Edwin S. Levitan, PhD

Professor, Pharmacology & Chemical Biology


E1351 Biomedical Science Tower
F: 412-648-1945
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PhD, Brandeis University (1986)


Control of transmitter release by electrical and biochemical signaling.

Research Summary

The Levitan lab combines novel microscopy approaches, electrophysiology and molecular biology to learn how electrical activity, intracellular signaling and therapeutic drugs (e.g. antipsychotics and antidepressants) control neuronal activity and release of transmitters at nerve terminals and dendrites. Projects are split between two experimental systems: Drosophila, which is well suited for genetic manipulation of identified neurons, and mammalian brain slice, where dopamine and serotonin neurons are studied with multiphoton microscopy and dynamic clamp. Recent studies have focused on the delivery of single vesicles and a kinase to release sites, action potential-independent release and long-term control of neuronal excitability.


Wong MY, SL Cavolo and ES Levitan. Synaptic neuropeptide release by dynamin-dependent partial release from circulating vesicles. Mol Biol Cell 26:2466-2474, 2015.
Cavolo SL, C Zhou, SA Ketcham, MM Suzuki, K Ukalovic, MA Silverman, TA Schroer and ES Levitan. Mycalolide B dissociates dynactin and abolishes retrograde axonal transport of dense-core vesicles. Mol Biol Cell 26:2664-2672, 2015.
Tucker KR, ER Block and ES Levitan. Action potentials and amphetamine release antipsychotic drug from dopamine neuron synaptic VMAT vesicles. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 112:E4485-4494, 2015.
Wong, M.Y., Zhou, C., Shakiryanova, D., Lloyd, T.E., Deitcher, D.L. and Levitan, E.S. Neuropeptide delivery to synapses by long-range vesicle circulation and sporadic capture. Cell 148: 1029-1038, 2012.

Shakiryaova, D., Zettel, G.M., Gu, T., Hewes, R.S. and Levitan, E.S. Synaptic neuropeptide release induced by octopamine without Ca2+ entry into the nerve terminal. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 108: 4477-4481, 2011.

Shakiryanova, D., Morimoto, T., Zhou, C., Chouhan, A.K., Sigrist, S.J., Nose, A., Macleod, G.T., Deitcher, D.L. and Levitan, E.S. Differential control of presynaptic CaMKII activation and translocation to active zones. J Neurosci. 31: 9093-9100, 2011.

Colgan, L.A., Putzier, I. and Levitan, E.S. Activity-dependent vesicular monoamine transporter-mediated depletion of the nucleus supports somatic release by serotonin neurons. J Neurosci. 29: 15878-15887, 2009.