Alvaro Sagasti

Title(s)Professor, Molecular, Cell and Developmental Biology
SchoolCollege of Letters and Science
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    BIO -

    Dr. Sagasti received his PhD from UCSF, where he worked with Cori Bargmann studying celll specification and left/right asymmetry in the nervous system of the nematode C. elegans. He began using zebrafish as a model at the Skirball Institute, NYU Medical Center as a post-doc with Alex Schier. In the summer of 2005 he was a Grass Foundation Fellow at the Marine Biological Labs in Woods Hole, Massachussetts. He began as a UCLA faculty member in the MCDB department in September 2005. His lab uses a combination of imaging, molecular, and genetic approaches in zebrafish to investigate on the morphogenesis of sensory axons and skin cells during development and repair.


    Morphogenesis is the process by which cells adopt their specific shapes, sizes, and relationships with neighboring cells. Our lab studies the morphogenesis of developing skin cells and sensory neurons, which together mediate touch sensation. The skin at early developmental stages consists of two epithelial layers, each with distinct functions and morphologies. Sensory neurons project elaborately branched cellular processes called peripheral axons into the territory between the two skin layers to detect touch stimuli. We investigate how each of these cell types adopts its distinct morphological features and how skin cells and neurons influence each other's morphogenesis. To study these questions we use zebrafish embryos and larvae as a model. Because zebrafish eggs are externally fertilized and their embryos are optically clear, cellular behaviors can be imaged in live animals. Transgenic lines allow us to visualize specific cells and subcellular processes, laser-based techniques allow us to damage cells at precise times and places to study repair, and genetic manipulations provide insight into the molecular underpinnings of cellular behaviors. By studying basic cellular processes we hope to shed light on how they are impacted by damage and disease.
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    Cytoskeletal control of microridge morphogenesis on mucosal epithelial cells of the zebrafish skin
    NIH R01GM122901Aug 1, 2017 - Jul 31, 2022
    Role: Principal Investigator
    Do somatosensory endings use axonal or dendritic regeneration pathways?
    NIH R21NS090027Sep 1, 2014 - Aug 31, 2017
    Role: Principal Investigator
    Morphogenesis and function of somatosensory axon ensheathment by epidermal cells
    NIH R01AR064582May 1, 2014 - Jul 31, 2025
    Role: Principal Investigator
    The morphogenesis of actin-based structures in mucosal epithelia
    NIH R21EY024400Apr 1, 2014 - Mar 31, 2017
    Role: Principal Investigator
    Peripheral territory selection by zebrafish trigeminal sensory neurons
    NIH R01DE018496Aug 11, 2008 - Jul 31, 2014
    Role: Principal Investigator

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    Publications listed below are automatically derived from MEDLINE/PubMed and other sources, which might result in incorrect or missing publications. Researchers can login to make corrections and additions, or contact us for help. to make corrections and additions.
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    Altmetrics Details PMC Citations indicate the number of times the publication was cited by articles in PubMed Central, and the Altmetric score represents citations in news articles and social media. (Note that publications are often cited in additional ways that are not shown here.) Fields are based on how the National Library of Medicine (NLM) classifies the publication's journal and might not represent the specific topic of the publication. Translation tags are based on the publication type and the MeSH terms NLM assigns to the publication. Some publications (especially newer ones and publications not in PubMed) might not yet be assigned Field or Translation tags.) Click a Field or Translation tag to filter the publications.
    1. The MAP3Ks DLK and LZK Direct Diverse Responses to Axon Damage in Zebrafish Peripheral Neurons. J Neurosci. 2022 08 10; 42(32):6195-6210. Adula KP, Shorey M, Chauhan V, Nassman K, Chen SF, Rolls MM, Sagasti A. PMID: 35840323; PMCID: PMC9374156.
      View in: PubMed   Mentions:    Fields:    
    2. How to wrinkle a cell: Emerging mechanisms of microridge morphogenesis. Curr Opin Cell Biol. 2022 06; 76:102088. Lu TQ, van Loon AP, Sagasti A. PMID: 35569260.
