Zena Vexler
UCSF Weill Institute for Neurosciences
+1 415 502-2282
+1 415 502-7325


Zinaida Vexler, PhD, is Professor in the Department of Neurology at UCSF and Director of Research at the Neonatal Brain Disorder Center. She has multi-disciplinary training in chemistry, biochemistry, pharmacology, and physiology and has served as Director of MRI Core on PPG since 2002, and as the Director of Research of Neonatal Brain Disorders Center at UCSF since 2003.

Over the last twenty five years, her research has been centered on the mechanisms of experimental stroke with the long-term goal of developing effective therapies. She has contributed to the fields of brain vascular and cellular injury after experimental stroke first in the adult and, over more than seventeen years, in the neonate. Dr. Vexler’s lab was the first to establish and characterize the in vivo models of focal arterial stroke in neonatal rodents. With these age-appropriate models of perinatal stroke, she defined that the “signature” of neurovascular integrity after stroke is markedly different after neonatal stroke than after adult stroke. Her studies of microglial cell function in injured neonatal brain have been critical for the improved understanding of neuroinflammation as modifier of perinatal stroke.


Rayasam A, Faustino J, Lecuyer M, Vexler ZS. Neonatal stroke and TLR1/2 ligand recruit myeloid cells through the choroid plexus in a CX3CR1-CCR2 and context specific manner. J Neurosci. 2020 Mar 30.
Ardalan M, Chumak T, Vexler Z, Mallard C. Sex-Dependent Effects of Perinatal Inflammation on the Brain: Implication for Neuro-Psychiatric Disorders. Int J Mol Sci. 2019 May 08; 20(9).
Faustino J, Chip S, Derugin N, Jullienne A, Hamer M, Haddad E, Butovsky O, Obenaus A, Vexler ZS. CX3CR1-CCR2-dependent monocyte-microglial signaling modulates neurovascular leakage and acute injury in a mouse model of childhood stroke. J Cereb Blood Flow Metab. 2019 10; 39(10):1919-1935.
Vexler ZS, Mallard C, Hagberg H. Positive and negative conditioning in the neonatal brain. Cond Med. 2018 Oct; 1(6):279-293.
Salehi A, Jullienne A, Wendel KM, Hamer M, Tang J, Zhang JH, Pearce WJ, DeFazio RA, Vexler ZS, Obenaus A. A Novel Technique for Visualizing and Analyzing the Cerebral Vasculature in Rodents. Transl Stroke Res. 2018 May 15.
Mallard C, Ek CJ, Vexler ZS. The myth of the immature barrier systems in the developing brain: role in perinatal brain injury. J Physiol. 2018 12; 596(23):5655-5664.
Mallard C, Tremblay ME, Vexler ZS. Microglia and Neonatal Brain Injury. Neuroscience. 2019 05 01; 405:68-76.
Lalancette-Hébert M, Faustino J, Thammisetty SS, Chip S, Vexler ZS, Kriz J. Live imaging of the innate immune response in neonates reveals differential TLR2 dependent activation patterns in sterile inflammation and infection. Brain Behav Immun. 2017 Oct; 65:312-327.
Koo E, Sheldon RA, Lee BS, Vexler ZS, Ferriero DM. Effects of therapeutic hypothermia on white matter injury from murine neonatal hypoxia-ischemia. Pediatr Res. 2017 Sep; 82(3):518-526.
Chip S, Fernández-López D, Li F, Faustino J, Derugin N, Vexler ZS. Genetic deletion of galectin-3 enhances neuroinflammation, affects microglial activation and contributes to sub-chronic injury in experimental neonatal focal stroke. Brain Behav Immun. 2017 Feb; 60:270-281.
