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Jennifer Bestman
Research Associate

Previous Positions

  • Grass Fellow, Marine Biological Laboratory
  • Ph. D., Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, Department of Neurobiology and Behavior.
  • B.S. with honors in Biology, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Research Interests

Research image

  • Of paramount importance in building a brain is controlling the number of cells that are generated. Retinal ganglion cells from the eye synapse onto neurons in the tectum and form the major information processing circuit of the visual system in non-mammalian vertebrates. Throughout the development of Xenopus laevis tadpoles, new neurons in the visual system are continuously generated and these cellular newcomers must integrate into the functional circuitry of an already visually-responsive and behaving animal. I am interested in how an animal’s experience works with cellular mechanisms to regulate cell proliferation in the developing brain.
  • Synaptic plasticity and morphological plasticity progress hand in hand: strong synapses stabilize the dendritic arbor, supporting further dendritic growth and fortifying some connections over others. Dendritic transport and translation of mRNA affords a unique degree of spatial and temporal control over protein levels in the cell. I am interested in how an animal’s experience impacts the dendritic transport and translation of mRNA and how these processes regulate neuronal development and plasticity.


  • Transfection of cells using electroporation
  • Multi-photon and confocal microscopy
  • Patch-clamp electrophysiology
    Taking advantage of the robust and versatile Xenopus laevis tadpole model system, most methods are performed in vivo and with intact animals.


  • Bestman, J. E., Lee-Osbourne, J., and Cline, H. T. (2011) Cell proliferation and neurogenesis in the optic tectum of Xenopus laevis tadpoles. Journal of Comparative Neurology. In press.
  • Bestman, J. E., Cline, H. T. (2009) The Relationship between Dendritic Branch Dynamics and CPEB-Labeled RNP Granules Captured in Vivo. Front Neural Circuits 3:10.
  • Bestman, J. E., Cline, H. T. (2008) The RNA binding protein CPEB regulates dendrite morphogenesis and neuronal circuit assembly in vivo. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 105(51):20494-20499.
  • Cline, H. T., Santos Da Silva, J., Bestman, J. (2007) Dendrite Development. In: Stuart, G., Spruston, N., Hauser, M., editors. Dendrites. Second ed. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press. p 69-94.
  • Bestman, J. E., Booker, R. (2006) The control of anterior foregut motility during a larval molt of the moth Manduca sexta involves the modulation of presynaptic activity. Journal of Experimental Biology 209(20):4000-4010.
  • Bestman, J. E., Ewald, R. C., Chiu, S.-L., Cline, H. T. (2006) In vivo single-cell electroporation for transfer of DNA and macromolecules. Nature Protocols 1(3):1267-1272.
  • Bestman, J. E., Booker, R. (2003) Modulation of foregut synaptic activity controls resorption of molting fluid during larval molts of the moth Manduca sexta. Journal of Experimental Biology 206(7):1207-1220.
  • Watts, J. L., Morton, D. G., Bestman, J., Kemphues, K. J. (2000) The C. elegans par-4 gene encodes a putative serine-threonine kinase required for establishing embryonic asymmetry. Development 127(7):1467-1475.