      View in: PubMed   Mentions:    Fields:    Translation:Cells
    3. Microtubule organization of vertebrate sensory neurons in vivo. Dev Biol. 2021 10; 478:1-12. Shorey M, Rao K, Stone MC, Mattie FJ, Sagasti A, Rolls MM. PMID: 34147472; PMCID: PMC8364508.
      View in: PubMed   Mentions: 1     Fields:    Translation:AnimalsCells
    4. Stochastic contraction of myosin minifilaments drives evolution of microridge protrusion patterns in epithelial cells. Mol Biol Cell. 2021 08 01; 32(16):1501-1513. van Loon AP, Erofeev IS, Goryachev AB, Sagasti A. PMID: 34081537; PMCID: PMC8351741.
      View in: PubMed   Mentions: 1     Fields:    Translation:AnimalsCells
    5. Keratins and the plakin family cytolinker proteins control the length of epithelial microridge protrusions. Elife. 2020 09 07; 9. Inaba Y, Chauhan V, van Loon AP, Choudhury LS, Sagasti A. PMID: 32894222; PMCID: PMC7535935.
      View in: PubMed   Mentions: 6     Fields:    Translation:AnimalsCells
    6. Cortical contraction drives the 3D patterning of epithelial cell surfaces. J Cell Biol. 2020 03 02; 219(3). van Loon AP, Erofeev IS, Maryshev IV, Goryachev AB, Sagasti A. PMID: 32003768; PMCID: PMC7054995.
      View in: PubMed   Mentions: 7     Fields:    Translation:AnimalsCells
    7. Tissue-Specific Transcriptomes Reveal Gene Expression Trajectories in Two Maturing Skin Epithelial Layers in Zebrafish Embryos. G3 (Bethesda). 2019 10 07; 9(10):3439-3452. Cokus SJ, De La Torre M, Medina EF, Rasmussen JP, Ramirez-Gutierrez J, Sagasti A, Wang F. PMID: 31431477; PMCID: PMC6778804.
      View in: PubMed   Mentions: 6     Fields:    Translation:AnimalsCells
    8. Patronin-mediated minus end growth is required for dendritic microtubule polarity. J Cell Biol. 2019 07 01; 218(7):2309-2328. Feng C, Thyagarajan P, Shorey M, Seebold DY, Weiner AT, Albertson RM, Rao KS, Sagasti A, Goetschius DJ, Rolls MM. PMID: 31076454; PMCID: PMC6605808.
      View in: PubMed   Mentions: 29     Fields:    Translation:AnimalsCells
    9. Developmental Neurobiology: It Takes Nrg to Separate Dendrites. Curr Biol. 2019 05 06; 29(9):R327-R329. Rosa JB, Sagasti A. PMID: 31063725.
      View in: PubMed   Mentions:    Fields:    Translation:Cells
    10. A conserved morphogenetic mechanism for epidermal ensheathment of nociceptive sensory neurites. Elife. 2019 03 11; 8. Jiang N, Rasmussen JP, Clanton JA, Rosenberg MF, Luedke KP, Cronan MR, Parker ED, Kim HJ, Vaughan JC, Sagasti A, Parrish JZ. PMID: 30855229; PMCID: PMC6450671.
      View in: PubMed   Mentions: 10     Fields:    Translation:AnimalsCells
    11. Zebrafish expression reporters and mutants reveal that the IgSF cell adhesion molecule Dscamb is required for feeding and survival. J Neurogenet. 2018 12; 32(4):336-352. Julien DP, Chan AW, Barrios J, Mathiaparanam J, Douglass A, Wolman MA, Sagasti A. PMID: 30204029; PMCID: PMC6464818.
      View in: PubMed   Mentions: 2     Fields:    Translation:Animals
    12. Fish Scales Dictate the Pattern of Adult Skin Innervation and Vascularization. Dev Cell. 2018 08 06; 46(3):344-359.e4. Rasmussen JP, Vo NT, Sagasti A. PMID: 30032992; PMCID: PMC6561483.
