Samantha J. Butler, Ph.D.

Samantha J. Butler, Ph.D.

Associate Professor

610 Charles E Young Drive East
3028 TLSB
Los Angeles, CA 90095

(310) 206-8416
(310) 825-7565
Academic Titles/Accomplishments/Affiliations: 

Member, Neuroscience GPB Home Area
Associate Professor, Neurobiology

Research interest: 

The extraordinarily diverse functions of the nervous system, from cognition to movement, are possible because neurons are assembled into precisely ordered networks that permit them to rapidly and accurately communicate with their synaptic targets.

The Butler laboratory seeks to understand the mechanisms that establish these neuronal networks during development with the long-term goal of determining how this process may be co-opted to regenerate diseased or damaged circuits. Working the developing spinal cord, we have shown that molecules previously identified as morphogens, such as the Bone Morphogenetic Proteins (BMPs) family of growth factors, can also act as axon guidance signals.

We are now determining the key intrinsic factors that translate the ability of the BMPs to direct cell fate and axon guidance decisions, two strikingly different processes in the generation of neural circuits. During the course of these studies, we have identified a critical mechanism by which the rate of axon outgrowth is controlled during embryogenesis, thereby permitting neural circuits to develop in synchrony with the rest of the embryo.

The Butler laboratory is currently assessing how this mechanism can be harnessed to accelerate the regeneration of injured peripheral nerves. The successful implementation of this technology could result in significantly improved recovery times for patients with damaged nervous systems.

Samantha received her B.A from Cambridge University, working in Michael Akam’s laboratory, where she was instilled with a love of developing systems. She joined Yash Hiromi’s lab, then at Princeton University, for her Ph.D. studying the genetic mechanisms that establish cell fate in the Drosophila eye.  Since neurons had become increasingly important to her as she lost them during her years as a graduate student, she joined Jane Dodd’s laboratory at Columbia University to examine axon guidance mechanisms in the developing vertebrate spinal cord. In her own laboratory as an Associate Professor at UCLA, Samantha explores how the developmental mechanisms that first establish neural circuits can be reused to ameliorate damaged or diseased nervous systems.  She is funded by the NIH, CIRM, Department of Defense, March of Dimes and the Craig H. Neilsen and Jean Perkins foundations

Gaber Zachary B, Butler Samantha J, Novitch Bennett G &nbsp; <a href="">PLZF Regulates Fibroblast Growth Factor Responsiveness and Maintenance of Neural Progenitors</a> PLoS biology, 2013; 11(10): e1001676.</div><div style="padding-bottom: 0.75em;">Kandyba E., Hazen V. M., Kobielak A., Butler S. J., Kobielak K. &nbsp; <a href="">Smad1&amp;5 but not Smad8 establish stem cell quiescence which is critical to transform the premature hair follicle during morphogenesis towards the Postnatal State</a> Stem cells, 2013; .</div><div style="padding-bottom: 0.75em;">Phan K. D., Butler S. J. &nbsp; <a href="">Bilaterally symmetric populations of chicken dI1 (commissural) axons cross the floor plate independently of each other</a> PloS one, 2013; 8(4): e62977.</div><div style="padding-bottom: 0.75em;">Kong J. H., Butler S. J., Novitch B. G. &nbsp; <a href="">My brain told me to do it</a> Developmental cell, 2013; 25(5): 436-8.</div><div style="padding-bottom: 0.75em;">Yamauchi K., Varadarajan S. G., Li J. E., Butler S. J. &nbsp; <a href="">Type Ib BMP receptors mediate the rate of commissural axon extension through inhibition of cofilin activity</a> Development, 2013; 140(2): 333-42.</div><div style="padding-bottom: 0.75em;">Hazen V. M., Andrews M. G., Umans L., Crenshaw E. B., Zwijsen A., Butler S. J. &nbsp; <a href="">BMP receptor-activated Smads confer diverse functions during the development of the dorsal spinal cord</a> Developmental biology, 2012; 367(2): 216-27.</div><div style="padding-bottom: 0.75em;">Hazen V. M., Phan K. D., Hudiburgh S., Butler S. J. &nbsp; <a href="">Inhibitory Smads differentially regulate cell fate specification and axon dynamics in the dorsal spinal cord</a> Developmental biology, 2011; 356(2): 566-75.</div><div style="padding-bottom: 0.75em;">Phan K. D., Croteau L.-P., Kam J. W. K., Kania A., Cloutier J.-F., Butler S. J. &nbsp; <a href="">Neogenin may functionally substitute for Dcc in chicken</a> PloS one, 2011; 6(7): e22072.</div><div style="padding-bottom: 0.75em;">Phan K. D., Hazen V. M., Frendo M.E., Jia Z.-P., Butler S.J. &nbsp; <a href="">The bone morphogenetic protein roof plate chemorepellent regulates the rate of commissural axonal growth</a> Journal of Neuroscience, 2010; 30(46): 15430-40.</div><div style="padding-bottom: 0.75em;">Hazen V. M., Phan K.D., Yamauchi K., Butler S. J. &nbsp; <a href="">Assaying the ability of diffusible signaling molecules to reorient embryonic spinal commissural axons</a> JoVE, 2010; 31(37): .</div><div style="padding-bottom: 0.75em;">Novitch B. G., Butler S. J. &nbsp; <a href="">Reducing the mystery of neuronal differentiation</a> Cell, 2009; 138(6): 1062-4.</div><div style="padding-bottom: 0.75em;">Yamauchi K., Phan K. D., Butler S. J. &nbsp; <a href="">BMP type I receptor complexes have distinct activities mediating cell fate and axon guidance decisions</a> Development, 2008; 135(6): 1119-28.</div><div style="padding-bottom: 0.75em;">Butler S. J., Tear G. &nbsp; <a href="">Getting axons onto the right path: the role of transcription factors in axon guidance</a> Development, 2007; 134(3): 439-48.</div><div style="padding-bottom: 0.75em;">Butler S. J., Dodd J. &nbsp; <a href="">A role for BMP heterodimers in roof plate-mediated repulsion of commissural axons</a> Neuron, 2003; 38(3): 389-401.</div><div style="padding-bottom: 0.75em;">Augsburger A., Schuchardt A., Hoskins S., Dodd J., Butler S. &nbsp; <a href="">BMPs as mediators of roof plate repulsion of commissural neurons</a> Neuron, 1999; 24(1): 127-41.</div><p>Butler S. J., Ray S., Hiromi Y. &nbsp; <a href="">klingon, a novel member of the Drosophila immunoglobulin superfamily, is required for the development of the R7 photoreceptor neuron</a> Development, 1997; 124(4): 781-92.</p>