Bosetti F, Galis ZS, Bynoe MS, Charette M, Cipolla MJ, Del Zoppo GJ, Gould D, Hatsukami TS, Jones TL, Koenig JI, Lutty GA, Maric-Bilkan C, Stevens T, Tolunay HE, Koroshetz W. "Small Blood Vessels: Big Health Problems?": Scientific Recommendations of the National Institutes of Health Workshop. J Am Heart Assoc. 2016 11 04; 5(11).
van Velthoven CT, Dzietko M, Wendland MF, Derugin N, Faustino J, Heijnen CJ, Ferriero DM, Vexler ZS. Mesenchymal stem cells attenuate MRI-identifiable injury, protect white matter, and improve long-term functional outcomes after neonatal focal stroke in rats. J Neurosci Res. 2017 05; 95(5):1225-1236.
Fernández-López D, Faustino J, Klibanov AL, Derugin N, Blanchard E, Simon F, Leib SL, Vexler ZS. Microglial Cells Prevent Hemorrhage in Neonatal Focal Arterial Stroke. J Neurosci. 2016 Mar 09; 36(10):2881-93.
Li F, Faustino J, Woo MS, Derugin N, Vexler ZS. Lack of the scavenger receptor CD36 alters microglial phenotypes after neonatal stroke. J Neurochem. 2015 Nov; 135(3):445-52.
Mallard C, Vexler ZS. Modeling Ischemia in the Immature Brain: How Translational Are Animal Models? Stroke. 2015 Oct; 46(10):3006-11.
Sohet F, Lin C, Munji RN, Lee SY, Ruderisch N, Soung A, Arnold TD, Derugin N, Vexler ZS, Yen FT, Daneman R. LSR/angulin-1 is a tricellular tight junction protein involved in blood-brain barrier formation. J Cell Biol. 2015 Mar 16; 208(6):703-11.
Hagberg H, Mallard C, Ferriero DM, Vannucci SJ, Levison SW, Vexler ZS, Gressens P. The role of inflammation in perinatal brain injury. Nat Rev Neurol. 2015 Apr; 11(4):192-208.
Titomanlio L, Fernández-López D, Manganozzi L, Moretti R, Vexler ZS, Gressens P. Pathophysiology and neuroprotection of global and focal perinatal brain injury: lessons from animal models. Pediatr Neurol. 2015 Jun; 52(6):566-584.
Kratzer I, Chip S, Vexler ZS. Barrier mechanisms in neonatal stroke. Front Neurosci. 2014; 8:359.
van Velthoven CT, Gonzalez F, Vexler ZS, Ferriero DM. Stem cells for neonatal stroke- the future is here. Front Cell Neurosci. 2014; 8:207.
Fernández-López D, Natarajan N, Ashwal S, Vexler ZS. Mechanisms of perinatal arterial ischemic stroke. J Cereb Blood Flow Metab. 2014 Jun; 34(6):921-32.
Fernández-López D, Faustino J, Derugin N, Vexler ZS. Acute and chronic vascular responses to experimental focal arterial stroke in the neonate rat. Transl Stroke Res. 2013 Apr; 4(2):179-88.
Dzietko M, Derugin N, Wendland MF, Vexler ZS, Ferriero DM. Delayed VEGF treatment enhances angiogenesis and recovery after neonatal focal rodent stroke. Transl Stroke Res. 2013 Apr; 4(2):189-200.
van Velthoven CT, Sheldon RA, Kavelaars A, Derugin N, Vexler ZS, Willemen HL, Maas M, Heijnen CJ, Ferriero DM. Mesenchymal stem cell transplantation attenuates brain injury after neonatal stroke. Stroke. 2013 May; 44(5):1426-32.
Woo MS, Wang X, Faustino JV, Derugin N, Wendland MF, Zhou P, Iadecola C, Vexler ZS. Genetic deletion of CD36 enhances injury after acute neonatal stroke. Ann Neurol. 2012 Dec; 72(6):961-70.
