Berman Laboratory

Sarah B. Berman, MD, PhD

Sarah B. Berman, MD, PhD

Associate Professor of Neurology
E-mail Website


Dr. Berman’s research focuses on the role of mitochondria in neurodegenerative diseases, particularly Parkinson’s disease, and her laboratory is evaluating the role of mitochondrial dynamics in neurodegenerative diseases. Mitochondria, the energy-producing organelles in cells, are very dynamic in neurons, undergoing frequent division (fission) and fusion, and being transported in a regulated fashion. These processes are critical for synapse function and formation, programmed cell death mechanisms, and protection of mitochondrial DNA. Changes in mitochondrial dynamics are increasingly being linked to neurodegenerative diseases. However, these mitochondrial processes have been very difficult to study directly, particularly in the brain. Using novel methodology, Dr. Berman’s laboratory directly studies the role of mitochondrial dynamics in neurotoxicity/neuroprotection in chronic Parkinson’s disease models, aging, and other neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, with the goals of elucidating important mitochondrial mechanisms in neurodegeneration and providing potential new therapeutic targets.


AB Human Biology Stanford University 1989
PhD Neuroscience University of Pittsburgh 1998
MD Medicine University of Pittsburgh 2000
Internship Internal Medicine Mercy Hospital of Pittsburgh 2001
Residency Neurology Johns Hopkins University 2004
Fellowship Movement Disorders Johns Hopkins University 2005

Positions Held

Associate Faculty Johns Hopkins University 2005 - 2007
Assistant Professor University of Pittsburgh 2005 - 2015
Associate Professor University of Pittsburgh 2015 -

Honors and awards

Executive Committee, American Parkinson Disease Association, Tri-State Chapter (1995-96)
Parkinson Foundation of Western Pennsylvania Board of Directors (1996-04; 2005-2014), Scientific Advisory Board (2004-2014), and Medical Advisory Board (2014-present)
Alpha Omega Alpha (AOA) Honor Medical Society, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine (1999)
Harold L. Mitchell Prize for Neurology. University of Pittsburgh Medical School (2000)
Jay Slotkin Award for Excellence in Research, Johns Hopkins University Department of Neurology (2004)
Senior Vice Chancellor’s Research Seminar Series (2008)
United Mitochondrial Disease FoundationGrant Review Committee Member (2011-2015)
Parkinson Disease Foundation Grant Review Committee Member (2014-present)
United Mitochondrial Disease Foundation Grant Review Committee Co-Chair (2015-present)
Best Doctors in America (2015)

Selected Publications

Van Laar VS, Arnold B, Howlett EH, Calderon MJ, St Croix CM, Greenamyre JT, Sanders LH, Berman SB (2018) Evidence for compartmentalized axonal mitochondrial biogenesis: Mitochondrial DNA replication increases in distal axons as an early response to Parkinson's disease-relevant stress. J Neurosci. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0541-18.2018.

Van Laar VS, Berman SB, Hastings TG. Mic60/mitofilin overexpression alters mitochondrial dynamics and attenuates vulnerability of dopaminergic cells to dopamine and rotenone. Neurobiol Dis. 2016; 91:247-261. PMID: 27001148

Van Laar VS, Roy N, Liu A, Rajprohat S, Arnold B, Dukes AA, Holbein CD, Berman SB. Glutamate excitotoxicity in neurons triggers mitochondrial and endoplasmic reticulum accumulation of Parkin, and, in the presence of N-acetyl cysteine, mitophagy. Neurobiol Dis. 2015; 74:180-93. PMID: 25478815

Berman SB, Hollenbeck PJ. Exploring the life cycle of mitochondria in neuropsychiatric diseases: mitochondrial dynamics and quality control. Neurobiol Dis. 2013; 51:1-2. PMID: 23159742

Van Laar VS, Berman SB. The interplay of neuronal mitochondrial dynamics and bioenergetics: implications for Parkinson's disease. Neurobiol Dis. 2013; 51:43-55. PMID: 22668779

Larsen NJ, Ambrosi G, Mullett SJ, Berman SB, Hinkle DA. DJ-1 knock-down impairs astrocyte mitochondrial function. Neuroscience. 2011; 196:251-64. PMID: 21907265

Van Laar VS, Arnold B, Cassady SJ, Chu CT, Burton EA, Berman SB. Bioenergetics of neurons inhibit the translocation response of Parkin following rapid mitochondrial depolarization. Hum Mol Genet. 2011; 20(5):927-40. PMID: 21147754

Arnold B, Cassady SJ, VanLaar VS, Berman SB. Integrating multiple aspects of mitochondrial dynamics in neurons: age-related differences and dynamic changes in a chronic rotenone model. Neurobiol Dis. 2011; 41(1):189-200. PMID: 20850532

Van Laar VS, Berman SB. Mitochondrial dynamics in Parkinson's disease. Exp Neurol. 2009; 218(2):247-56.

Berman, S.B., Chen, Y., Qi, B., McCaffery, J.M., Rucker, E.B., Goebbels, S., Nave, K.-A., Arnold, B.A., Jonas, E.A., Pineda, F.J. and Hardwick, J.M. Bcl-xL increases mitochondrial fission, fusion and biomass in neurons. J. Cell Biol. 184(5) 707-719, 2009.

Berman, S.B., Pineda, F. and Hardwick, J.M. Mitochondrial fission and fusion dynamics: the long and short of it. Cell Death Differ, 15(7), 1147-52, 2008.

Berman, S.B., Watkins, S.C. and Hastings, T.G. Quantitative biochemical and ultrastructural comparison of mitochondrial permeability transition in isolated brain and liver mitochondria: Evidence for reduced sensitivity of brain mitochondria. Exp. Neurol. 164 (2): 415-425, 2000.

Berman, S.B. and Hastings, T.G. Dopamine oxidation alters mitochondrial respiration and induces permeability transition in brain mitochondria: Implications for Parkinson’s disease. J. Neurochem., 73, 1127-1137, 1999.

Lab Members