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SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University

Department of Cell Biology


photo of Paulette Brend

Paulette Bernd, PhD

Distinguished Teaching Professor Emerita

Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons

Tel: (212) 305-7572


Research at Downstate:

The Role of Neurotrophins in Avian Development

My laboratory focused on the role of the nerve growth factor (NGF) family of neurotrophins in the early stages of neuronal development. In addition to NGF, this family includes brain-derived neurotrophic factor, neurotrophin-3 and neurotrophin-4/5. We have determined that receptors for these neurotrophins appear during the initial formation of the nervous system, and examined the role of neurotrophins in the neural plate, neural crest and several peripheral ganglia (dorsal root ganglia, sympathetic ganglia, cochlear and vestibular ganglia). In particular, we concentrated on the neural crest cells that contribute to the formation of the heart. We used both in vitro and in vivo techniques to determine neurotrophins effects on such parameters as survival, neurite outgrowth, speed of migration, and neurotransmitter levels.

Teaching at Downstate

With respect to teaching, in the medical school I was the Block Director for the Musculoskeletal Block and Discipline Director for Gross Cell Biology. I also taught Embryology in the medical school. In the graduate school, I taught in the Molecular and Cellular Biology course.

Research at Columbia:

The Role of Trb3 in Neuronal Cell Death in Parkinson’s disease

Parkinson’s disease (PD) is the most common neurodegenerative movement disorder and is characterized by the progressive loss of several neuronal populations in several areas of the brain, particularly the substantia nigra. The therapeutic approaches for the treatment of PD ameliorate some of the clinical symptoms, but do not halt or slow disease progression. Previous studies in mice and rats have demonstrated that the pro-apoptotic gene, Trib3, is induced in various cell death paradigms.  We are examining the role of Trib3 in neuron death (apoptosis) with samples from human patients. Understanding the mechanism of cell death, such as the role Trb3 might play, will enable us to better target the development of drugs for the treatment of PD.

Teaching at Columbia:

I am the course director for Clinical Gross Anatomy for first year medical and dental students.  I also lecture in the Human Development portion of the Molecular Mechanisms course.

  • Columbia University Clinical Gross Anatomy Dissection Manual: A Concise Student-Centric Dissector for a 21st Century Curriculum. P. Bernd, ed., 2012
  • Bernd, P. and Jakway, J.( 2008), A simplified approach to teaching medical students ocular movements and the rationale in testing the oculomotor, trochlear and abducent nerves. Anat. Sci. Ed. 1:126-129.
  • Bernd, P., Miles, K., Rozenberg, I., Borghjid, S. and Kirby, M.L (2004). Neurotrophin-3 and TrkC are expressed in the outflow tract of the developing chicken heart. Dev. Dynam. 230:767-772.
  • Brumwell, C.L., Hossain, W.A., Morest, D.K., and Bernd, P. (2000). Role for basic fibroblast growth factor (FGF-2) in tyrosine kinase (TrkB) expression in the early development and innervation of the auditory receptor: in vitro and in situ studies. Exp. Neurol. 162:121-145.
  • Bernd, P. and Li, R. (1999). Differential expression of trkC mRNA in the chicken embryo from gastrulation to development of secondary brain vesicles. Dev. Brain Res. 116:205-209.
  • Li, R. and Bernd, P. (1999). Neurotrophin-3 increases neurite outgrowth and apoptosis in explants of the chicken neural plate. Dev. Neurosci. 21:12-21.
  • Bernd, P., Rozenberg, I., Speight, J., Yao, L., and Zhang, D. (1998). The role of nerve growth factor and other neurotrophins in the formation and early development of avian sensory dorsal root ganglia. In Neurotrophins and the Neural Crest (M. Sieber-Blum, ed.), CRC Press, pp. 95-115.
  • Qiu, L., Towle, M. F., Bernd, P., and Fukada, K. (1997). Distribution of cholinergic neuronal differentiation factor/leukemia inhibitory factor binding sites in the developing and adult rat nervous system in vivo. J. Neurobiol. 32:163-192.
  • Yao, L., Zhang, D., and Bernd, P. (1997). Differential regulation of substance P by all members of the NGF family of neurotrophins in avian dorsal root ganglia throughout development. Neurosci. 79:1197-1206.

List of Publications (Pub Med)