Jeff Nirschl, M.D., Ph.D. is a neuropathology fellow at Stanford University, Stanford, CA, in the Department of Pathology. He completed his Ph.D. in Neuroscience at the University of Pennsylvania under the supervision of Dr. Erika Holzbaur. During his thesis research, he investigated axonal transport and genetic forms of parkinsonism. He also developed computational image analysis workflows for fluorescence microscopy and digital pathology. His research interests include molecular motors and the neuronal cytoskeleton, the regulation of axonal transport in neurodegeneration, digital pathology, and quantitative image analysis using machine learning.

All Publications

  • Creatine transport and pathological changes in creatine transporter deficient mice. Journal of inherited metabolic disease Wawro, A. M., Gajera, C. R., Baker, S. A., Nirschl, J. J., Vogel, H. n., Montine, T. J. 2021


    The severe impact on brain function and lack of effective therapy for patients with creatine (Cr) transporter deficiency motivated the generation of three ubiquitous Slc6a8 deficient mice (-/y). While each mouse knock-out line has similar behavioral effects at 2 to 3 months of age, other features critical to the efficient use of these mice in drug discovery are unclear or lacking: the concentration of Cr in brain and heart differ widely between mouse lines, there are limited data on histopathologic changes, and no data on Cr uptake. Here, we determined survival, measured endogenous Cr and uptake of its deuterium-labeled analogue Cr-d3 using a liquid chromatography coupled with tandem mass spectrometry assay, and performed comprehensive histopathologic examination on the Slc6a8-/y mouse developed by Skelton et. al. Our results show that Slc6a8-/y mice have widely varying organ-specific uptake of Cr-d3, significantly diminished growth with the exception of brain, progressive vacuolar myopathy, and markedly shortened lifespan. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

    View details for DOI 10.1002/jimd.12358

    View details for PubMedID 33389772

  • Actin cables and comet tails organize mitochondrial networks in mitosis. Nature Moore, A. S., Coscia, S. M., Simpson, C. L., Ortega, F. E., Wait, E. C., Heddleston, J. M., Nirschl, J. J., Obara, C. J., Guedes-Dias, P. n., Boecker, C. A., Chew, T. L., Theriot, J. A., Lippincott-Schwartz, J. n., Holzbaur, E. L. 2021


    Symmetric cell division requires the even partitioning of genetic information and cytoplasmic contents between daughter cells. Whereas the mechanisms coordinating the segregation of the genome are well known, the processes that ensure organelle segregation between daughter cells remain less well understood1. Here we identify multiple actin assemblies with distinct but complementary roles in mitochondrial organization and inheritance in mitosis. First, we find a dense meshwork of subcortical actin cables assembled throughout the mitotic cytoplasm. This network scaffolds the endoplasmic reticulum and organizes three-dimensional mitochondrial positioning to ensure the equal segregation of mitochondrial mass at cytokinesis. Second, we identify a dynamic wave of actin filaments reversibly assembling on the surface of mitochondria during mitosis. Mitochondria sampled by this wave are enveloped within actin clouds that can spontaneously break symmetry to form elongated comet tails. Mitochondrial comet tails promote randomly directed bursts of movement that shuffle mitochondrial position within the mother cell to randomize inheritance of healthy and damaged mitochondria between daughter cells. Thus, parallel mechanisms mediated by the actin cytoskeleton ensure both equal and random inheritance of mitochondria in symmetrically dividing cells.

    View details for DOI 10.1038/s41586-021-03309-5

    View details for PubMedID 33658713

  • In vitro amplification of pathogenic tau conserves disease-specific bioactive characteristics. Acta neuropathologica Xu, H., O'Reilly, M., Gibbons, G. S., Changolkar, L., McBride, J. D., Riddle, D. M., Zhang, B., Stieber, A., Nirschl, J., Kim, S., Hoxha, K., Brunden, K. R., Schellenberg, G. D., Trojanowski, J. Q., Lee, V. M. 2021


