Mohammed El Majdoubi, PhD

Dr. Majdoubi joined the department of Natural Sciences and Mathematics in 2005 as an Assistant Professor of Neurobiology and became an Associate Professor in 2011.


Associate Professor

Office: Science Center #126
Lab: Science Center #129
[email protected]

About Professor Majdoubi

Professor Majdoubi holds a BS in Physiology and a MS and a Ph.D. in Neuroscience & Pharmacology from the University of Bordeaux, France. Dr. Majdoubi came to the United States in 1997 to work as a Research Associate studying the neurobiology of puberty at the University of Pittsburgh Primate Center, before joining the University of California San Francisco in 2000 as an Assistant Research Neuroendocrinologist and Director of the Morphology Core Facility. His current research is focused on the neuroendocrine differentiation of stem cells.

Dr. Majdoubi has published 18 scientific publications and has given 25 presentations at international meetings. Dr. Majdoubi has taught Organismal Biology Lab, Cell & Developmental Biology, BIO Research Methodology, Human Neuroanatomy and Physiology, Neuroscience, and was honored by his students with the Dominican Teacher of the Year Award in 2009.

Academic Area

Neuroscience and Stem Cell Biology

Educational Background

  • PhD, Neuroscience & Pharmacology, University of Bordeaux II, Bordeaux, France
  • MSc, Neuroscience & Pharmacology, University of Bordeaux II, Bordeaux, France
  • BSc, Physiology, University of Bordeaux I, Talence, France

Teaching and Research

Project 1: The use of mouse embryonic stem cells differentiation into hormone-secreting neurons in vitro as a model to understand early embryonic development of neuroendocrine cells

Undifferentiated embryonic stem cells (ESC) derived from early embryos can replicate indefinitely and differentiate in vitro to become a wide variety of specialized cell types such as bone, muscle, liver, or blood cells.  Recent studies have shown that ESC can be induced to differentiate into functional transplantable neurons in vitro following exposure to Retinoic Acid.  Subsequently, diverse protocols have been developed to selectively promote neuronal differentiation of ESC into specific neuronal subtypes such as Dopaminergic, GABAergic and Motor neurons. As part of this collective effort, my laboratory at the Dominican University of California is currently investigating the potential of cultured mouse ESC to differentiate into neuroendocrine cells.
Neuroendocrine cells are a set of specialized neurons located in the hypothalamus. Rather than forming synapses with other neurons, these cells release their product, neurohormones, into the blood circulation to act on their endocrine targets. Neuroendocrine hypothalamus consists of eight neuronal populations, each expressing a specific complement of neurohormones and receptors.  They are important because they control most of our vital functions, including growth, reproduction, nutrition, sleep, stress responses and homeostasis via hormonal balance. Moreover, the neuroendocrine hypothalamus is susceptible to a variety of developmental diseases or syndromes such as Kallmann’s (congenital disorder associated with hypogonadism), Prader-Willi (a disorder associated with autism), and Rubenstein-Taybi (condition characterized by short stature and moderate to severe mental retardation). Although neuroendocrine cells are an important component of the regulation of homeostasis and behavior, very little is understood about the mechanisms that control their differentiation during embryogenesis.

The in vitro differentiation of ESC recapitulates a number of normal developmental processes that occur in mammalian embryos. Therefore, the success of this project on neuroendocrine differentiation of mouse ESC will provide a powerful in vitro model for further investigating the cellular and molecular mechanisms that control the birth of hypothalamic neuroendocrine cells in early embryonic development. The wide range of genetic manipulations that are possible in ESC allows a number of experiments to be performed that are otherwise difficult or impossible in either primary hypothalamic neuronal culture or immortalized neuroendocrine cell lines.  This work in mouse ESC will ultimately provide a methodology for studying human ESC differentiation into neuroendocrine neurons, and thus serve as a means for preliminary biological and therapeutic investigations.


