Mark A. Rutherford, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor

Neurosciences Program

  • 314 747-7160

  • 8115


  • Cellular mechanisms that underlie our system of sound encoding in development, in maturity, and in conditions of hearing loss

Research Abstract:

My work as an auditory neurobiologist focuses on cellular mechanisms that underlie our system of sound encoding in development, in maturity, and in conditions of hearing loss. It is my hope that through a better understanding of what makes hearing happen, we will better understand how to protect and restore it. Some short and long-term goals of the Rutherford Lab:
1) The molecular anatomy of synapses between mammalian hair cells and auditory nerve fibers is being elucidated. Using advanced microscopy techniques, with quantitative molecular specificity we are relating inner ear synaptic structures to the afferent and efferent functions of hearing.
2) Physiological mechanisms of synaptic transmission and action potential generation that underlie sensory encoding are being studied with state-of-the-art patch-clamp electrophysiology on sensory hair cells and auditory nerve fibers.
3) Primary neural degeneration in the auditory nerve that occurs in response to noise damage or with aging is being studied with experiments that aim to identify the mechanisms of glutamate-induced excitotoxicity in nerve fibers of the cochlea.
4) The roles of cochlear efferent neurotransmitters (e.g., dopamine, GABA) in membrane excitability and protection from noise-induced and age-related hearing loss will be investigated at the cellular and systems levels with structural and functional studies that utilize mammalian genetics.
5) Development of better cochlear prosthetics will be pursued using intracellular recording and cochlear implant-like stimulation of the auditory nerve.
6) Postsynaptic Ca2+ and Na+ imaging will be established for optical measurements of spiral ganglion neuron activity.

Collaborations within the excellent research environment at Washington University are helping to advance these aims.

Selected Publications:

Kim, Kyunghee X., Rutherford, M.A. Maturation of NaV and KV Channel Topographies in the Auditory Nerve Spike Initiator before and after Developmental Onset of Hearing Function. J Neurosci 36(7): 2111 (2016) PMID: 26888923

Rutherford, M.A. Resolving the Structure of Inner Ear Ribbon Synapses with STED Microscopy. Synapse, 69(5):242 (2015) PMID: 25682928

Wong, A.B., Rutherford, M.A., Gabrielaitis, M., Pangršič, T., Göttfert, F., Frank, T., Michanski, F., Hell, S., Wolf, F., Wichman, C., Moser, T. Developmental Refinement of Hair Cell Synapses Tightens the Coupling of Ca2+ Influx to Exocytosis. EMBO J 33(3):247 (2014) PMID: 24442635

Wong, A.B., Jing, Z., Rutherford, M.A., Frank, T., Strenzke, N., Moser, T. Concurrent Maturation of Inner Hair Cell Synaptic Ca2+ Influx and Auditory Nerve Spontaneous Activity around Hearing Onset in Mice. J Neurosci 33(26):10661 (2013) PMID: 23804089

Jing, Z., Rutherford, M.A., Takago, H., Frank, T., Fejtova, A., Khimich, D., Moser, T., Strenzke, N. Disruption of the Presynaptic Cytomatrix Protein Bassoon Degrades Ribbon Anchorage, Multi-quantal Release, and Sound Encoding at the Hair Cell Afferent Synapse. J Neurosci 33(10):4456 (2013) PMID: 23467361

von Ameln, S., Wang, G., Boulouiz, R., Rutherford, M.A., Smith, G.M., Li, Y., Pogoda, H.M., Nürnberg, G., Volk, A.E., Stiller, B., Hong, J.S., Goodyear, R.J., Nürnberg, P., Richardson, G.P., Hammerschmidt, M., Moser, T., Wollnik, B., Koehler, C.M., Teitell, M.A., Barakat, A., Kubisch, C. A Mutation in PNPT1, Encoding Mitochondrial-RNA-Import Protein PNPase, Causes Hereditary Hearing Loss. The American Journal of Human Genetics 91(5):919 (2012) PMID: 23084290

Rutherford, M.A., Pangrsic, T. Molecular Anatomy and Physiology of Exocytosis in Sensory Hair Cells. Cell Calcium 52(3-4):327 (2012) PMID: 22682011

Rutherford, M.A., Chapochnikov, N.M., Moser, T. Spike Encoding of Neurotransmitter Release Timing by Spiral Ganglion Neurons of the Cochlea. J Neurosci 32(14):4773 (2012) PMID: 22492033
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