    The microtubule-associated protein tau (tau) forms hyperphosphorylated aggregates in the brains of tauopathy patients that can be pathologically and biochemically defined as distinct tau strains. Recent studies show that these tau strains exhibit strain-specific biological activities, also referred to as pathogenicities, in the tau spreading models. Currently, the specific pathogenicity of human-derived tau strains cannot be fully recapitulated by synthetic tau preformed fibrils (pffs), which are generated from recombinant tau protein. Reproducing disease-relevant tau pathology in cell and animal models necessitates the use of human brain-derived tau seeds. However, the availability of human-derived tau is extremely limited. Generation of tau variants that can mimic the pathogenicity of human-derived tau seeds would significantly extend the scale of experimental design within the field of tauopathy research. Previous studies have demonstrated that in vitro seeding reactions can amplify the beta-sheet structure of tau protein from a minute quantity of human-derived tau. However, whether the strain-specific pathogenicities of the original, human-derived tau seeds are conserved in the amplified tau strains has yet to be experimentally validated. Here, we used biochemically enriched brain-derived tau seeds from Alzheimer's disease (AD), corticobasal degeneration (CBD) and progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP) patient brains with a modified seeding protocol to template the recruitment of recombinant 2N4R (T40) tauin vitro. We quantitatively interrogated efficacy of the amplification reactions and the pathogenic fidelity of the amplified material to the original tau seeds using recently developed sporadic tau spreading models. Our data suggest that different tau strains can be faithfully amplified in vitro from tau isolated from different tauopathy brains and that the amplified tau variants retain their strain-dependent pathogenic characteristics.

    View details for DOI 10.1007/s00401-020-02253-4

    View details for PubMedID 33385254

  • The development and convergence of co-pathologies in Alzheimer's disease. Brain : a journal of neurology Robinson, J. L., Richardson, H. n., Xie, S. X., Suh, E. n., Van Deerlin, V. M., Alfaro, B. n., Loh, N. n., Porras-Paniagua, M. n., Nirschl, J. J., Wolk, D. n., Lee, V. M., Lee, E. B., Trojanowski, J. Q. 2020


    Cerebral amyloid angiopathy (CAA), limbic-predominant age-related TDP-43 encephalopathy neuropathological change (LATE-NC) and Lewy bodies occur in the absence of clinical and neuropathological Alzheimer's disease, but their prevalence and severity dramatically increase in Alzheimer's disease. To investigate how plaques, tangles, age and apolipoprotein E ε4 (APOE ε4) interact with co-pathologies in Alzheimer's disease, we analysed 522 participants ≥50 years of age with and without dementia from the Center for Neurodegenerative Disease Research (CNDR) autopsy program and 1340 participants in the National Alzheimer's Coordinating Center (NACC) database. Consensus criteria were applied for Alzheimer's disease using amyloid phase and Braak stage. Co-pathology was staged for CAA (neocortical, allocortical, and subcortical), LATE-NC (amygdala, hippocampal, and cortical), and Lewy bodies (brainstem, limbic, neocortical, and amygdala predominant). APOE genotype was determined for all CNDR participants. Ordinal logistic regression was performed to quantify the effect of independent variables on the odds of having a higher stage after checking the proportional odds assumption. We found that without dementia, increasing age associated with all pathologies including CAA (odds ratio 1.63, 95% confidence interval 1.38-1.94, P < 0.01), LATE-NC (1.48, 1.16-1.88, P < 0.01), and Lewy bodies (1.45, 1.15-1.83, P < 0.01), but APOE ε4 only associated with CAA (4.80, 2.16-10.68, P < 0.01). With dementia, increasing age associated with LATE-NC (1.30, 1.15-1.46, P < 0.01), while Lewy bodies associated with younger ages (0.90, 0.81-1.00, P = 0.04), and APOE ε4 only associated with CAA (2.36, 1.52-3.65, P < 0.01). A longer disease course only associated with LATE-NC (1.06, 1.01-1.11, P = 0.01). Dementia in the NACC cohort associated with the second and third stages of CAA (2.23, 1.50-3.30, P < 0.01), LATE-NC (5.24, 3.11-8.83, P < 0.01), and Lewy bodies (2.41, 1.51-3.84, P < 0.01). Pathologically, increased Braak stage associated with CAA (5.07, 2.77-9.28, P < 0.01), LATE-NC (5.54, 2.33-13.15, P < 0.01), and Lewy bodies (4.76, 2.07-10.95, P < 0.01). Increased amyloid phase associated with CAA (2.27, 1.07-4.80, P = 0.03) and Lewy bodies (6.09, 1.66-22.33, P = 0.01). In summary, we describe widespread distributions of CAA, LATE-NC and Lewy bodies that progressively accumulate alongside plaques and tangles in Alzheimer's disease dementia. CAA interacted with plaques and tangles especially in APOE ε4 positive individuals; LATE-NC associated with tangles later in the disease course; most Lewy bodies associated with moderate to severe plaques and tangles.

