Professor Richard Ribchester
Richard Ribchester, DSc,
Professor of Cellular Neuroscience,
Euan MacDonald Centre for MND Research
School of Biomedical Sciences,
The University of Edinburgh,
1 George Square,
Tel 44(0)131 650 3256
Fax 44(0)131 650 3255
I obtained a BSc with Joint Honours in Chemistry and Zoology from the University of Durham in 1974; PhD in Experimental Neurology from the University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne in 1977; and DSc from the University of Edinburgh in 2005, for contributions to research on the Development and Plasticity of Neuromuscular Innervation.
Following my initial PhD training in research at the Muscular Dystrophy Research Laboratories in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, I continued development of my research career as a Postdoctoral Fellow, between 1977-1979 at the University of Colorado Medical School in Denver, and between 1979-1980 at the Institute of Physiology, University of Oslo. I was then appointed Lecturer in Physiology at the University of Edinburgh in 1980, then Senior Lecturer, then Reader in Neuroscience, and in 2005 to a Personal Chair in Cellular Neuroscience. I was an Editor of the Journal of Physiology from1986-93 (Distributing Editor between 1988-90); a member of the national Committee of the Physiological Society from 1994-98; and I served on the national Committee of the British Neuroscience Association from 2002-2005. In 2006, I co-founded and was elected Convener of the Edinburgh Motor Neurone Disease (EdMoND) Research Group, the precursor of the Euan MacDonald Centre. I was Acting Director of the Centre from 2007-2008. I also have a commitment to postgraduate training and undergraduate teaching: I was course organiser/manager of the MSc in Neuroscience from 1994-2004, and Head of Postgraduate Training in the Centre for Neuroscience Research (now the Centre for Neuroregeneration) from 2000-2005. Since 2009, I have been manager of the Honours Neuroscience BSc Programme. I also teach an advanced course on The Neuromuscular Junction in Health and Disease, with a principal focus on Motor Neurone Disease.
The research in my group is focused on the development, maintenance, plasticity and repair of neuromuscular connections. These studies are important for understanding the causes and for finding new treatments for Motor Neurone Disease, because motor nerve fibres (axons) and their connections with muscle at neuromuscular junctions become dysfunctional and degenerate in early stages of the disease. Our working "compartmental neurodegeneration" hypothesis is that independent cellular mechanisms maintain motor neurone cell bodies, axons and their neuromuscular terminals. We seek to discover and understand these mechanisms and to correct them when they go awry. We have a particular research interest in the relationship between degeneration of motor neurone terminals in muscle and neuromuscular activity: the "use it or lose it" hypothesis. We mainly use combinations of electrophysiological recording techniques together with immunocytochemistry and confocal microscopy to map normal and abnormal connectivity in muscle and to study mutant and transgenic mice that model either MND itself or protection from disease. In collaboration with Dr Michael Coleman (Babraham), we have contributed to discovery of potent modifiers of the WldS gene, in order to find ways to improve protection of neuromuscular synapses and axons from degeneration and disease. We are also developing a technique called fibre-optic confocal microendoscopy (CME), as a method for live-imaging of the progression of axonal and neuromuscular synaptic degeneration in disease and for monitoring the effectiveness of treatments designed to slow it down. We also collaborate with Dr Michael Eddleston, in Edinburgh, on the mechanisms of pesticide toxicity at neuromuscular junctions; a particular hazard in rural south-east Asia. Recently, we have begun a collaboration with Dr Greg Lnenicka (Albany) to examine reasons for a gender bias in MND, since the incidence of the disease is higher in men than in women. We are using the fruit-fly, Drosophila, as a powerful model system for finding out the fundamental cellular and molecular mechanisms that might explain the difference.