Project 2: The GPR-4 transgenic rats as a model to study metabolic disorders associated with reproductive aging in post-menopausal women

Another ongoing project in my laboratory at Dominican is the phenotyping of the GPR-4 transgenic rats that I helped generate while working at UCSF. The GPR-4 rat is a line of transgenic rats in which the activity of the neurons secreting Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone (GnRH), the main hormone controlling reproduction, has been genetically altered. For the last two years, I have been mentoring a group of Dominican undergraduate students investigating reproductive and metabolic abnormalities in the GPR-4 rats in a collaborative project with UCSF. Our findings, which are the subject of several abstracts to be presented at National and International Meetings (the 20th NCUR Meeting, Asheville, NC, April 6-8; the 89th Meeting of the Endocrine Society, Boston, MA, June 24-27; and the 6th International Congress of Neuroendocrinology, Pittsburgh, PA, June 19-22) revealed that middle-aged female GPR-4 rats not only become prematurely infertile but they also become obese. Interestingly, these reproductive and metabolic abnormalities were specific to the female and were not observed in the males. Our findings indicate that the line of GPR-4 transgenic rats may represent an excellent animal model for the understanding the biology underlying metabolic disorders associated with reproductive aging in women following menopause. I am hoping to continue this research project in collaboration with the Buck Institute who has recently shown interest in hosting these rats.

Recent Publications

  • M. El Majdoubi. Stem Cell-Derived In Vitro Models for Investigating Neurodevelopmental Effects of Endocrine Disruptors. Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, 14:292-299. (2011)
  • M. El Majdoubi, B. Blackman, M. Fox, F. Schaufele and R.I. Weiner. Control of Ras Activation by Differential Tyrosine Phosphorylation of RasGAP (Under revision after 1st submission to Molecular Endocrinology) (2010)
  • M.S. Fox, A.T. Clark, M. El Majdoubi, J.L. Vigne, J. Urano, C.E. Hostetler, M.D. Griswold, R.I. Weiner and R.A. Reijo Pera. Intermolecular interactions of homologs of germ plasm components in mammalian germ cells. Developmental Biology, 301:417-431. (2007)
  • F. Gomez, S.E. la Fleur, R.I. Weiner, M.F. Dallman and M. El Majdoubi. Decreased GnRH neuronal activity is associated with decreased fertility and dysregulation of food intake in the female GPR-4 transgenic rat. Endocrinology, 146:3800-08. (2005)
  • P.S. Tsai, S.M. Moenter, H.R. Postigo, M. El Majdoubi, T.R. Pak, J.C. Gill, S. Paruthiyil, S Werner and R.I. Weiner. Targeted expression of a dominant-negative fibroblast growth factor (FGF) receptor in gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) neurons reduces FGF responsiveness and the size of GnRH neuronal population. Molecular Endocrinology, 19:225-236. (2005)

Recent Presentations

  • M. El Majdoubi. Directed neuroendocrine differentiation of mouse embryonic stem cells. The 7th International Congress of Neuroendocrinology, Rouen, France, July 11-15. (poster). (2010)
  • M. El Majdoubi. Directed neuroendocrine differentiation of mouse embryonic stem cells: a cell culture model to investigate the mechanisms of prenatal neuroendocrine disruption. The 1st International Symposium on Neuroendocrine Effects of Endocrine Disruptors, Rouen, France, July 10. (oral communication) (2010)
  • M. El Majdoubi, J. Aniag*, M. Gutierrez*, R. Jimenez*, N. Moss*, A. Rodriguez*, A. Salabasheva*. Neuroendocrine cells derived from mouse embryonic stem cells. The 8th Annual Meeting of the International Society for Stem Cell Research, San Francisco, CA, June 16-19. (poster) (2010)
  • A. Salabasheva*, C. McDonald* and M. El Majdoubi (2010). Directed differentiation of carcinoma cells as a therapy targeting malignant cancer cells. The 44th Annual Conference of the National Collegiate Honors Council to be held in Kansas City, MO, October 20-24. (student poster)
  • R. Jimenez*, N. Moss*, A. Rodriguez*, J. Aniag*, M. Gutierrez*, A. Salabasheva*, C. McDonald* and M. El Majdoubi (2010). Directed differentiation of carcinoma cells as a therapy targeting malignant cancer cells. The 35th Annual West Coast Biological Sciences Undergraduate Research Conference, Santa Clara University, Santa Clara, CA, April 24. (student poster)
  • A. Ryan*, M. El Majdoubi and H. Shreibman (2010). Deeper in the beyond: apophatic mystical practice as a transcendent vehicle. The 24th National Conference on Undergraduate Research, University of Montana – Missoula, MT, April 15-17. (student oral communication)
  • J. Aniag**, M. Gutierrez**, R. Jimenez**, N. Moss**, A. Rodriguez**, A. Salabasheva**, K. Umali* and M. El Majdoubi (2010). Directed differentiation of carcinoma cells as a therapy targeting malignant cancer cells. The 24th National Conference on Undergraduate Research, University of Montana – Missoula, MT, April 15-17. (student poster)