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Michael R Taylor, PhD

Assistant Professor

The blood-brain barrier (BBB) remains poorly understood despite its important role in most diseases of the central nervous system (CNS). Functionally, the BBB provides the microenvironment necessary for proper neuronal function, while protecting the brain from potentially harmful substances. These restrictive properties also prevent the free exchange of many therapeutic agents, presenting a challenging problem for the treatment of neurological disorders. Furthermore, the BBB is often disrupted in CNS diseases including neurodegenerative disorders, brain tumors, stroke, epilepsy, and diabetic retinopathy. Given the clinical significance of the BBB, it is surprising how little is understood about the molecular mechanisms that regulate BBB formation and maintenance. This gap in fundamental knowledge could be closed by the development of an animal model suitable for in vivo imaging and high-throughput genetic and small molecule screening strategies. To solve this problem, we have generated transgenic zebrafish to visualize the BBB in vivo and to identify novel modulators of BBB function. The overall goal our research is to discover innovative strategies for drug delivery into the CNS.

  • Faculty Senate, University of Wisconsin, Madison
  • Coordinator, Drug Delivery Seminar Series, Pharmaceutical Sciences
  • Admissions Committee Member, Pharmaceutical Sciences Ph.D. Program
  • Faculty Advisor: Fangzhou Mu, Pharmaceutical Sciences Ph.D. Program (2014-)
  • Postdoctoral Advisor: Kevin A. Lanham, Ph.D. (2015-)
  • Thesis Committees: Joseph Gawdzik, Pharmaceutical Sciences Ph.D. Program/Peterson Lab (2015-); Monica Yue, Molecular Environmental Toxicology Ph.D. Program/Peterson Lab (2015-); Niyanta Kumar, Pharmaceutical Sciences Ph.D Program/Thorne Lab (2015-); Bhargavi Manda, University of Tennessee Health Sciences Department of Physiology, IPBS Graduate Student/R. K. Rao Lab (2013-)
  • Mentoring Committees: Jessica S. Plavicki, Ph.D., K99/R00 Scholar

Background: Michael received his BS in Biochemistry from the University of California, Davis (1993) and his PhD in Biochemistry from the University of Washington (2002). He was an Assistant Member at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital from 2008-2014 and became an Assistant Professor in the School of Pharmacy at the University of Wisconsin, Madison in 2014.


