Photo of Marc R. Freeman, Ph.D.

Marc R. Freeman Ph.D.

Marc Freeman is director of the Vollum Institute. He earned his B.S. in Biology from Eastern Connecticut State University in 1993. He carried out his doctoral training in the laboratory of John Carlson at Yale University and obtained his Ph.D. in Biology in 1999. Freeman trained as a postdoctoral associate with Chris Q. Doe at the University of Oregon from 1999–2004. He started his laboratory in the Department of Neurobiology at The University of Massachusetts Medical School in 2004, focusing on glia-neuron interactions in the healthy and diseased brain. In 2016, Freeman joined the Vollum Institute.

Neurons are not alone in the nervous system; glial cells constitute the majority of the cells in the human brain. Despite their abundance, surprisingly little is known about how glia develop or function in the mature nervous system. The Freeman Lab uses the fruit fly Drosophila as a model to explore fundamental aspects of glial cell biology. Defining the precise roles that glia play will be a crucial step if we wish to understand how the nervous system is assembled, functions to drive animal behavior, and is maintained in a healthy state for the life of an animal.

Areas of interest

  • glia
  • axon
  • Wallerian degeneration
  • neuron-glia signaling
  • astrocytes
  • neurodegeneration
  • Drosophila


  • B.S., Eastern Connecticut State University 1993
  • Ph.D., Yale University 1999

Honors and awards

  • Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellow (2005)
  • Early Career Scientist Award, Howard Hughes Medical Institute (2009)
  • Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute (2013-2016)


  • "Transcription factor Pebbled/RREB1 regulates injury-induced axon degeneration." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America In: , Vol. 115, No. 6, 06.02.2018, p. 1358-1363.
  • "The secreted neurotrophin spätzle 3 promotes glial morphogenesis and supports neuronal survival and function." Genes and Development In: , Vol. 31, No. 20, 15.10.2017, p. 2023-2038.
  • "Axon Death Pathways Converge on Axundead to Promote Functional and Structural Axon Disassembly." Neuron In: , Vol. 95, No. 1, 05.07.2017, p. 78-91.
  • "Axon degeneration induces glial responses through Draper-TRAF4-JNK signalling." Nature Communications In: , Vol. 8, 14355, 06.02.2017.
  • "Prevalent presence of periodic actin-spectrin-based membrane skeleton in a broad range of neuronal cell types and animal species." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America  In: , Vol. 113, No. 21, 24.05.2016, p. 6029-6034.
  • "Dendrites actively restrain axon outgrowth and regeneration." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America In: , Vol. 113, No. 20, 17.05.2016, p. 5465-5466.
  • "Attenuated traumatic axonal injury and improved functional outcome after traumatic brain injury in mice lacking Sarm1." Brain In: , Vol. 139, No. 4, 01.04.2016, p. 1094-1105.
  • "Neuromodulators signal through astrocytes to alter neural circuit activity and behaviour." Nature In: , Vol. 539, No. 7629, 2016, p. 428-432.
  • "Letting Go of JuNK by Disassembly of Adhesive Complexes." Neuron In: , Vol. 88, No. 5, 02.12.2015, p. 848-849.
  • "Drosophila central nervous system glia." Cold Spring Harbor Perspectives in Biology In: , Vol. 7, No. 11, 01.11.2015.
  • "Age-dependent TDP-43-mediated motor neuron degeneration requires GSK3, hat-trick, and xmas-2." Current Biology In: , Vol. 25, No. 16, 17.08.2015, p. 2130-2136.
  • "Activity-dependent regulation of astrocyte GAT levels during synaptogenesis." Nature Neuroscience In: , Vol. 17, No. 10, 01.10.2014, p. 1340-1350.
  • "DRK/DOS/SOS converge with Crk/Mbc/dCed-12 to activate Rac1 during glial engulfment of axonal debris." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America In: , Vol. 111, No. 34, 26.08.2014, p. 12544-12549.
  • "Neuron-Glia interactions through the heartless fgf receptor signaling pathway mediate morphogenesis of drosophila astrocytes." Neuron In: , Vol. 83, No. 2, 16.07.2014, p. 388-403.
  • "Rapid in vivo forward genetic approach for identifying axon death genes in Drosophila." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America In: , Vol. 111, No. 27, 08.07.2014, p. 9965-9970.
  • "Drosophila models of neuronal injury." ILAR Journal In: , Vol. 54, No. 3, ilt057, 04.2014, p. 291-295.
  • "Astrocytes engage unique molecular programs to engulf pruned neuronal debris from distinct subsets of neurons." Genes and Development In: , Vol. 28, No. 1, 01.01.2014, p. 20-33.
  • "Astrocytes eyeball axonal mitochondria." Science In: , Vol. 345, No. 6195, 2014, p. 385-386.
  • "Signaling mechanisms regulating Wallerian degeneration." Current Opinion in Neurobiology In: , Vol. 27, 2014, p. 224-231.
  • "Glial wingless/wnt regulates glutamate receptor clustering and synaptic physiology at the Drosophila neuromuscular junction." Journal of Neuroscience  In: , Vol. 34, No. 8, 2014, p. 2910-2920.
  • "PI3K Signaling and Stat92E Converge to Modulate Glial Responsiveness to Axonal Injury." PLoS Biology In: , Vol. 12, No. 11, 2014.
  • "Diverse cellular and molecular modes of axon degeneration." Trends in Cell Biology In: , Vol. 24, No. 9, 2014, p. 515-523.
  • "Probing the enigma : Unraveling glial cell biology in invertebrates." Current Opinion in Neurobiology In: , Vol. 23, No. 6, 12.2013, p. 1073-1079.
  • "Architects in neural circuit design : Glia control neuron numbers and connectivity." Journal of Cell Biology In: , Vol. 203, No. 3, 11.11.2013, p. 395-405.
  • "Evolving concepts of gliogenesis : A look way back and ahead to the next 25 years." Neuron In: , Vol. 80, No. 3, 30.10.2013, p. 613-623.
  • "The c-Jun kinase signaling cascade promotes glial engulfment activity through activation of draper and phagocytic function." Cell Death and Differentiation In: , Vol. 20, No. 9, 09.2013, p. 1140-1148.
  • "Invertebrate Glia."  Comprehensive Developmental Neuroscience: Patterning and Cell Type Specification in the Developing CNS and PNS. Elsevier Inc., 2013. p. 891-910.
  • "Deletions within its subcellular targeting domain enhance the axon protective capacity of Nmnat2 in vivo." Scientific Reports In: , Vol. 3, 2567, 2013.
  • "Whole genome sequencing and a new bioinformatics platform allow for rapid gene identification in d. melanogaster EMS screens." Biology  In: , Vol. 1, No. 3, 05.12.2012, p. 766-777.
  • "Integration of a retrograde signal during synapse formation by glia-secreted TGF-β ligand." Current Biology  In: , Vol. 22, No. 19, 09.10.2012, p. 1831-1838.

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