Professor Brandon Walters

Brandon Walters

Assistant Professor



CSB Appointment


Research Areas



B.S. (Biology, Purdue University)
M.S. (Forensic Science, University of Alabama Birmingham)
Ph.D. (Neurobiology, University of Alabama at Birmingham)
Postdoctoral Fellow: (Developmental Neurobiology, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital)
Postdoctoral Fellow: (Neuroscience and Mental Health, Hospital for Sick Children)

Primary Undergraduate Department

Biology, UTM

Graduate Programs

Cell & Systems Biology

Research Description

My research focuses on how memory is encoded in rodents at the molecular level, and how these molecular changes support the establishment and persistence of a memory. Even though we have known of the molecular basis of memory for over a decade, how the molecular events sum together to give rise to memory is still not understood. Currently I am focused on “transient” players in memory formation, focusing on mRNA itself. This view was spurred by the observation that the synapse is capable of local translation (IE within the synapse)  of mRNA into proteins, giving synapses a vital role in local regulation of translation and thus how synapses respond to experience.

Epitranscriptomic modifications (m6A is the most common) regulate nearly every aspect of mRNA, from transport, to translation, and ultimately its degradation. These modifications are added to mRNA (in this case a methylation on adenosine) during transcription. The outcome depends on the location of the m6A within the mRNA and which reader protein is engaged to ‘read’ it. The end result is a highly regulatable system that can promote or inhibit protein production in specific locations within the cell, thus allowing synaptic and nuclear locations to have different translational programs in response to synaptic activity, IE the same mRNA can be handled in opposing ways depending on WHERE in the neuron the mRNA is located. My lab was the first to discover that in the hippocampus m6A is actively promoted (by loss of the m6A eraser FTO) during memory formation. This lead to an overall increase in m6A after memory formation, and viral mediated removal of FTO promoted memory formation in rodents. These findings introduced epitranscriptomics as an active and vital process in memory formation, and FTO specifically as a memory inhibitor.

My interests focus on the synapse, its molecular makeup, and how that changes with memory formation. My current focus on m6A is a logical application of this interest as epitranscriptomics have quickly positioned themselves as key regulators in the protein makeup of the synapse, and importantly they control how that makeup changes with memory. Projects in the laboratory are centered around this idea but are not limited to it. We are also actively researching how stress, sex, and neurological diseases affect synaptic dynamics and ultimately memory formation.

Contact Information

Office Phone: 905-828-3925
Office: CC 4061

Mailing Address

Department of Cell & Systems Biology
3359 Mississauga Rd, Unit CCT 4061
Mississauga, ON L5L 1C6


Book Chapters:

Stefanelli G, Walters BJ, Narkaj K, Ramzan F, Tao C, Zovkic IB. (2018) Epigenetic regulation of memory.  Molecular-Genetic and Statistical Techniques for Behavioral and Neural Research, 345-382.  Edited by Gerlai R. 2018

Walters BJ, Zovkic IB. (2020) Transcriptional regulation in memory. The Mechanisms of Memory. Edited by Sweatt JD, Gavin C, Klann E. Invited chapter. (Publication Date: Oct 2020).

Zovkic IB, Walters BJ, Sweatt JD (2020) Epigenetic mechanisms in memory. The Mechanisms of Memory. Edited by Sweatt JD, Gavin C, Klann E. Invited chapter. (Publication Date: Oct 2020).


Retinoic acid receptor plays both sides of homeostatic plasticity.

Walters BJ, Josselyn SA
2019, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 116, 6528-6530, 30872478

A time-dependent role for the transcription factor CREB in neuronal allocation to an engram underlying a fear memory revealed using a novel in vivo optogenetic tool to modulate CREB function

Park A, Jacob AD, Walters BJ, Park S, Rashid AJ, Jung JH, Lau J, Woolley GA, Frankland PW, Josselyn SA
2019, Neuropsychopharmacology, 10.1038/s41386-019-0588-0

Back to top


Blocking H2A.Z Incorporation via Tip60 Inhibition Promotes Systems Consolidation of Fear Memory in Mice.

Narkaj K, Stefanelli G, Wahdan M, Azam AB, Ramzan F, Steininger CFD, Walters BJ, Zovkic IB
, eNeuro, 5, 30417078

Learning and Age-Related Changes in Genome-wide H2A.Z Binding in the Mouse Hippocampus.

Stefanelli G, Azam AB, Walters BJ, Brimble MA, Gettens CP, Bouchard-Cannon P, Cheng HM, Davidoff AM, Narkaj K, Day JJ, Kennedy AJ, Zovkic IB
2018, Cell reports, 22, 1124-1131, 29386101

Back to top


The Role of The RNA Demethylase FTO (Fat Mass and Obesity-Associated) and mRNA Methylation in Hippocampal Memory Formation.