  • BS Biochemistry - University of California, Davis
  • PhD Biochemistry - University of Washington, Seattle
  • Postdoctoral Training - University of California, San Francisco
Highlighted Publications:
  • Ju, B., Chen, W., Orr, B. A., Spitzbergen, Jia, S., Eden, C. J., Henson, H. E., Taylor, M. R. (2015). Oncogenic KRAS promotes malignant brain tumors in zebrafish. Molecular Cancer 14:18.
  • Eden, C. J., Ju, B., Murugesan, M., Phoenix, T., Nimmervoll, B., Tong, Y., Ellison, D. W., Lessman, C. A., Taylor, M. R.*, and Gilbertson, R. J.* (2015) Orthotopic models of pediatric brain tumors in zebrafish. Oncogene 34:1736-42. *Co-corresponding authors.
  • Henson, H. E., Parupalli, C., Ju, B., Taylor, M. R. (2014). Functional and genetic analysis of choroid plexus development in zebrafish. Frontiers in Neuroscience 8:364.
  • Wu,, G., Diaz, A. K., Paugh, B. S., Rankin, S. L., Ju, B., Li, Y., Zhu, X., Qu, C., Chen, X., Zhang, J., Easton, J., Edmonson, M., Ma, X., Lu, C., Nagahawatte, P., Hedlund, E., Rusch, M., Pounds, S., Lin, T., Onar-Thomas, A., Huether, R., Kriwacki, R., Parker, M., Gupta, P., Becksfort, J., Wei, L., Mulder, H. L., Boggs, K., Vadodaria, B., Yergeau, D., Russell, J. C., Ochoa, K., Fulton, R. S., Fulton, L. L., Jones, C., Boop, F. A., Broniscer, A., Wetmore, C., Gajjar, A., Ding, L., Mardis, E. R., Wilson, R. K., Taylor, M. R., Downing, J. R., Ellison, D. W., Zhang, J., and Baker, S. J. (2014) The genomic landscape of diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma and pediatric non-brainstem high-grade glioma. Nature Genetics 46:444-50.
  • Ju, B., Chen, W., Spitsbergen, J. M. Lu, J., Vogel, P., Peters, J. L., Wang, Y. D., Henson, H. E., Jia, S., Parupalli, C., and Taylor, M. R. (2014) Activation of Sonic hedgehog signaling in neural progenitor cells promotes glioma development in the zebrafish optic pathway. Oncogenesis 3:e96.
  • Jia, S., Muto, A., Orisme, W., Henson, H. E., Parupalli, C., Ju, B., Baier, H., and Taylor, M. R. (2014) Zebrafish Cacna1fa is required for cone photoreceptor function and synaptic ribbon formation. Human Molecular Genetics 23:2981-94.
  • Quintana, A. M., Picchione, F., Klein Geltink, R. I., Taylor, M. R.*, and Grosveld, G. C.* (2013) Zebrafish etv7 regulates red blood cell development through the cholesterol synthesis pathway. Disease Models and Mechanisms 7:265-70. *Co-corresponding authors.
  • Muto, A.*, Taylor, M. R.*, Suzawa, M., Korenbrot, J. I., and Baier, H. (2013) Glucocorticoid receptor activity regulates light adaptation in the zebrafish retina. Frontiers in Neural Circuits 7:145. *Co-first authors.
  • Vrijens, K., Lin, W., Cui, J., Farmer, D., Low, J., Pronier, E., Zeng, F. Y., Shelat, A. A., Guy, K., Taylor M. R., Chen, T., and Roussel, M. F. (2013). Identification of small molecule activators of BMP signaling. PLoS One 8:e59045.
  • Umans, R. A. and Taylor, M. R. (2012). Zebrafish as a model to study drug transporters at the blood-brain barrier. Clinical Pharmacology Therapeutics 92:567-70. (Cover Art)
  • Ju, B., Spitsbergen, J., Eden, C. J., Taylor, M. R., Chen, W. (2009). Co-activation of hedgehog and AKT pathways promotes tumorigenesis in zebrafish. Molecular Cancer 8:40-5.
  • Nevin, L. M., Taylor, M. R., and Baier, H. (2008). Hardwiring of fine synaptic layers in the zebrafish visual pathway. Neural Development 3:36-48.
  • Baraban, S. C., Dinday, M. T., Castro, P. A., Chege, S., Guyenet, S., and Taylor, M. R. (2007).   A large-scale mutagenesis screen to identify seizure-resistant zebrafish. Epilepsia 48:1151-7.
  • Kennedy, B. N., Alvarez, Y., Brockerhoff, S. E., Stearns, G. W., Sapetto-Rebow, B., Taylor, M. R., and Hurley, J. B. (2007). Identification of a zebrafish cone photoreceptor-specific promoter and genetic rescue of achromatopsia in the nof mutant. Invest. Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci. 48:522-9.
  • Baraban, S. C., Taylor, M. R., Castro, P. A., and Baier, H. (2005). Pentylenetetrazole induced changes in zebrafish behavior, neural activity, and c-fos expression. Neuroscience 131:759-68. (Cover Art)
  • Taylor, M. R., Kikkawa, S., Ramamurthy, V., Kawakami, K., and Brockerhoff, S. E. (2005). The zebrafish pob gene encodes a novel protein required for survival of red cone photoreceptor cells. Genetics 170:263-73.
  • Taylor, M. R., Hurley, J. B., Van Epps, H. A., and Brockerhoff, S. E. (2004). A zebrafish model for pyruvate dehydrogenase deficiency: rescue of neurological dysfunction and embryonic lethality using a ketogenic diet. Proceedings of the National Academy Science USA 101:4584-9.