    View details for DOI 10.1093/brain/awaa438

    View details for PubMedID 33449993

  • Kinesin-3 Responds to Local Microtubule Dynamics to Target Synaptic Cargo Delivery to the Presynapse. Current biology : CB Guedes-Dias, P. n., Nirschl, J. J., Abreu, N. n., Tokito, M. K., Janke, C. n., Magiera, M. M., Holzbaur, E. L. 2019; 29 (2): 268–82.e8


    Neurons in the CNS establish thousands of en passant synapses along their axons. Robust neurotransmission depends on the replenishment of synaptic components in a spatially precise manner. Using live-cell microscopy and single-molecule reconstitution assays, we find that the delivery of synaptic vesicle precursors (SVPs) to en passant synapses in hippocampal neurons is specified by an interplay between the kinesin-3 KIF1A motor and presynaptic microtubules. Presynaptic sites are hotspots of dynamic microtubules rich in GTP-tubulin. KIF1A binds more weakly to GTP-tubulin than GDP-tubulin and competes with end-binding (EB) proteins for binding to the microtubule plus end. A disease-causing mutation within KIF1A that reduces preferential binding to GDP- versus GTP-rich microtubules disrupts SVP delivery and reduces presynaptic release upon neuronal stimulation. Thus, the localized enrichment of dynamic microtubules along the axon specifies a localized unloading zone that ensures the accurate delivery of SVPs, controlling presynaptic strength in hippocampal neurons.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.cub.2018.11.065

    View details for PubMedID 30612907

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC6342647

  • A deep-learning classifier identifies patients with clinical heart failure using whole-slide images of H&E tissue. PloS one Nirschl, J. J., Janowczyk, A. n., Peyster, E. G., Frank, R. n., Margulies, K. B., Feldman, M. D., Madabhushi, A. n. 2018; 13 (4): e0192726


    Over 26 million people worldwide suffer from heart failure annually. When the cause of heart failure cannot be identified, endomyocardial biopsy (EMB) represents the gold-standard for the evaluation of disease. However, manual EMB interpretation has high inter-rater variability. Deep convolutional neural networks (CNNs) have been successfully applied to detect cancer, diabetic retinopathy, and dermatologic lesions from images. In this study, we develop a CNN classifier to detect clinical heart failure from H&E stained whole-slide images from a total of 209 patients, 104 patients were used for training and the remaining 105 patients for independent testing. The CNN was able to identify patients with heart failure or severe pathology with a 99% sensitivity and 94% specificity on the test set, outperforming conventional feature-engineering approaches. Importantly, the CNN outperformed two expert pathologists by nearly 20%. Our results suggest that deep learning analytics of EMB can be used to predict cardiac outcome.

    View details for DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0192726

    View details for PubMedID 29614076

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC5882098

  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis-linked mutations increase the viscosity of liquid-like TDP-43 RNP granules in neurons. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America Gopal, P. P., Nirschl, J. J., Klinman, E. n., Holzbaur, E. L. 2017; 114 (12): E2466–E2475