Walters BJ, Mercaldo V, Gillon CJ, Yip M, Neve RL, Boyce FM, Frankland PW, Josselyn SA
2017, Neuropsychopharmacology : official publication of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology, 42, 1502-1510, 28205605

Back to top


Advanced In vivo Use of CRISPR/Cas9 and Anti-sense DNA Inhibition for Gene Manipulation in the Brain.

Walters BJ, Azam AB, Gillon CJ, Josselyn SA, Zovkic IB
2015, Frontiers in genetics, 6, 362, 26793235

Advanced In vivo Use of CRISPR/Cas9 and Anti-sense DNA Inhibition for Gene Manipulation in the Brain.

Walters BJ, Azam AB, Gillon CJ, Josselyn SA, Zovkic IB
2015, Frontiers in genetics, 6, 362, 26793235

Back to top


Pseudo-immortalization of postnatal cochlear progenitor cells yields a scalable cell line capable of transcriptionally regulating mature hair cell genes.

Walters BJ, Diao S, Zheng F, Walters BJ, Layman WS, Zuo J
2015, Scientific reports, 5, 17792, 26639154

Optogenetic Inhibitor of the Transcription Factor CREB.

Ali AM, Reis JM, Xia Y, Rashid AJ, Mercaldo V, Walters BJ, Brechun KE, Borisenko V, Josselyn SA, Karanicolas J, Woolley GA
2015, Chemistry & biology, 22, 1531-1539, 26590638

Building up and knocking down: an emerging role for epigenetics and proteasomal degradation in systems consolidation.

Walters BJ, Zovkic IB
2015, Neuroscience, 300, 39-52, 25967264

H2A.Z helps genes remember their history so we can remember ours.

Zovkic IB, Walters BJ
2015, BioEssays : news and reviews in molecular, cellular and developmental biology, 37, 596-601, 25880368

Back to top


High-throughput screening reveals alsterpaullone, 2-cyanoethyl as a potent p27Kip1 transcriptional inhibitor.

Walters BJ, Lin W, Diao S, Brimble M, Iconaru LI, Dearman J, Goktug A, Chen T, Zuo J
2014, PloS one, 9, e91173, 24646893

Back to top


Genetic background alters the severity and onset of neuromuscular disease caused by the loss of ubiquitin-specific protease 14 (usp14).

Marshall AG, Watson JA, Hallengren JJ, Walters BJ, Dobrunz LE, Francillon L, Wilson JA, Phillips SE, Wilson SM
2013, PloS one, 8, e84042, 24358326

A catalytic independent function of the deubiquitinating enzyme USP14 regulates hippocampal synaptic short-term plasticity and vesicle number.

Walters BJ, Hallengren JJ, Theile CS, Ploegh HL, Wilson SM, Dobrunz LE
2014, The Journal of physiology, 592, 571-86, 24218545

Back to top


Usp14 deficiency increases tau phosphorylation without altering tau degradation or causing tau-dependent deficits.

Jin YN, Chen PC, Watson JA, Walters BJ, Phillips SE, Green K, Schmidt R, Wilson JA, Johnson GV, Roberson ED, Dobrunz LE, Wilson SM
2012, PloS one, 7, e47884, 23144711

Regulation of p27Kip1 by Sox2 maintains quiescence of inner pillar cells in the murine auditory sensory epithelium.

Liu Z, Walters BJ, Owen T, Brimble MA, Steigelman KA, Zhang L, Mellado Lagarde MM, Valentine MB, Yu Y, Cox BC, Zuo J
2012, The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience, 32, 10530-40, 22855803

Age-dependent in vivo conversion of mouse cochlear pillar and Deiters’ cells to immature hair cells by Atoh1 ectopic expression.

Liu Z, Dearman JA, Cox BC, Walters BJ, Zhang L, Ayrault O, Zindy F, Gan L, Roussel MF, Zuo J
2012, The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience, 32, 6600-10, 22573682

Back to top


The Proteasome-Associated Deubiquitinating Enzyme Usp14 Is Essential for the Maintenance of Synaptic Ubiquitin Levels and the Development of Neuromuscular Junctions

Chen P, Qin L, Li X, Walters BJ, Wilson JA, Mei L, Wilson SM
2009, Journal of Neuroscience, 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2635-09.2009

Back to top


Differential effects of Usp14 and Uch-L1 on the ubiquitin proteasome system and synaptic activity.

Walters BJ, Campbell SL, Chen PC, Taylor AP, Schroeder DG, Dobrunz LE, Artavanis-Tsakonas K, Ploegh HL, Wilson JA, Cox GA, Wilson SM
2008, Molecular and cellular neurosciences, 39, 539-48, 18771733

Back to top