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)


  • "Ensheathing glia function as phagocytes in the adult Drosophila brain" Journal of Neuroscience April 15 2009
  • "Negative regulation of glial engulfment activity by Draper terminates glial responses to axon injury" Nature Neuroscience May 2012
  • "Activation of autophagy during cell death requires the engulfment receptor Draper" Nature June 24 2010
  • "Whole genome sequencing and a new bioinformatics platform allow for rapid gene identification in d. melanogaster EMS screens" Biology December 5 2012
  • "Glia and muscle sculpt neuromuscular arbors by engulfing destabilized synaptic boutons and shed presynaptic debris" PLoS Biology August 2009
  • "The scoop on the fly brain" Neuron Glia Biology February 2007
  • "dSarm/Sarm1 is required for activation of an injury-induced axon death pathway" Science July 27 2012
  • "Glial control of synaptogenesis" Cell February 11 2005
  • "The Drosophila Cell Corpse Engulfment Receptor Draper Mediates Glial Clearance of Severed Axons" Neuron June 2006
  • "Attenuated traumatic axonal injury and improved functional outcome after traumatic brain injury in mice lacking Sarm1" Brain April 1 2016
  • "Letting Go of JuNK by Disassembly of Adhesive Complexes" Neuron December 2 2015
  • "Moving Muscle" Developmental Cell November 2001
  • "Astrocytes eyeball axonal mitochondria" Science  2014
  • "Invertebrate Glia"  May 2013
  • "Astrocytes engage unique molecular programs to engulf pruned neuronal debris from distinct subsets of neurons" Genes and Development January 1 2014
  • "Integration of a retrograde signal during synapse formation by glia-secreted TGF-β ligand" Current Biology October 9 2012
  • "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 August 26 2014
  • "Distinct molecular pathways mediate glial activation and engulfment of axonal debris after axotomy" Nature Neuroscience July 2012
  • "Sculpting the nervous system" Current Opinion in Neurobiology February 2006
  • "Glial cell biology in Drosophila and vertebrates" Trends in Neurosciences February 2006
  • "Glia Got Rhythm" Neuron August 2 2007
  • "The c-Jun kinase signaling cascade promotes glial engulfment activity through activation of draper and phagocytic function" Cell Death and Differentiation September 2013
  • "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 May 24 2016
  • "Axon degeneration induces glial responses through Draper-TRAF4-JNK signalling" Nature Communications February 6 2017
  • "Architects in neural circuit design" Journal of Cell Biology November 11 2013
  • "Wld s requires Nmnatl enzymatic activity and N16- VCP interactions to suppress Wallerian degeneration" Journal of Cell Biology February 23 2009
  • "Deletions within its subcellular targeting domain enhance the axon protective capacity of Nmnat2 in vivo" Scientific Reports  2013
  • "Signaling mechanisms regulating Wallerian degeneration" Current Opinion in Neurobiology  2014
  • "Ecdysone response genes govern egg chamber development during mid-oogenesis in Drosophila" Development (Cambridge) October 1999
  • "Specification and morphogenesis of astrocytes" Science November 5 2010

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