Oswald Steward

Picture of Oswald Steward
Distinguished Professor, Anatomy & Neurobiology
School of Medicine
Director, Reeve-Irvine Research Center, Anatomy & Neurobiology
School of Medicine
Ph.D., Universtiy of California, Irvine, 1974, Psychobiology/Neuroscience
Phone: (949) 824-8908
Fax: (949) 824-2625
Email: osteward@uci.edu
University of California, Irvine
834 Health Sciences Rd
Mail Code: 4292
Irvine, CA 92697
Research Interests
Spinal cord injury, regeneration, sprouting, epilepsy, excitotoxicity, animal models of neurodegenerative diseases, synapse growth and plasticity, molecular mechanisms of LTP, LTD, and behavioral memory, mRNA localization, dendritic transport.
Academic Distinctions
Endowed Professorship: Harrison Foundation Professor of Neuroscience and Neurosurgery, University of Virginia, 1990-1999.
Endowed Professorship: Reeve-Irvine Professor of Anatomy & Neurobiology and Neurobiology & Behavior.
Member: Independent Citizen’s Oversight Committee (ICOC) for the Institute of Regenerative Medicine established by Proposition 71 (appointed by Governor Arnold Schwarzeneggar, 2004-2012, reappointed by Governor Jerry Brown, 2012-2020).
Research Abstract
One component of my research evaluates cellular and molecular processes that contribute to repair after CNS (especially spinal cord) injury. A description of this component of my research may be found on the web site for the Reeve-Irvine Research Center. The second component addresses the mechanism underlying gene expression at synapses, described below.

Information storage in the nervous system is thought to be mediated by changes in the strength of individual synapses. These changes in turn are determined by adjusting the structure and/or molecular composition of the synapse through a process that requires the expression of particular gene products. But how gene products are targeted to individual synapses, especially as individual synapses are being modified, still remains a mystery.

In 1982, I discovered that polyribosomes were selectively localized just beneath postsynaptic membrane specializations on the dendrites of CNS neurons. Polyribosomes are collections of ribosomes that are actively engaged in synthesizing protein. They are the basic machinery of protein synthesis. Their localization at synapses immediately suggested what was then a novel idea about how neurons might manage the difficult task of synthesizing gene products for the thousands of individual synaptic sites that are present on a typical CNS neuron. Specifically, the localization of polyribosomes at synapses implied that certain key proteins that were important for the function of that individual synapse might be synthesized on site, and that this local synthesis might be controlled by signaling events at the individual synapse.

Current research focuses on mechanisms underlying the selective targeting and translation of mRNAs at synaptic sites on dendrites. Our research uses a combination of molecular biological and neurophysiological techniques, genetically-modified mice, and behavioral assessments to define mechanisms and functional role of local protein synthesis at synapses in vivo.
Awards and Honors
NIH Research Career Development Award, 1978-1983.
Jacob Javitts Neuroscience Investigator Award, 1987-1994.
Co-Recipient (with E.W. Rubel) OASI Institute International Award for Brain Dysfunction Research, 1991
NARSAD Distinguished Investigator Award, 1998, National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression
NINDS Landis Award for Outstanding Mentorship, 2020
Full publication list:
Professional Societies
Society for Neuroscience
American Society for Cell Biology
American Association for the Advancement of Science
Graduate Programs
Interdepartmental Neuroscience Program
Neurobiology and Behavior
Research Centers
Reeve-Irvine Research Center
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