      View in: PubMed   Mentions: 9     Fields:    Translation:AnimalsCells
    13. A Macrophage Response to Mycobacterium leprae Phenolic Glycolipid Initiates Nerve Damage in Leprosy. Cell. 2017 Aug 24; 170(5):973-985.e10. Madigan CA, Cambier CJ, Kelly-Scumpia KM, Scumpia PO, Cheng TY, Zailaa J, Bloom BR, Moody DB, Smale ST, Sagasti A, Modlin RL, Ramakrishnan L. PMID: 28841420; PMCID: PMC5848073.
      View in: PubMed   Mentions: 43     Fields:    Translation:AnimalsCells
    14. Neurotoxicity of the Parkinson Disease-Associated Pesticide Ziram Is Synuclein-Dependent in Zebrafish Embryos. Environ Health Perspect. 2016 Nov; 124(11):1766-1775. Lulla A, Barnhill L, Bitan G, Ivanova MI, Nguyen B, O'Donnell K, Stahl MC, Yamashiro C, Klärner FG, Schrader T, Sagasti A, Bronstein JM. PMID: 27301718; PMCID: PMC5089875.
      View in: PubMed   Mentions: 24     Fields:    Translation:AnimalsCells
    15. Learning to swim, again: Axon regeneration in fish. Exp Neurol. 2017 Jan; 287(Pt 3):318-330. Rasmussen JP, Sagasti A. PMID: 26940084.
      View in: PubMed   Mentions: 27     Fields:    Translation:AnimalsCells
    16. Live Imaging of Calcium Dynamics during Axon Degeneration Reveals Two Functionally Distinct Phases of Calcium Influx. J Neurosci. 2015 Nov 11; 35(45):15026-38. Vargas ME, Yamagishi Y, Tessier-Lavigne M, Sagasti A. PMID: 26558774; PMCID: PMC4642236.
      View in: PubMed   Mentions: 32     Fields:    Translation:AnimalsCells
    17. Vertebrate epidermal cells are broad-specificity phagocytes that clear sensory axon debris. J Neurosci. 2015 Jan 14; 35(2):559-70. Rasmussen JP, Sack GS, Martin SM, Sagasti A. PMID: 25589751; PMCID: PMC4293411.
      View in: PubMed   Mentions: 23     Fields:    Translation:AnimalsCells
    18. Synaptic specificity: when the neighbors are away, sensory axons turn promiscuous. Curr Biol. 2014 Dec 15; 24(24):R1168-70. Julien DP, Sagasti A. PMID: 25514010.
      View in: PubMed   Mentions:    Fields:    Translation:AnimalsCells
    19. Cloning of a functional 25-hydroxyvitamin D-1α-hydroxylase in zebrafish (Danio rerio). Cell Biochem Funct. 2014 Dec; 32(8):675-82. Chun RF, Blatter E, Elliott S, Fitz-Gibbon S, Rieger S, Sagasti A, Adams JS, Hewison M. PMID: 25290078; PMCID: PMC4363119.
      View in: PubMed   Mentions: 2     Fields:    Translation:HumansAnimalsCells
    20. Axon degeneration and PGC-1α-mediated protection in a zebrafish model of α-synuclein toxicity. Dis Model Mech. 2014 May; 7(5):571-82. O'Donnell KC, Lulla A, Stahl MC, Wheat ND, Bronstein JM, Sagasti A. PMID: 24626988; PMCID: PMC4007408.
      View in: PubMed   Mentions: 46     Fields:    Translation:HumansAnimalsCells
    21. WldS and PGC-1α regulate mitochondrial transport and oxidation state after axonal injury. J Neurosci. 2013 Sep 11; 33(37):14778-90. O'Donnell KC, Vargas ME, Sagasti A. PMID: 24027278; PMCID: PMC3771034.
