Howard Sirotkin

Howard Sirokin
Associate Professor
PhD, Albert Einstein College of Medicine

Phone: (631) 632-4818
Fax: (631) 632-6661

Life Sciences Building
Office: Room 512
Lab: Room 505



Howard Sirotkin attended the University of Florida from 1987 to 1991 and was awarded a B.S. degree in Microbiology in 1991. He attended Albert Einstein College of Medicine from 1991 to 1996 and received an M.S. in Molecular Genetics in 1993 and a Ph.D. in Molecular Genetics in 1996 and was a postdoctoral fellow from 1996 to 1997. He continued his postdoctoral studies at New York University’s School of Medicine from 1997 to 1999 and from 1999 to 2001 was a postdoctoral fellow in Developmental Biology at Stanford University School of Medicine. He became an assistant professor of Neurobiology & Behavior at the State University of New York at Stony Brook in 2002, and in 2008 was promoted to the rank of associate professor with tenure.


During embryonic development, a single cell divides and differentiates to form the multitude of cell types found in a mature organism. How each cell type executes this complex program to generate the proper varieties of cells in the correct numbers and at the appropriate locations is poorly understood. We seek to unravel the mysteries of neural development and investigate disease states where these processes have failed.  
Our research falls into three broad areas: (1) Elucidating the genetic and epigenetic interactions that govern proliferation and differentiation of neural stem cells and progenitors. (2)Developing animal models for human neural diseases including Parkinson’s and autism. (3)Pioneering technologies to engineer chromosomes and modulate gene expression. My laboratory utilizes the zebrafish as a model organism. Several attributes make the zebrafish an ideal system for this analysis: embryos are transparent which allows for in vivo observations of cell movement and gene expression, development occurs external to the mother which facilitates cellular manipulations (transplants and gain/loss of function assays) and most importantly, it is a powerful genetic system.  Because all vertebrates share fundamental similarities in the organization of their body plans, understanding the genetic networks that control zebrafish neural development will provide important insights into development of other species including humans.

