of Psychiatry at UCSF. He has received several awards including membership in the National Academy of Medicine (IOM) in 2006; Merit Award NIMH 2008 and the Distinguished Scientist Award from the Child Mind Institute (2015).

His research during doctoral and postdoctoral training included characterizing: 1) discontinuities in the physical properties of cholesterol-phospholipid mixtures; 2) antisense RNA inhibition of gene expression; 3) retroviral methods for gene delivery and fate mapping.

As a faculty member in the Department of Psychiatry at USCF, he focused on developmental mechanisms controlling forebrain development, with the aim of identifying mechanisms underlying neurodevelopmental and neuropsychiatric disorders. Some of the major areas he has contributed to include: 1) Topological organization of embryonic forebrain subdivisions, based on the discovery of novel transcription factor genes (e.g. Dlx2 & Tbr1); 2) transcription factors (e.g. Gsx1&2, Nkx2.1, 2.2, 6.2 & Pax6) that specify dorsoventral subdivisions in the CNS, particularly in the forebrain; 3) distinct telencephalic dorsoventral progenitor zones produce neurons expressing different neurotransmitters; 4) mouse cortical inhibitory neurons that are generated in the basal ganglia primordia and tangentially migrate to the cortex; 5) the Dlx family has the central role in specifying the development of forebrain neurons, including regulating the migration and function of cortical interneurons; 6) molecular mechanisms controlling interneuron migration and fate specification (through: ErbB4/neuregulin; Gucy1a3/NOS; neuropilin/semaphorin; CXCR4&7/CXCL12; Lhx6&8; Npas1/3; Shh; Zfhx1b); 7) the Dlx genes as homeotic selectors in branchial arch regional specification; 8) neocortical areal patterning is independent of thalamic input; 9) patterning centers in the embryonic forebrain that regulate telencephalic regionalization through the expression of Fgf8/Fgf15/Fgf17/Spry genes which specify the size of cortical subdivisions through induction and repression of specific transcription factors, including COUP-TF1; this provides insight into evolutionary elaboration of cortical maps; 10) enhancer elements and epigenetic mechanisms that govern expression in subdivisions and cell types of the developing forebrain; 11) whole genome analysis of transcription factor binding that regulates gene expression during forebrain development; 12) transplantation of interneurons to treat CNS disorders; 13) analysis of the function of autism genes in the developing cortex.