      View in: PubMed   Mentions: 55     Fields:    Translation:AnimalsCells
    22. Journey to the skin: Somatosensory peripheral axon guidance and morphogenesis. Cell Adh Migr. 2013 Jul-Aug; 7(4):388-94. Wang F, Julien DP, Sagasti A. PMID: 23670092; PMCID: PMC3739816.
      View in: PubMed   Mentions: 12     Fields:    Translation:AnimalsCells
    23. Optogenetic activation of zebrafish somatosensory neurons using ChEF-tdTomato. J Vis Exp. 2013 Jan 31; (71):e50184. Palanca AM, Sagasti A. PMID: 23407374; PMCID: PMC3596911.
      View in: PubMed   Mentions: 4     Fields:    Translation:AnimalsCells
    24. Aldehyde dehydrogenase inhibition as a pathogenic mechanism in Parkinson disease. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2013 Jan 08; 110(2):636-41. Fitzmaurice AG, Rhodes SL, Lulla A, Murphy NP, Lam HA, O'Donnell KC, Barnhill L, Casida JE, Cockburn M, Sagasti A, Stahl MC, Maidment NT, Ritz B, Bronstein JM. PMID: 23267077; PMCID: PMC3545765.
      View in: PubMed   Mentions: 85     Fields:    Translation:HumansAnimalsCells
    25. New transgenic reporters identify somatosensory neuron subtypes in larval zebrafish. Dev Neurobiol. 2013 Feb; 73(2):152-67. Palanca AM, Lee SL, Yee LE, Joe-Wong C, Trinh le A, Hiroyasu E, Husain M, Fraser SE, Pellegrini M, Sagasti A. PMID: 22865660; PMCID: PMC3541445.
      View in: PubMed   Mentions: 27     Fields:    Translation:AnimalsCells
    26. Spinocerebellar ataxia type 13 mutation that is associated with disease onset in infancy disrupts axonal pathfinding during neuronal development. Dis Model Mech. 2012 Nov; 5(6):921-9. Issa FA, Mock AF, Sagasti A, Papazian DM. PMID: 22736459; PMCID: PMC3484873.
      View in: PubMed   Mentions: 14     Fields:    Translation:HumansAnimalsCells
    27. Dynamics of degeneration and regeneration in developing zebrafish peripheral axons reveals a requirement for extrinsic cell types. Neural Dev. 2012 Jun 08; 7:19. Villegas R, Martin SM, O'Donnell KC, Carrillo SA, Sagasti A, Allende ML. PMID: 22681863; PMCID: PMC3780720.
      View in: PubMed   Mentions: 28     Fields:    Translation:AnimalsCells
    28. Coordinate development of skin cells and cutaneous sensory axons in zebrafish. J Comp Neurol. 2012 Mar 01; 520(4):816-31. O'Brien GS, Rieger S, Wang F, Smolen GA, Gonzalez RE, Buchanan J, Sagasti A. PMID: 22020759; PMCID: PMC4299821.
      View in: PubMed   Mentions: 25     Fields:    Translation:AnimalsCells
    29. LAR receptor tyrosine phosphatases and HSPGs guide peripheral sensory axons to the skin. Curr Biol. 2012 Mar 06; 22(5):373-82. Wang F, Wolfson SN, Gharib A, Sagasti A. PMID: 22326027; PMCID: PMC3298620.
      View in: PubMed   Mentions: 25     Fields:    Translation:AnimalsCells
    30. Hydrogen peroxide promotes injury-induced peripheral sensory axon regeneration in the zebrafish skin. PLoS Biol. 2011 May; 9(5):e1000621. Rieger S, Sagasti A. PMID: 21629674; PMCID: PMC3101194.
      View in: PubMed   Mentions: 68     Fields:    Translation:AnimalsCells
    31. Time-lapse imaging of neural development: zebrafish lead the way into the fourth dimension. Genesis. 2011 Jul; 49(7):534-45. Rieger S, Wang F, Sagasti A. PMID: 21305690; PMCID: PMC3132295.
