Transcriptional Control of Cortical Development - A Link to Autism


Transcriptional Control of Cortical Development - A Link to Autism

John Rubenstein, MD, PhD Nina Ireland Professor of Psychiatry, University of California at San Francisco

We are pleased to welcome John Rubenstein, MD, PhD to the University of Pittsburgh as our special guest to present the Irene Jakab Lecture this year. 

Dr. Rubenstein trained in Chemistry, Biophysics, Medicine and Psychiatry at Stanford and Developmental Biology at the Pasteur Institute.  He spent his faculty career at UCSF where he has been studying the genetic mechanisms that divide the mammalian forebrain into regions and layers and allocate distinct neuronal types to each domain. Over 30 years ago he discovered transcription factors that control the topological organization of embryonic forebrain, Dlx-2 and Tbr-1. He also analyzed others (e.g., Gsx-1 and -2, and Nkx-2.1, -2.2, and -6.2) that specify CNS dorsoventral subdivisions.  Further analysis of the Dlx genes led to the discovery that cortical inhibitory neurons are generated in the ganglionic eminences and migrate tangentially to cortex, with Dlx controlling their migration, function and transmitter choice. Searching downstream, he elucidated molecular pathways that control migration and fate specification, including downstream transcription factors (e.g., Couptf1,2, Npas1,3, Lhx6,8), chemokine signaling (e.g., Cxcr4,7), and morphogens (e.g., Shh). Continued analysis of regionalization demonstrated the existence of patterning centers in the embryonic forebrain that regulate cortical arealization through the expression of Fgf8, 15 and 17, which induce and repress transcription factors to specify the size of cortical subdivisions. Most recently, Dr. Rubenstein extended the work to a still deeper level, working at the whole genome level to identify enhancer elements to which transcription factors bind, governing gene expression in specific regions and cell types throughout the cortical protomap. Together, this work has led to a deep understanding of mammalian forebrain development, and is providing insights into causes of autism (e.g., Tbr1 mutations) and new approaches to treatment (e.g., interneuronal transplantation for epilepsy).

Date & Time. Friday, October 9, 2020 12:00pm to 1:30pm

Location. UPMC Western Psychiatric Hospital (WPH) Auditorium. This lecture will be offered as a live stream in the event that COVID-19 safety regulations prevent in person attendance at the lecture.

Learning Objectives. At the conclusion of this lecture participants will be able to:

  • Describe the basic steps in cortical development.
  • Understand what the Tbr1 transcription factor does.
  • Conceptualize how Tbr1 may contribute to autism.

The entirety of this program will be a lecture by the speaker(s). All individuals able to control the content of this educational activity are required to disclose all relevant financial relationships with any proprietary entity producing, marketing, re-selling, or distributing health care goods or services, used on, or consumed by, patients. Registration is not required for this event. This event is free and there will be no refunds. The University of Pittsburgh is an affirmative action, equal opportunity institution.

For More Information. Please contact Frances Patrick ( 

Continuing Education Credit:  The University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education to provide continuing medical education for physicians. The University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine designates this educational activity for a maximum of 1.5 AMA PRA Category 1 CreditsTM.  Each physician should only claim credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity.  Other health care professionals are awarded .15 continuing education units (CEUs), which are equal to 1.5 contact hours.  In accordance with Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education requirements on disclosure, information about relationships of presenters with commercial interests (if any) will be included in materials which will be distributed at the time of the conference. WPH is approved by the American Psychological Association to offer continuing education for psychologists. WPH maintains responsibility for this program and its contents.  This program is being offered for 1.5 continuing education credits.
The indicated number of clock hours of continuing education is provided through Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic of UPMC’s Office of Educational Resources and Planning, a PA-approved provider of social work continuing education in accordance with all the applicable educational and professional standards of the Pennsylvania State Board of Social Workers, Marriage and Family Therapist.  These clock hours satisfy requirements for LSW/LCSW, LPC and LMFT renewal. For more information, call (412) 204-9085.