Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Research Center


Phelps, Patricia E., Ph.D.


Intercellular relationships and molecules that control neuronal migration in the developing mammalian spinal cord


  • Professor, Integrative Biology and Physiology
  • Member, ACCESS Program: Dept. of Molecular, Cell & Integrative Physiology
  • Neuroscience IDP
  • Brain Research Institute
  • Faculty, Molecular, Cellular, and Integrative Physiology IDP


The Phelps laboratory studies the mechanisms of neuronal migration in developing rodent spinal cord. Recent experiments focused on migration errors in mice with gene deletions in the Reelin-signaling pathway.

Phelps and her colleagues discovered that the loss of Reelin, both Reelin receptors (Apoer2/Vldlr) or the adaptor protein Disabled-1 (Dab1) cause indistinguishable positioning errors in the spinal cord that lead to defects in nociception – a profound reduction in mechanical sensitivity and an increased sensitivity to noxious heat. Thus the mutants of the Reelin-signaling pathway naturally segregate the biological basis of thermal and mechanical pain transmission.

Symptoms associated with the human mutation include a severe delay in cognitive development and profound learning disabilities.


  1. Phelps, PE, Ha, SM, Khankan, RR, Mekonnen, MA, Juarez, G, Ingraham Dixie, KL et al.. Olfactory ensheathing cells are hybrid glial cells that promote neural repair. bioRxiv. 2023; :. doi: 10.1101/2023.12.20.572462. PubMed PMID:38187769 PubMed Central PMC10769208.
  2. Hall, A, Fortino, T, Spruance, V, Niceforo, A, Harrop, JS, Phelps, PE et al.. Cell transplantation to repair the injured spinal cord. Int Rev Neurobiol. 2022;166 :79-158. doi: 10.1016/bs.irn.2022.09.008. PubMed PMID:36424097 PubMed Central PMC10008620.
  3. Urban, LS, Thornton, MA, Ingraham Dixie, KL, Dale, EA, Zhong, H, Phelps, PE et al.. Formation of a novel supraspinal-spinal connectome that relearns the same motor task after complete paralysis. J Neurophysiol. 2021;126 (3):957-966. doi: 10.1152/jn.00422.2020. PubMed PMID:34406891 PubMed Central PMC8461828.
  4. Yvone, GM, Chavez-Martinez, CL, Nguyen, AR, Wang, DJ, Phelps, PE. Reelin dorsal horn neurons co-express Lmx1b and are mispositioned in disabled-1 mutant mice. Eur J Neurosci. 2020;52 (5):3322-3338. doi: 10.1111/ejn.14847. PubMed PMID:32492253 PubMed Central PMC9451954.
  5. Wang, X, Yvone, GM, Cilluffo, M, Kim, AS, Basbaum, AI, Phelps, PE et al.. Mispositioned Neurokinin-1 Receptor-Expressing Neurons Underlie Heat Hyperalgesia in Disabled-1 Mutant Mice. eNeuro. 2019;6 (3):. doi: 10.1523/ENEURO.0131-19.2019. PubMed PMID:31122949 PubMed Central PMC6584071.
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