University of Southern California

USC Neuroscience

Jeannie Chen

Department of Cell & Neurobiology
Department of Ophthalmology
Zilkha Neurogenetic Institute
Keck School of Medicine of USC
PIBBS Mentor

Research Topics

  1. Signal transduction
  2. Photoreceptor function
  3. Retinal degeneration

Research Overview

Photoreceptor cells are light sensitive neurons in the retina that initiate the first step in vision. These cells initiate an intracellular G-protein cascade to amplify the signal generated following photon absorption. One of the main objectives of my laboratory is to understand how this signaling cascade is regulated within rod and cone photoreceptor cells which underlies their specialized ability to detect dim light and bright light, respectively. Another aspect of these studies is to understand how defects in signaling and protein mis-expression results in retinal degeneration. We utilize a multidisciplinary approach in our studies, combining transgenic mouse technology with electrophysiologic, morphologic and biochemical analyses.

Protein misfolding is an underlying cause of many neurodegenerative diseases. These diseases are characterized by insoluble protein aggregates and lipid deposits within amyloid plaques of diseased tissue. Drusen is an extracellular deposit commonly present in aging eyes and eyes affected with age related macular degeneration (AMD). Another goal of my laboratory is to understand how protein misfolding may participate in the etiology of AMD.

Contact Information

Mailing Address:
Zilkha Neurogenetic Institute
1501 San Pablo Street, ZNI-227
Los Angeles, CA 90089-2821
Office Location:
Office Phone:
(323) 442-4479
Lab Location:
Lab Phone:
(323) 442-4359
(323) 442-4433


  • B.A., Occidental College, 1983.
  • Ph.D. USC, 1990.
  • Post-Doctoral Scholar, Caltech, 1995.

Research Images

Selected Publications

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Concepcion F, Chen J. (2010) Q344ter mutation causes mislocalization of rhodopsin moleculesthat are catalytically active: a mouse model of Q344ter-induced retinal degendration. PLoS One 5(6):e10904

Isas JM, Luibl V, Johnson LV, Kayed R, Wetzel R, Glabe CG, Langen R, Chen J. (2010) Soluble and mature amyloid fibrils in drusen deposits. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 51(3):1304-10. -PubMed

Chen J, Woodruff ML, Wang T, Concepcion F, Tranchina D, Fain GL. (2010) Channel modulation and the mechanism of light adaptation in mouse rods. J Neurosci. 30:16232-16240. -PubMed

Chen J, Mao, W. (2010) G protein alpha transducin, cone. UCSD-Nature Molecule Pages. doi:10.1038/mp.a000980.01

Shin TM, Isas JM, Hsieh CL, Keyed R, Glabe CG, Langen R, Chen J. (2008) Formation of soluble amyloid oligomers and amyloid fibrils by the multifunctional protein vitronectin,  Mol Neurodegener. 3:16. -PubMed

Shi G, Yau KW, Chen J, Kefalov VJ. (2007) Signaling properties of a short-wave cone visual pigment and its role in phototransduction. J Neurosci. 27(38):10084-10093. -PubMed

Doan, T., Mendez, A., Detwiler, P.B., Chen, J. and Rieke, F. (2006) Multiple phosphorylation sites confer reproducibility of the rod's single photon response. Science. 313:530-533. -PubMed

Burns ME, Mendez A, Chen CK, Almuete A, Quillinan N, Simon MI, Baylor DA, Chen J. (2006) Deactivation of phosphorylated and nonphosphorylated rhodopsin by arrestin splice variants. J Neurosci. 26(3):1036-44. -PubMed

Luibl V, Isas JM, Kayed R, Glabe CG, Langen R, Chen J. (2006) Drusen deposits associated with aging and age-related macular degeneration contain nonfibrillar amyloid oligomers. J Clin Invest. 116(2):378-85. -PubMed

Chen,J., Shi, G., Concepcion, F. A., Xie, G., Oprian, D., Chen, J. (2006) Stable rhodopsin/arrestin complex leads to retinal degeneration in a transgenic mouse model of ADRP. J. Neurosci. 26:11929-37. -PubMed