      View in: PubMed   Mentions: 3     Fields:    Translation:Animals
    32. Neural circuit activity in freely behaving zebrafish (Danio rerio). J Exp Biol. 2011 Mar 15; 214(Pt 6):1028-38. Issa FA, O'Brien G, Kettunen P, Sagasti A, Glanzman DL, Papazian DM. PMID: 21346131; PMCID: PMC3044078.
      View in: PubMed   Mentions: 28     Fields:    Translation:AnimalsCells
    33. Wallerian degeneration of zebrafish trigeminal axons in the skin is required for regeneration and developmental pruning. Development. 2010 Dec; 137(23):3985-94. Martin SM, O'Brien GS, Portera-Cailliau C, Sagasti A. PMID: 21041367; PMCID: PMC2976282.
      View in: PubMed   Mentions: 54     Fields:    Translation:AnimalsCells
    34. Self-avoidance and tiling: Mechanisms of dendrite and axon spacing. Cold Spring Harb Perspect Biol. 2010 Sep; 2(9):a001750. Grueber WB, Sagasti A. PMID: 20573716; PMCID: PMC2926746.
      View in: PubMed   Mentions: 72     Fields:    Translation:HumansAnimalsCells
    35. Developmentally regulated impediments to skin reinnervation by injured peripheral sensory axon terminals. Curr Biol. 2009 Dec 29; 19(24):2086-90. O'Brien GS, Martin SM, Söllner C, Wright GJ, Becker CG, Portera-Cailliau C, Sagasti A. PMID: 19962310; PMCID: PMC2805760.
      View in: PubMed   Mentions: 25     Fields:    Translation:AnimalsCells
    36. Fragile axons forge the path to gene discovery: a MAP kinase pathway regulates axon regeneration. Sci Signal. 2009 May 05; 2(69):pe30. O'Brien GS, Sagasti A. PMID: 19417215.
      View in: PubMed   Mentions: 4     Fields:    Translation:HumansAnimalsCells
    37. Two-photon axotomy and time-lapse confocal imaging in live zebrafish embryos. J Vis Exp. 2009 Feb 16; (24). O'Brien GS, Rieger S, Martin SM, Cavanaugh AM, Portera-Cailliau C, Sagasti A. PMID: 19229185; PMCID: PMC2726581.
      View in: PubMed   Mentions: 41     Fields:    Translation:AnimalsCells
    38. Tracking transmitter-gated P2X cation channel activation in vitro and in vivo. Nat Methods. 2008 Jan; 5(1):87-93. Richler E, Chaumont S, Shigetomi E, Sagasti A, Khakh BS. PMID: 18084300; PMCID: PMC3523716.
      View in: PubMed   Mentions: 26     Fields:    Translation:Cells
    39. Three ways to make two sides: genetic models of asymmetric nervous system development. Neuron. 2007 Aug 02; 55(3):345-51. Sagasti A. PMID: 17678849.
      View in: PubMed   Mentions: 5     Fields:    Translation:Animals
    40. Precious metal economy. Cell Metab. 2006 Aug; 4(2):99-101. Merchant SS, Sagasti A. PMID: 16890535.
      View in: PubMed   Mentions: 2     Fields:    Translation:HumansAnimals
    41. Repulsive interactions shape the morphologies and functional arrangement of zebrafish peripheral sensory arbors. Curr Biol. 2005 May 10; 15(9):804-14. Sagasti A, Guido MR, Raible DW, Schier AF. PMID: 15886097.
      View in: PubMed   Mentions: 94     Fields:    Translation:AnimalsCells
    42. SEK-1 MAPKK mediates Ca2+ signaling to determine neuronal asymmetric development in Caenorhabditis elegans. EMBO Rep. 2002 Jan; 3(1):56-62. Tanaka-Hino M, Sagasti A, Hisamoto N, Kawasaki M, Nakano S, Ninomiya-Tsuji J, Bargmann CI, Matsumoto K. PMID: 11751572; PMCID: PMC1083920.
      View in: PubMed   Mentions: 76     Fields:    Translation:HumansAnimalsCells
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