head shot image

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 (2015-present)
  • NIH, Grant Reviewer
  • Internal Grant Review Committee, The Hartwell Foundation-Individual Biomedical Research Award, University of Wisconsin-Madison (2015-present)
  • Confocal Microscopy Core Facility, School of Pharmacy, Director (2015-present)
  • Animal Use Committee, School of Pharmacy
  • Admissions Committee Member, Pharmaceutical Sciences Ph.D. Program
  • Faculty Trainer: Cellular Molecular Pathology Training Program; Neuroscience Training Program; Genetics Training Program
  • Current PhD Graduate Students: Dylan Sebo, Pharmaceutical Sciences(12/19-present); Audrey Fetsko, Pharmaceutical Sciences (12/18-present)
  • Current Undergraduate Students: Alli Scharbarth, Pharmacology & Toxicology (09/22-present); Lilyana Budzynski, Pharmacology Toxicology (01/23-present); Aubrey Trimbach, Neurobiology Program (01/23-present)

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

Honors and Awards:

  • Phi Sigma Honor Society, UC Davis (1993)
  • National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, Honorable Mention (1996)
  • National Institutes of Health Predoctoral National Research Service Award (1997)
  • American Epilepsy Society Fellowship (2005)
  • American Epilepsy Society Young Investigator Travel Award (2005)
  • National Institutes of Health Postdoctoral National Research Service Award (2006)
  • UCSF/SFSU Postdoctoral Teaching Fellowship (2007)
  • The Hartwell Foundation Individual Biomedical Research Award (2009)
  • E. Matilda Ziegler Foundation for the Blind Award (2010)
  • Nikon Small World Photomicrography Competition, First Place (2012)
  • Excellence in Teaching Award, UTHSC (2012)
  • Cool Science Image Contest, UW-Madison, Winner (2016)
  • Institute for Clinical and Translational Research Award, UW-Madison (2018)
  • Fall Research Competition Award, UW-Madison (2018)
  • Art of Science Contest, Aquaneering, Third Place (2019)
  • Fall Research Competition Award, UW-Madison (2020)
  • Teacher of the Year, Pharmacology and Toxicology Program, UW-Madison (2021)
  • Vilas Life Cycle Professorship, UW-Madison (2021)
  • Teacher of the Year, Doctor of Pharmacy Program (DPH-2), UW-Madison (2023)

Society Memberships:

  • American Epilepsy Society (2004-2007)
  • American Association for the Advancement of Science (2008-present)
  • Society for Neuroscience (2008-present)
  • International Brain Barriers Society (2010-present)
  • North American Vascular Biology Organization (2023-present)


  • Pharmacology I (PHMSCI 521)
  • Drug Delivery Systems (PHMSCI 540)
  • Laboratory Techniques in Pharmacology & Toxicology (PHMSCI 558)
  • Principles of Pharmaceutical Sciences (PHMSCI 780)
  • Survey of Pharmacology (PHMSCI 401)
  • Neuroscience Training Program Subgroup (NTP 900)
  • Neurobiology Seminar (ZOO 500)

Teaching Awards:

  • 2021 Teacher of the Year, Pharmacology and Toxicology Program
  • 2023 Teacher of the Year, Doctor of Pharmacy Program (DPH-2)


Highlighted Publications:
  • Fetsko, A. R., Sebo, D. J., Budzynski, L., Scharbarth, A., and Taylor, M. R. (2024) Interleukin-1β disrupts the initiation of blood-brain barrier development by inhibiting endothelial Wnt/β-catenin signaling. iScience 27:109651
  • Fetsko, A. R., Sebo, D. J., Taylor, M. R. (2023) Brain endothelial cells acquire blood-brain barrier properties in the absence of Vegf-dependent CNS angiogenesis. Developmental Biology 494:46-59.
  • Sebo, D. J., Fetsko, A. R., Phipps, K. K., Taylor, M. R. (2022) Functional identification of the zebrafish Interleukin-1 receptor in an embryonic model of IL-1β-induced systemic inflammation. Frontiers in Immunology 13:1039161.
  • Lanham, K. A., Nedden, M. L., Wise, V. E., Taylor, M. R. (2022) Genetically-inducible and reversible zebrafish model of systemic inflammation. Biology Open 11(3):bio058559.
  • Yue, M. S., Martin, S. E., Martin, N. R., Taylor, M. R., Plavicki, J. S. (2021) 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin exposure disrupts development of the visceral and ocular vasculature. Aquatic Toxicology 234:105786.
  • Henson, H. E. and Taylor, M. R. (2020) A sart1 zebrafish mutant results in developmental defects in the central nervous system. Cells 9:2340.
  • Ali Z., Mukwaya A., Biesemeier A., Ntzouni M., Ramskold D., Giatrellis S., Mammadzada P., Cao R., Lennikov A., Marass M., Gerri C., Hildesjö C., Taylor M., Deng Q., Peebo B., del Peso L., Kvanta A., Sandberg R., Schraermeyer U., Andre H., Steffensen J., Lagali N., Cao Y., Kele J., and Jensen L. (2019) Intussusceptive vascular remodeling precedes pathological neovascularization. Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology39:1402-18.
  • Gawdzik, J. C., Yue, M. S., Martin, N. R., Elemans, L. M. H., Lanham, K. A., Heideman, W., Rezendes, R., Baker, T. R., Taylor, M. R., Plavicki, J. S. (2018). sox9b is required in cardiomyocytes for cardiac morphogenesis and function. Scientific Reports 8:13906.
  • Teitz T., Fang J., Goktug A. N., Bonga J. D., Diao S., Hazlitt R. A., Iconaru L., Morfouace M., Currier D., Zhou Y., Umans R. A., Taylor M. R., Cheng C., Min J., Freeman B., Peng J., Roussel M. F., Kriwacki R., Guy R. K., Chen T, Zuo J. (2018). CDK2 inhibitors as candidate therapeutics for cisplatin- and noise-induced hearing loss. J Exp Med 215:1187-1203.
  • Umans, R. A. Henson, H. E., Mu, F., Parupalli, C., Ju, B., Peters, J. L., Lanham, K. A., Plavicki, J. S., and Taylor, M. R. (2017). CNS angiogenesis and barriergenesis occur simultaneously. Developmental Biology 425:101-108. (Cover art)
  • 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.

University Service:

  • Faculty Senate, Senator
  • The Hartwell Foundation-Individual Biomedical Research Award, Internal Grant Reviewer
  • Confocal Microscopy Core Facility, School of Pharmacy, Director
  • Animal Use Committee, School of Pharmacy
  • Graduate Studies Committee, School of Pharmacy
  • Graduate Admissions Committee, Pharmaceutical Sciences Division

Professional Service:

  • National Institutes of Health (NIH), Grant Reviewer
  • Peer Review Board, Journal of Visualized Experiments (JoVE)
  • Journal Reviewer (Brain Research, Cell Reports, Developmental Biology, eLife, Frontiers in Neuroscience, Journal of Comparative Neurology, Journal of Neuroscience Methods, Journal of Pharmacological and Toxicological Methods, Molecular Pharmacology, Nature Communications, Neuron Scientific Reports)