    Ribonucleoprotein (RNP) granules are enriched in specific RNAs and RNA-binding proteins (RBPs) and mediate critical cellular processes. Purified RBPs form liquid droplets in vitro through liquid-liquid phase separation and liquid-like non-membrane-bound structures in cells. Mutations in the human RBPs TAR-DNA binding protein 43 (TDP-43) and RNA-binding protein FUS cause amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), but the biophysical properties of these proteins have not yet been studied in neurons. Here, we show that TDP-43 RNP granules in axons of rodent primary cortical neurons display liquid-like properties, including fusion with rapid relaxation to circular shape, shear stress-induced deformation, and rapid fluorescence recovery after photobleaching. RNP granules formed from wild-type TDP-43 show distinct biophysical properties depending on axonal location, suggesting maturation to a more stabilized structure is dependent on subcellular context, including local density and aging. Superresolution microscopy demonstrates that the stabilized population of TDP-43 RNP granules in the proximal axon is less circular and shows spiculated edges, whereas more distal granules are both more spherical and more dynamic. RNP granules formed by ALS-linked mutant TDP-43 are more viscous and exhibit disrupted transport dynamics. We propose these altered properties may confer toxic gain of function and reflect differential propensity for pathological transformation.

    View details for DOI 10.1073/pnas.1614462114

    View details for PubMedID 28265061

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC5373408

  • Deep Learning Tissue Segmentation in Cardiac Histopathology Images DEEP LEARNING FOR MEDICAL IMAGE ANALYSIS Nirschl, J. J., Janowczyk, A., Peyster, E. G., Frank, R., Margulies, K. B., Feldman, M. D., Madabhushi, A., Zhou, S. K., Greenspan, H., Shen, D. 2017: 179–95
  • The impact of cytoskeletal organization on the local regulation of neuronal transport. Nature reviews. Neuroscience Nirschl, J. J., Ghiretti, A. E., Holzbaur, E. L. 2017; 18 (10): 585–97


    Neurons are akin to modern cities in that both are dependent on robust transport mechanisms. Like the best mass transit systems, trafficking in neurons must be tailored to respond to local requirements. Neurons depend on both high-speed, long-distance transport and localized dynamics to correctly deliver cargoes and to tune synaptic responses. Here, we focus on the mechanisms that provide localized regulation of the transport machinery, including the cytoskeleton and molecular motors, to yield compartment-specific trafficking in the axon initial segment, axon terminal, dendrites and spines. The synthesis of these mechanisms provides a sophisticated and responsive transit system for the cell.

    View details for DOI 10.1038/nrn.2017.100

    View details for PubMedID 28855741

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC6400490

  • α-Tubulin Tyrosination and CLIP-170 Phosphorylation Regulate the Initiation of Dynein-Driven Transport in Neurons. Cell reports Nirschl, J. J., Magiera, M. M., Lazarus, J. E., Janke, C. n., Holzbaur, E. L. 2016; 14 (11): 2637–52


    Motor-cargo recruitment to microtubules is often the rate-limiting step of intracellular transport, and defects in this recruitment can cause neurodegenerative disease. Here, we use in vitro reconstitution assays with single-molecule resolution, live-cell transport assays in primary neurons, computational image analysis, and computer simulations to investigate the factors regulating retrograde transport initiation in the distal axon. We find that phosphorylation of the cytoskeletal-organelle linker protein CLIP-170 and post-translational modifications of the microtubule track combine to precisely control the initiation of retrograde transport. Computer simulations of organelle dynamics in the distal axon indicate that while CLIP-170 primarily regulates the time to microtubule encounter, the tyrosination state of the microtubule lattice regulates the likelihood of binding. These mechanisms interact to control transport initiation in the axon in a manner sensitive to the specialized cytoskeletal architecture of the neuron.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.celrep.2016.02.046

    View details for PubMedID 26972003

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC4819336

  • Lipid Rafts Assemble Dynein Ensembles. Trends in biochemical sciences Nirschl, J. J., Ghiretti, A. E., Holzbaur, E. L. 2016; 41 (5): 393–94


    New work by Rai et al. identifies a novel mechanism regulating phagosome transport in cells: the clustering of dynein motors into lipid microdomains, leading to enhanced unidirectional motility. Clustering may be especially important for dynein, a motor that works most efficiently in teams.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.tibs.2016.03.005

    View details for PubMedID 27061495

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC4851571

  • Live-cell imaging of retrograde transport initiation in primary neurons. Methods in cell biology Nirschl, J. J., Holzbaur, E. L. 2016; 131: 269–76


