Nina Tang Sherwood

Associate Professor of the Practice of Biology

Box 90338 137 Bio Sciences, 130 Science Drive, Durham, NC 27708
Campus Box: 
Duke Box 90338, Science Drive, 371D Biosci, Durham, NC 27708
We use Drosophila melanogaster as a model to understand nervous system development and function. A genetic screen for molecules important to these processes identified the fly ortholog of the spastin gene, which when mutated in humans leads to a progressive neurodegenerative disease called Autosomal-Dominant Hereditary Spastic Paraplegia (AD-HSP). Individuals with AD-HSP have difficulty walking, sometimes from as early as childhood, and can end up confined to wheelchairs. We have shown that loss of spastin in the fly larva compromises motoneuron function, while adults exhibit weak legs and do not fly. Spastin is a member of the AAA family of ATPases, and functions by severing microtubules into smaller segments. Our results indicate that the absence of spastin function in mutant flies leads to a reduction in microtubule content at synaptic boutons, presumably causing the weakened neurotransmission. Among our goals in the lab are to understand how this happens at a cell-biological level, and to examine specific phenotypes associated with mutations mimicking those found in the human disease. Using Drosophila as a model system allows us to rapidly generate flies with any number of specific mutations, and then study the consequences of these mutations at the biochemical, cell biological, developmental, electrophysiological and behavioral levels.


  • Ph.D., Duke University 1998

  • B.S., University of California - San Diego 1990

Ozdowski, E. F., S. L. Baxter, and N. T. Sherwood. “Drosophila Models of Hereditary Spastic Paraplegia.” In Movement Disorders: Genetics and Models: Second Edition, 1103–22, 2015. Full Text

Ozdowski, Emily F., Jill S. Wentzell, Stefanie M. Engert, Helena Abbott, and Nina T. Sherwood. “Suppression of spastin Mutant Phenotypes by Pak3 Loss Implicates a Role for Reactive Glia in AD-HSP.Frontiers in Neuroscience 14 (January 2020): 912. Full Text

Baxter, Sally L., Denise E. Allard, Christopher Crowl, and Nina Tang Sherwood. “Cold temperature improves mobility and survival in Drosophila models of autosomal-dominant hereditary spastic paraplegia (AD-HSP).Disease Models & Mechanisms 7, no. 8 (August 2014): 1005–12. Full Text

Stone, Michelle C., Kavitha Rao, Kyle W. Gheres, Seahee Kim, Juan Tao, Caroline La Rochelle, Christin T. Folker, Nina T. Sherwood, and Melissa M. Rolls. “Normal spastin gene dosage is specifically required for axon regeneration.Cell Reports 2, no. 5 (November 2012): 1340–50. Full Text

Stewart, Andrea, Asako Tsubouchi, Melissa M. Rolls, W Daniel Tracey, and Nina Tang Sherwood. “Katanin p60-like1 promotes microtubule growth and terminal dendrite stability in the larval class IV sensory neurons of Drosophila.The Journal of Neuroscience : The Official Journal of the Society for Neuroscience 32, no. 34 (August 2012): 11631–42. Full Text

Ozdowski, Emily F., Sophia Gayle, Hong Bao, Bing Zhang, and Nina T. Sherwood. “Loss of Drosophila melanogaster p21-activated kinase 3 suppresses defects in synapse structure and function caused by spastin mutations.Genetics 189, no. 1 (September 2011): 123–35. Full Text

Du, Fang, Emily F. Ozdowski, Ingrid K. Kotowski, Douglas A. Marchuk, and Nina Tang Sherwood. “Functional conservation of human Spastin in a Drosophila model of autosomal dominant-hereditary spastic paraplegia.Hum Mol Genet 19, no. 10 (May 15, 2010): 1883–96. Full Text

Sherwood, Nina Tang, Qi Sun, Mingshan Xue, Bing Zhang, and Kai Zinn. “Drosophila spastin regulates synaptic microtubule networks and is required for normal motor function.Plos Biology 2, no. 12 (December 2004): e429. Full Text

Bolton, M. M., D. C. Lo, and N. T. Sherwood. “Long-term regulation of excitatory and inhibitory synaptic transmission in hippocampal cultures by brain-derived neurotrophic factor.Progress in Brain Research 128 (January 2000): 203–18. Full Text

Sherwood, N. T., and D. C. Lo. “Long-term enhancement of central synaptic transmission by chronic brain-derived neurotrophic factor treatment.The Journal of Neuroscience : The Official Journal of the Society for Neuroscience 19, no. 16 (August 1999): 7025–36. Full Text

Sherwood, N. T., S. S. Lesser, and D. C. Lo. “Neurotrophin regulation of ionic currents and cell size depends on cell context.Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 94, no. 11 (May 1997): 5917–22. Full Text


Selected Grants

Training Program in Developmental and Stem Cell Biology awarded by National Institutes of Health (Mentor). 2001 to 2022

Transmission electron microscope (TEM) awarded by National Institutes of Health (Minor User). 2019 to 2020

Genetics Training Grant awarded by National Institutes of Health (Mentor). 1979 to 2020

Organization and Function of Cellular Structure awarded by National Institutes of Health (Mentor). 1975 to 2020

Genetic Analysis of the Function and Regulation of Microtubule Severing in Neurons awarded by National Institutes of Health (Principal Investigator). 2008 to 2012

Neurotrophin Modulation Of Synaptic Transmission awarded by National Institutes of Health (Principal Investigator). 1995 to 1997

Neurotrophin Modulation Of Synaptic Transmission awarded by National Institutes of Health (Principal Investigator). 1996 to 1997