Fernández-López D, Faustino J, Daneman R, Zhou L, Lee SY, Derugin N, Wendland MF, Vexler ZS. Blood-brain barrier permeability is increased after acute adult stroke but not neonatal stroke in the rat. J Neurosci. 2012 Jul 11; 32(28):9588-600.
Fernández-López D, Faustino J, Derugin N, Wendland M, Lizasoain I, Moro MA, Vexler ZS. Reduced infarct size and accumulation of microglia in rats treated with WIN 55,212-2 after neonatal stroke. Neuroscience. 2012 Apr 05; 207:307-15.
Faustino JV, Wang X, Johnson CE, Klibanov A, Derugin N, Wendland MF, Vexler ZS. Microglial cells contribute to endogenous brain defenses after acute neonatal focal stroke. J Neurosci. 2011 Sep 07; 31(36):12992-3001.
Bowers KJ, Deveber GA, Ferriero DM, Roach ES, Vexler ZS, Maria BL. Cerebrovascular disease in children: recent advances in diagnosis and management. J Child Neurol. 2011 Sep; 26(9):1074-100.
Dzietko M, Wendland M, Derugin N, Ferriero DM, Vexler ZS. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) as a translational tool for the study of neonatal stroke. J Child Neurol. 2011 Sep; 26(9):1145-53.
Biran V, Heine VM, Verney C, Sheldon RA, Spadafora R, Vexler ZS, Rowitch DH, Ferriero DM. Cerebellar abnormalities following hypoxia alone compared to hypoxic-ischemic forebrain injury in the developing rat brain. Neurobiol Dis. 2011 Jan; 41(1):138-46.
Davis B, Tang J, Zhang L, Mu D, Jiang X, Biran V, Vexler Z, Ferriero DM. Role of vasodilator stimulated phosphoprotein in VEGF induced blood-brain barrier permeability in endothelial cell monolayers. Int J Dev Neurosci. 2010 Oct; 28(6):423-8.
Shimotake J, Derugin N, Wendland M, Vexler ZS, Ferriero DM. Vascular endothelial growth factor receptor-2 inhibition promotes cell death and limits endothelial cell proliferation in a neonatal rodent model of stroke. Stroke. 2010 Feb; 41(2):343-9.
Vexler ZS, Yenari MA. Does inflammation after stroke affect the developing brain differently than adult brain? Dev Neurosci. 2009; 31(5):378-93.
Wendland MF, Faustino J, West T, Manabat C, Holtzman DM, Vexler ZS. Early diffusion-weighted MRI as a predictor of caspase-3 activation after hypoxic-ischemic insult in neonatal rodents. Stroke. 2008 Jun; 39(6):1862-8.
Gonzalez FF, McQuillen P, Mu D, Chang Y, Wendland M, Vexler Z, Ferriero DM. Erythropoietin enhances long-term neuroprotection and neurogenesis in neonatal stroke. Dev Neurosci. 2007; 29(4-5):321-30.
Denker SP, Ji S, Dingman A, Lee SY, Derugin N, Wendland MF, Vexler ZS. Macrophages are comprised of resident brain microglia not infiltrating peripheral monocytes acutely after neonatal stroke. J Neurochem. 2007 Feb; 100(4):893-904.
Vexler ZS, Tang XN, Yenari MA. Inflammation in adult and neonatal stroke. Clin Neurosci Res. 2006 Dec 01; 6(5):293-313.
Vexler ZS, Sharp FR, Feuerstein GZ, Ashwal S, Thoresen M, Yager JY, Ferriero DM. Translational stroke research in the developing brain. Pediatr Neurol. 2006 Jun; 34(6):459-63.
Dingman A, Lee SY, Derugin N, Wendland MF, Vexler ZS. Aminoguanidine inhibits caspase-3 and calpain activation without affecting microglial activation following neonatal transient cerebral ischemia. J Neurochem. 2006 Mar; 96(5):1467-79.
