Karen F. Greif, Ph.D.

Professor of Biology


A.B., Human Biology, Brown University, 1973.

Ph.D., Psychobiology and Biochemistry, California Institute of Technology, 1978.

Postdoctoral Research: University of California, San Francisco, 1978-82.

Research Interests

I am interested in the process of cellular maturation during development of the mammalian nervous system, with focus on cell-cell interactions. I study the normal patterns of development and role of activity and other trans-synaptic factors on the expression of synaptic vesicle-specific molecules in rat sympathetic ganglia and central nervous system. These proteins are proposed to play critical roles in control of vesicle fusion during synaptic transmission. Monoclonal antibodies are used as probes for cell surface and vesicular antigens, using both radioimmunassay and immunocytochemical methods. In situ hybridization histochemistry and Northern blot methodology are used to examine mRNA expression during brain and ganglion development, to further determine patterns of cellular regulation of these proteins. We have observed that expression of vesicle proteins during postnatal development does not proceed in parallel, and that activity-associated factors play critical roles in the normal expression of some of these proteins.

A recent addition to the research plan is the use of fusion proteins that couple vesicle-associated proteins to the fluorescent marker, GFP. A gene construct containing the sequence encoding our protein of interest along with the sequence for GFP is introduced into neurons both in vivo and in vitro, to monitor expression and transport of proteins during target innervation and neurite outgrowth. This research has been funded by grants from the National Science Foundation and National Institutes of Health.

I also maintain an active interest in science policy issues.

Teaching Interests

My teaching area is primarily in cell biology. I teach Introductory Biology I: Molecules to Cells, an advanced cell biology course with laboratory (using techniques of primary cell culture, immunocytochemistry and histochemistry), and senior seminars in areas of cell biology. Topics have include the cell biology of cancer, the cell cycle, cell death and aging. My other teaching interest is in science policy: I teach a writing-intensive course in Biology and Public Policy. I also serve as Director of the Environmental Studies concentration, an interdepartmental program involving the Departments of Anthropology, Biology, Geology and Growth and Structure of Cities.

Recent publications

Neuroscience Research:

Narayan, S. and K.F. Greif. 1997. Differing patterns of expression of synaptic vesicle proteins in the developing rat superior cervical ganglion, Soc. Neurosci. Abstr. 23: 1972.

Narayan, S. and K.F. Greif. 1998. Pattern of expression of synaptic vesicle proteins in the developing rat pineal gland, Soc. Neurosci. Abstr. 24: 2000.

Narayan, S. and K.F. Greif. 2000. Induction of expression of a synaptotagmin-YFP fusion protein in developing rat sympathetic ganglia by adenovirus-mediated transfection in vivo. Soc. Neurosci. Abstr. 26: in press.

Greif, K.F. 2000. Beyond specificity: Cell-cell interactions in neural development, to appear in "A Tribute to Roger Sperry" (A. Puente, editor), American Psychological Assoc., in press.

Greif, K.F. 2001. 3’, 5’-cyclic adenosine monophosphate regulates expression of synaptotagmin in neonatal sympathetic ganglia in vitro. Journal of Neurobiology, in press.

Science Policy:

Greif, K.F. 1997. Bringing science policy into the classroom: a model course, Politics and the Life Sciences 16 (1): 131-133.

Greif, K.F., C.V. Kuh and J.A. Voytuk. 1997. Career trends for new doctorates in astronomy and astrophysics. Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society. 29(5): 1449-1465.

National Research Council (Committee on Dimensions, Causes and Implications of Recent Trends in the Careers of Life Scientists). 1998. Trends in the Early Careers of Life Scientists, Washington DC, National Academy Press, 178 pp.