Research in a Nutshell Video
- Dr Rosalind Brown
- Kosala Dissanayake
- Derek Thomson
- Theo Hirst
- Alasdair Ball
- Motor Neurone Disease Association
- Royal Society International Exchange
Select Recent Publications
Teriakidis A, Willshaw DJ, Ribchester RR. Prevalence and elimination of sibling neurite convergence in motor units supplying neonatal and adult mouse skeletal muscle. J Comp Neurol. 2012 Oct 1;520(14):3203-32016. PubMed PMID: 22430826.
Oyebode OR, Hartley R, Singhota J, Thomson D, Ribchester RR. Differential protection of neuromuscular sensory and motor axons and their endings in Wld(S) mutant mice. Neuroscience. 2012 Jan 3;200:142-58. PubMed PMID:22062136.
Wong F, Fan L, Wells S, Hartley R, Mackenzie FE, Oyebode O, Brown R, Thomson D, Coleman MP, Blanco G, Ribchester RR. Axonal and neuromuscular synaptic phenotypes in Wld(S), SOD1(G93A) and ostes mutant mice identified by fiber-optic confocal microendoscopy. Mol Cell Neurosci. 2009 Dec;42(4):296-307. PubMed PMID: 19683573.
Ribchester RR. Mammalian neuromuscular junctions: modern tools to monitor synaptic form and function. Curr Opin Pharmacol. 2009 Jun;9(3):297-305.Review. PubMed PMID: 19394273.
Beirowski B, Babetto E, Gilley J, Mazzola F, Conforti L, Janeckova L, Magni G, Ribchester RR, Coleman MP. Non-nuclear Wld(S) determines its neuroprotective efficacy for axons and synapses in vivo. J Neurosci. 2009 Jan 21;29(3):653-68. PubMed PMID: 19158292.
Court FA, Gillingwater TH, Melrose S, Sherman DL, Greenshields KN, Morton AJ, Harris JB, Willison HJ, Ribchester RR. Identity, developmental restriction and reactivity of extralaminar cells capping mammalian neuromuscular junctions. J Cell Sci. 2008 Dec 1;121(Pt 23):3901-11. PubMed PMID: 19001504.
Court FA, Brophy PJ, Ribchester RR. Remodeling of motor nerve terminals in demyelinating axons of periaxin-null mice. Glia. 2008Mar;56(4):471-9.PubMed PMID: 18205176.
Key Earlier PublicationsGillingwater TH, Thomson D, Mack TG, Soffin EM, Mattison RJ, Coleman MP, Ribchester RR. Age-dependent synapse withdrawal at axotomised neuromuscular junctions in Wld(s) mutant and Ube4b/Nmnat transgenic mice. J Physiol. 2002 Sep 15;543(Pt 3):739-55. PubMed PMID: 12231635.
Gillingwater TH, Ribchester RR. Compartmental neurodegeneration and synaptic plasticity in the Wld(s) mutant mouse. J Physiol. 2001 Aug 1;534(Pt 3):627-39. Review. PubMed PMID: 11483696.
Costanzo EM, Barry JA, Ribchester RR. Competition at silent synapses in reinnervated skeletal muscle. Nat Neurosci. 2000 Jul;3(7):694-700. PubMed PMID: 10862702.
Barry JA, Ribchester RR. Persistent polyneuronal innervation in partially denervated rat muscle after reinnervation and recovery from prolonged nerve conduction block. J Neurosci. 1995 Oct;15(10):6327-39. PubMed PMID: 7472398.
Ribchester RR, Taxt T. Motor unit size and synaptic competition in rat lumbrical muscles reinnervated by active and inactive motor axons. J Physiol. 1983 Nov;344:89-111. PubMed PMID: 6655594.
Betz WJ, Caldwell JH, Ribchester RR. Sprouting of active nerve terminals in partially inactive muscles of the rat. J Physiol. 1980 Jun;303:281-97. PubMed PMID: 7431235.
Harris JB, Ribchester RR. The relationship between end-plate size and transmitter release in normal and dystrophic muscles of the mouse. J Physiol. 1979 Nov;296:245-65. PubMed PMID: 231101.