Don Cleveland 

Don W. Cleveland, PhD 



Contact Information

Phone: 858-534-7811858-534-7811
Fax: 858-534-7659

Mailing Address:
9500 Gilman Drive #0670
La Jolla, Ca 92093-0670

American Academy of Arts and Sciences - 2006
National Academy of Sciences - 2006

For pioneering discoveries of the mechanisms of chromosome movement and cell-cycle control during normal cellular division, as well as of the principles of neuronal cell growth during mammalian development – defects that lead to inherited human neurodegenerative disease.

Dr. Cleveland holds joint appointments in the Departments of Medicine and Cellular and Molecular Medicine. In addition, he heads the Laboratory of Cell Biology at the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research, where he pursues two lines of scientific investigation: deciphering the mechanisms of chromosome movement during mitosis and identifying the mechanisms that mediate the very large change in axonal volume post-synapse formation. The latter is a feature that is essential for nerves to achieve their proper signal conduction velocities.

While his research spans several basic science and clinical disciplines, it is important to note that he was the first to clone tubulin genes and to purify tau protein, the major constituent of neurofibrillary tangles in Alzheimer's disease.

Dr. Cleveland's formal teaching in Neurosciences includes the Molecular and Cellular Neurobiology course. Additionally, he serves on the thesis committees of graduate students in Neurosciences.

His neuroscience-related service activities include membership in the Charcot Prize Panel, Motor Neuron Disease Association, and Scientific Advisory Board of Neurogenics, Inc. He often attends the monthly Neurosciences faculty meetings and actively participates in the annual academic review meetings. He also serves as needed on Neurosciences recruitment committees.

Dr. Cleveland regularly serves as a reviewer for a number of first-tier journals such as Science, Nature, Neuron, Nature Neuroscience, and Journal of Neuroscience. He is a sought-after lecturer and is on the "who's who" list of invited speakers at national and international symposia, including the Gordon Conference, Cold Spring Harbor Meeting, International Meeting on Neurodegeneration, and American Association of Neurology Meeting.

Cleveland Lab website

News release about his research on Huntington's Disease

Dr. Cleveland has been working to unravel the pathogenesis of neurodegenerative diseases, and to find therapeutics solutions for them. His recent research has been focused in two areas: 1) mechanisms of chromosome movement during mitosis; and 2) the discernment of principles underlying the normal growth and maintenance of the highly elongated shape characteristics of neurons.

Dr. Cleveland’s first area of research has been a significant focus for him during the review period. He has been investigating CENP-E, which is a mitosis regulatory protein responsible for chromosome attachment in the mitotic spindle. These studies look at cell-division and abnormal chromosome segregation that causes aneuploidy (which is a change in the number of chromosomes that can lead to a chromosomal disorder) in cancer.

His second area of research is related to amytrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). By inducing a condition in laboratory mice that is extremely similar to human ALS, Dr. Cleveland was able to demonstrate that the killing of motor neurons that occurs in ALS is non-cell autonomous, with disease onset driven by damage within motor neurons, but disease progression caused by damage within the immune cells of the spinal chord (called microglia). This is extremely significant because it led to the realization that stem cell and gene therapy are viable possibilities in ALS treatment.

He has made myriad significant original contributions to the scientific community, having published 45 scientific articles in peer-reviewed publications during the review period, many of which appeared in the highest quality scientific journals such as Science, Nature Medicine, and Proceedings of the National Academy of Science. His research has been well funded by the Ludwig Institute, the NIH, the Center for ALS Research at Johns Hopkins, MDA, and the ALS Association. These resources combined represent approximately $8 million in research dollars supporting Dr. Cleveland’s work.