Michael Ferns, B.Sc.(Hons), Ph.D.

Michael John Ferns, B.Sc.(Hons), Ph.D.




  • Professor


Patient Support Services Building

4150 V St., Suite 1200
Sacramento, CA 95817
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Primary Phone:

Additional Phone Numbers

Department Fax: 916-734-7980

Clinical Interests

Dr. Ferns interest is in disorders of neuromuscular synapses such as myasthenia gravis and congenital myasthenic syndrome. His aim is to understand the pathological basis for these diseases at a molecular level and to define new therapeutic targets for the treatment of these disorders.

Research/Academic Interests

Dr. Fern's interest is in understanding the molecular basis of synapse formation, maintenance and disease in the peripheral nervous system.

His research focuses on cholinergic neuromuscular and autonomic synapses and his main objectives are (1) to define the synaptogenic factors that regulate synapse formation and maintenance; (2) to define the intracellular mechanisms that localize nicotinic acetylcholine receptors at these synapses; and (3) to establish how defects in synapse formation or receptor localization contribute to neurological diseases such as myasthenia gravis and congenital myasthenic syndromes. This includes collaborative studies with clinician-scientists at UC Davis.




Ph.D., Physiology, University of Western Australia, Perth, Western Australia, Australia 1988

B.Sc., University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand 1983


Postdoctoral Fellowship, Department of Physiology, UC San Francisco, San Francisco CA 1991-1994

Professional Memberships

American Association for the Advancement of Science

American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

Society for Neuroscience

Honors and Awards

Canadian Institute Health Research Scholarship, 2002

Adler Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship, 1994

University Postgraduate Research Scholarship for Foreign Student, 1987

Select Recent Publications

Maselli RA, Vazquez J, Schrumpf L, Arredondo J, Lara M, Strober JB, Pytel P, Wollmann RL, Ferns M. Presynaptic congenital myasthenic syndrome with altered synaptic vesicle homeostasis linked to compound heterozygous sequence variants in RPH3A. Mol Genet Genomic Med. 2018 [Epub ahead of print].

Rudell JC, Borges LS, Rudell JB, Beck KA, Ferns MJ. Determinants in the β and δ subunit cytoplasmic loop regulate Golgi trafficking and surface expression of the muscle acetylcholine receptor. J Biol Chem. 2014 Jan 3;289(1):203-14.

Rudell JB, Ferns MJ. Regulation of muscle acetylcholine receptor turnover by β subunit tyrosine phosphorylation. Dev Neurobiol. 2013 May;73(5):399-410.

M.J. Ferns, L. Borges, J. Rudell, K. Beck, M. Chang. Determinants in the β and δ subunits regulate Golgi to surface trafficking of the muscle acetylcholine receptor. Society for Neuroscience meeting 2013.

Maselli RA, Arredondo J, Ferns MJ, Wollmann RL. Synaptic basal lamina-associated congenital myasthenic syndromes. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2012 Dec;1275:36-48.

Richman DP, Nishi K, Morell SW, Chang JM, Ferns MJ, Wollmann RL, Maselli RA, Schnier J, Agius MA. Acute severe animal model of anti-muscle-specific kinase myasthenia: combined postsynaptic and presynaptic changes. Arch Neurol. 2012 Apr;69(4):453-60.

Lamb AH, Sheard PW, Ferns MJ: Meritocratic selection hypothesis in the control of motoneuron death during development, Pollack & Bibb, (ed), Developmental Neurobiology of the Frog, Alan R. Liss, New York. 1988;53-76.