Biology Department photograph montage

Ivan Anastassov

Professor root
Assistant Professor
City University of New York
At SFSU Since: 
Hensill Hall 227 - Email:
Office Hours: 
Wednesdays, 2:30pm-4:30pm
Office Phone: 
Biology of Vision, Comparative Retinal Neurophysiology, Development of Retinal Circuits, Functional and Anatomical Diversity of Sensory Neurons.

   The overall goal of my research program is to understand how neuronal cell type diversity within sensory tissues contributes to circuit formation and allows sensory systems to process complex stimuli. Establishing the right connections between neurons is a fundamental requirement for sensory systems, as sensory input is often conveyed to the brain through a vast diversity of neuronal cell types making selective connections within the network. What is the underlying function of this neuronal diversity? Does each subtype of sensory neuron make connections with the right partners in a genetically predetermined way, or are those connections based on the sensory input to the system?

    One sensory tissue in which we can address these questions is the retina. The retina is a nervous tissue that lines the back of your eye. What the eye sees is complex – each image received by the retina is a combination of features like outline, contrast, color, motion and direction, among others. That is a lot to take, so in most vertebrate retinas, effective processing of visual information is achieved by splitting different aspects of the visual stimulus into separate tracks called ‘parallel pathways’. This is where neuronal diversity comes into play – different retinal cell types tend to handle only specific aspects of a visual stimulus using a kind of “divide and conquer” strategy. But how does this happen? Is selectivity for color or contrast a property of the neuron’s shape, or the type of input it receives, or its unique set of membrane receptors, or a combination of all of these factors? Furthermore, are these characteristics immutable, or a product of the cell’s early experience and surrounding synaptic contacts?

    We address these broad questions in retinal cell biology and circuit function in the retinas of mice and skates (a type of cartilaginous fish closely related to sharks) by using a combination of molecular, anatomical and neurophysiological approaches.

Classes taught in Spring 2019 Semester:

Biol 351GW (01 Lec)  Experiments in Cell and Molecular Biology

Biol 351GW (02 Lab)  Experiments in Cell and Molecular Biology 

Selected publications:

Agosto M.A., Anastassov, I.A., Robichaux, MA, Wensel, T.G. (2018) A large endoplasmic reticulum-resident pool of TRPM1 in retinal ON bipolar cells. eNeuro Jul 4; 5(3).

Agosto, M.A., Anastassov, I.A., Wensel TG. (2018) Differential epitope masking reveals synapse-specific complexes of TRPM1. Visual Neuroscience 35: E001.

Anastassov, I.A., Wang, W., Dunn, F.A. (2017) Synaptogenesis and synaptic protein localization in the postnatal development of rod bipolar cell dendrites in mouse retina. Journal of Comparative Neurology (in press, special issue DOI: 10.1002/cne.24251)

Eblimit A., Akshay S., Thomas K., Anastassov I.A., Abulikemu T, Mardon G, Chen R. (2017) Conditional loss of Spata7 in photoreceptors causes progressive retinal degeneration in mice. Experimental Eye Research 166:120–130.

Wensel, T.G., Zhang, Z., Anastassov, I.A., Gilliam, J. He, F., Schmid, M.F., Robichaux, M.A. (2016) Structural and molecular bases of rod photoreceptor morphogenesis and disease. Progress in Retinal and Eye Research (55): 32-51

He, F., Agosto, M.A., Anastassov, I.A., Tse, D., Wu, S., Wensel, T.G. (2016) Phosphatidylinositol-3-phosphate is light-regulated and essential for survival in retinal rods. Scientific Reports 6, 26978

Agosto, M.A., Zhang, Z., He, F., Anastassov, I.A., Wright, S.J., McGehee, J., Wensel, T.G. (2014) Oligomeric state of purified transient receptor potential melastatin-1 (TRPM1), a protein essential for dim light vision. Journal of Biological Chemistry 289(39): 27019-33

Anastassov, I., Ripps, H., Chappell, R.L. (2014) Cytoprotection by endogenous zinc in the vertebrate retina. Journal of Neurochemistry 129(2): 249-55

Anastassov, I., Shen, W., Ripps, H., Chappell, R.L. (2013) Zinc modulation of calcium activity at the photoreceptor terminal: A calcium imaging study.  Experimental Eye Research 112: 37-44

Chappell, R.L., Anastassov, I., Lugo, P., & Ripps, H. (2008). Zinc-mediated feedback at the synaptic terminals of vertebrate photoreceptors. Experimental Eye Research, 87(4), 394–7.

Lee, K.-G., Miller, T., Anastassov, I., & Cohen, W.D. (2004). Shape transformation and cytoskeletal reorganization in activated non-mammalian thrombocytes. Cell Biology International, 28(4), 299–310.