  • Publications
  • Laboratory Personnel
    • Moravec, C.E., Li E. Samuel, J., Weng, W., Wood, I.C. Sirotkin H.I.,. Maternal Rest/Nrsf Regulates Zebrafish Behavior Through snap25a/b.  . J Neurosci 36, 9407-19 (2016) PMID: 27605615
    • Moravec, C.E., Li E., Maaswinkle, H., Kritzer, M.F., Weng, W., Sirotkin H.I., (2015). Rest Mutant zebrafish swim erratically and display atypical spatial preferences. Behav Brain Res. 284:238-48. doi: 10.1016
    • Kim, L.,  He, L., Maaswinkel, H., Zhu, L., Sirotkin, H. and Weng, W. (2014) Anxiety, hyperactivity and stereotypy in a zebrafish model of fragile X syndrome and autism spectrum disorder. Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry. 2014 Mar 27. doi: 10.1016/j.pnpbp.2014.03.007.
    • Taibi, A.V., Mandavawala, K. P., Noel, J., Okoye, E.V., Milano, C.R., Martin, B. L., and Sirotkin, H.I (2013) Zebrafish churchill regulates developmental gene expression and cell migration. Dev Dyn. 2013 Feb 27. doi: 10.1002/dvdy.23958
    • Wang, H.J., Zare H., Mousavi, K., Wang C., Moravec, C.E., Sirotkin, H.I., Ge, K. and Sartorelli V. (2013). The Histone Chaperone Spt6 Coordinates Histone H3K27 Demethylation to Regulate Gene Expression and Myogenesis EMBO J. 2013 32(8):1075-86. doi: 10.1038/emboj.2013.54
    • Xie X, Mathias JR, Smith MA, Walker SL, Teng Y, Distel M, Köster RW, Sirotkin, H.I, Saxena MT, Mumm JS. (2012).Silencer-delimited transgenesis:NRSE/RE1 sequences promote neural-specific transgene expression in a NRSF/REST dependant manner. BMC Biol. 10(1):93. PMID: 23198762
    • Kok, F.O., Taibi, A., Wanner, S.J., Xie, X., Moravec, C.E., Love, C.E., Prince, V.E., Mumm, J. S., Sirotkin H.I., (2012). Zebrafish rest regulates developmental gene expression but not neurogenesis. Development 139(20): 3838-48.
    • Gates KP, Mentzer L, Karlstrom RO, Sirotkin HI. (2010). The transcriptional repressor REST/NRSF modulates hedgehog signaling. Dev Biol. 2010 Feb 1. PMID: 20122919
    • Kok, F.O., Shepherd I.T., Sirotkin H.I., (2009). Churchill and Sip1a repress fibroblast growth factor signaling during zebrafish somitogenesis. Dev Dyn. Dec 23 epub. PMID: 20034103
    • Londin, E.R., Mentzer, L., Gates, K.P., and Sirotkin, H.I., (2007). Expression and regulation of the zinc finger transcription factor Churchill during zebrafish development. Gene Expr Patterns 7(6):645-50.
    • Kok, F., Oster, E., Mentzer, L., Hsieh, J.C., Henry, C and Sirotkin, H.I., (2007). The role of the Spt6 chromatin remodeling factor in zebrafish embryogenesis. Dev Biol. 307(2):214-26.
    • Londin, E.R., Mentzer, L. and Sirotkin, H.I., (2007) Churchill regulates cell movement and mesoderm specification by repressing Nodal signaling. BMC Dev Bio.7:120.
    • Bell, M. A., Ellis, K. E., and Sirotkin, H. I. (2007) Variation of pelvic limb reduction and Pitx1 expression among threespine stickleback populations. Tinkering: the microevolution of development. Wiley, Chichester. Novartis Symposium 284, 225-244.
    • Londin, E.R., Niemiec, J. and Sirotkin, H.I., (2005). Chordin, FGF signaling, and mesodermal  factors cooperate in zebrafish neural induction. Dev Biol. 279(1):1-19.
    • Gleason, M.R., Armisen, R., Verdecia, M.A., Sirotkin, H., Brehm, P., Mandel, G. (2004). A mutation in serca underlies motility dysfunction in accordion zebrafish. Dev Biol. 15;276(2):441-51.
    • Levkowitz, G, Zeller, J , Sirotkin, H.I, Schilbach, S, Hashimoto, H, Hibi, H, Talbot, W.S. and Rosenthal,  A. (2003). Zinc finger protein too few controls the development of monoaminergic neurons. Nat Neurosci. 6:28-33.
    • Sirotkin, H.I., Gates, M.A., Kelly, P. A., Schier, A.F., and Talbot, W.S. (2000). fast1 is required for the development of dorsal axial structures in zebrafish. Current Biology 10, 1051-1054.
    • Sirotkin, H. I., Dougan, S.T., Schier, A.F.  and Talbot, W.S. (2000). bozozok and squint act in parallel to specify dorsal mesoderm and anterior neuroectoderm. Development : 127:2583-2592.
    • Fekany, K., Yamanaka, Y., Leung, T., Sirotkin, H.I., Topczewski, J., Gates, M.A., Hibi, M., Renucci, A., Stemple, D., Radbill, A., Schier, A.F., Driever, W., Hirano, T., Talbot, W.S. and Solnica-Krezel, L.  (1999). The zebrafish bozozok locus encodes the homeodomain protein Dharma and is sufficient in the extraembryonic yolk syncytial layer for gastrula organizer formation. Development 126:1427-38.
    • Feldman, B., Gates, M.A., Egan, E.S., Dougan, S.T., Rennebeck, G., Sirotkin, H.I., Schier, A.F., and Talbot, W.S. (1998). Zebrafish organizer development and germ-layer formation require nodal-related signals. Nature 395: 181-185
  • Neal Bhattacharji - Research Technician
  • Camille Monestime - Graduate Student (Neuroscience, Ph.D)
  • Jinelle Wint - Graduate Student (MCB, Ph.D)
  • Andrew Smith- Graduate Student (Neuroscience, MS)
  • Ryan Salerno-Eichenholz- Graduate Student (BCB, MS)