    Axonal transport is an essential function in neurons, as mutations in either motor proteins or their adaptors cause neurodegeneration. While some mutations cause a complete block in axonal transport, other mutations affect transport more subtly. This is especially true of mutations identified in human patients, many of which impair but do not block motor function in the cell. Dissecting the pathogenic mechanisms of these more subtle mutations requires assays that can tease apart the distinct phases of axonal transport, including transport initiation, sustained/regulated motility, and cargo-specific sorting or delivery. Here, we describe a live-cell photobleaching assay to assess retrograde flux from the distal axon tip, a measure for distal transport initiation. We have previously used this method to show that the CAP-Gly domain of DCTN1 is required for efficient retrograde transport initiation in the distal axon, but it is not required to maintain retrograde flux along the mid-axon (Moughamian & Holzbaur, 2012). This approach has allowed us to examine the effects of disease-causing mutations in the axonal transport machinery, and in combination with other assays, will be useful in determining the mechanisms and regulation of axonal transport in normal and diseased conditions.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/bs.mcb.2015.06.002

    View details for PubMedID 26794519

  • LC3 Binding to the Scaffolding Protein JIP1 Regulates Processive Dynein-Driven Transport of Autophagosomes DEVELOPMENTAL CELL Fu, M., Nirschl, J. J., Holzbaur, E. L. 2014; 29 (5): 577-590


    Autophagy is essential for maintaining cellular homeostasis in neurons, where autophagosomes undergo robust unidirectional retrograde transport along axons. We find that the motor scaffolding protein JIP1 binds directly to the autophagosome adaptor LC3 via a conserved LIR motif. This interaction is required for the initial exit of autophagosomes from the distal axon, for sustained retrograde transport along the midaxon, and for autophagosomal maturation in the proximal axon. JIP1 binds directly to the dynein activator dynactin but also binds to and activates kinesin-1 in a phosphorylation-dependent manner. Following JIP1 depletion, phosphodeficient JIP1-S421A rescues retrograde transport, while phosphomimetic JIP1-S421D aberrantly activates anterograde transport. During normal autophagosome transport, residue S421 of JIP1 may be maintained in a dephosphorylated state by autophagosome-associated MKP1 phosphatase. Moreover, binding of LC3 to JIP1 competitively disrupts JIP1-mediated activation of kinesin. Thus, dual mechanisms prevent aberrant activation of kinesin to ensure robust retrograde transport of autophagosomes along the axon.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.devcel.2014.04.015

    View details for Web of Science ID 000337644700010

    View details for PubMedID 24914561

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC4109720

  • Automated quantification of locomotion, social interaction, and mate preference in Drosophila mutants. Journal of neurogenetics Iyengar, A. n., Imoehl, J. n., Ueda, A. n., Nirschl, J. n., Wu, C. F. 2012; 26 (3-4): 306–16


    Automated tracking methods facilitate screening for and characterization of abnormal locomotion or more complex behaviors in Drosophila. We developed the Iowa Fly Locomotion and Interaction Tracker (IowaFLI Tracker), a MATLAB-based video analysis system, to identify and track multiple flies in a small arena. We report altered motor activity in the K(+) and Na(+) channel mutants, Hk(1) and para(ts1), which had previously been shown to display abnormal larval locomotion. Environmental factors influencing individual behavior, such as available "social space," were studied by using IowaFLI Tracker to simultaneously track multiple flies in the same arena. We found that crowding levels affect individual fly activity, with the total movement of individual flies attenuated around a particular density. This observation may have important implications in the design of activity chambers for studying particular kinds of social interactions. IowaFLI Tracker also directly quantifies social interactions by tracking the amount of time individuals are in proximity to one another-visualized as an "interactogram." This feature enables the development of a "target-preference" assay to study male courtship behavior where males are presented with a choice between two immobilized, decapitated females, and their locomotion and interactions quantified. We used this assay to study the chemosensory mutants olf D (para(olfD), sbl(2)) and Gr32a and their preferences towards virgin or mated females. Male olf D flies showed reduced courtship levels, with no clear preference towards either, whereas Gr32a males preferentially courted with virgin females over mated females in this assay. These initial results demonstrate that IowaFLI Tracker can be employed to explore motor coordination and social interaction phenomena in behavioral mutants of Drosophila.

    View details for DOI 10.3109/01677063.2012.729626

    View details for PubMedID 23106154

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC3613147