Matsumori Y, Northington FJ, Hong SM, Kayama T, Sheldon RA, Vexler ZS, Ferriero DM, Weinstein PR, Liu J. Reduction of caspase-8 and -9 cleavage is associated with increased c-FLIP and increased binding of Apaf-1 and Hsp70 after neonatal hypoxic/ischemic injury in mice overexpressing Hsp70. Stroke. 2006 Feb; 37(2):507-12.
Derugin N, Dingman A, Wendland MF, Fox C, Bollen A, Vexler ZS. Magnetic resonance imaging as a surrogate measure for histological sub-chronic endpoint in a neonatal rat stroke model. Brain Res. 2005 Dec 20; 1066(1-2):49-56.
Mu D, Chang YS, Vexler ZS, Ferriero DM. Hypoxia-inducible factor 1alpha and erythropoietin upregulation with deferoxamine salvage after neonatal stroke. Exp Neurol. 2005 Oct; 195(2):407-15.
Fox C, Dingman A, Derugin N, Wendland MF, Manabat C, Ji S, Ferriero DM, Vexler ZS. Minocycline confers early but transient protection in the immature brain following focal cerebral ischemia-reperfusion. J Cereb Blood Flow Metab. 2005 Sep; 25(9):1138-49.
Yenari MA, Liu J, Zheng Z, Vexler ZS, Lee JE, Giffard RG. Antiapoptotic and anti-inflammatory mechanisms of heat-shock protein protection. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2005 Aug; 1053:74-83.
Matsumori Y, Hong SM, Aoyama K, Fan Y, Kayama T, Sheldon RA, Vexler ZS, Ferriero DM, Weinstein PR, Liu J. Hsp70 overexpression sequesters AIF and reduces neonatal hypoxic/ischemic brain injury. J Cereb Blood Flow Metab. 2005 Jul; 25(7):899-910.
Chang YS, Mu D, Wendland M, Sheldon RA, Vexler ZS, McQuillen PS, Ferriero DM. Erythropoietin improves functional and histological outcome in neonatal stroke. Pediatr Res. 2005 Jul; 58(1):106-11.
Jiang X, Mu D, Manabat C, Koshy AA, Christen S, Täuber MG, Vexler ZS, Ferriero DM. Differential vulnerability of immature murine neurons to oxygen-glucose deprivation. Exp Neurol. 2004 Nov; 190(1):224-32.
Sheldon RA, Jiang X, Francisco C, Christen S, Vexler ZS, Täuber MG, Ferriero DM. Manipulation of antioxidant pathways in neonatal murine brain. Pediatr Res. 2004 Oct; 56(4):656-62.
Mu D, Jiang X, Sheldon RA, Fox CK, Hamrick SE, Vexler ZS, Ferriero DM. Regulation of hypoxia-inducible factor 1alpha and induction of vascular endothelial growth factor in a rat neonatal stroke model. Neurobiol Dis. 2003 Dec; 14(3):524-34.
Vexler ZS, Wong A, Francisco C, Manabat C, Christen S, Täuber M, Ferriero DM, Gregory G. Fructose-1,6-bisphosphate preserves intracellular glutathione and protects cortical neurons against oxidative stress. Brain Res. 2003 Jan 17; 960(1-2):90-8.
Manabat C, Han BH, Wendland M, Derugin N, Fox CK, Choi J, Holtzman DM, Ferriero DM, Vexler ZS. Reperfusion differentially induces caspase-3 activation in ischemic core and penumbra after stroke in immature brain. Stroke. 2003 Jan; 34(1):207-13.
Parent JM, Vexler ZS, Gong C, Derugin N, Ferriero DM. Rat forebrain neurogenesis and striatal neuron replacement after focal stroke. Ann Neurol. 2002 Dec; 52(6):802-13.
Donohoe PH, Fahlman CS, Bickler PE, Vexler ZS, Gregory GA. Neuroprotection and intracellular Ca2+ modulation with fructose-1,6-bisphosphate during in vitro hypoxia-ischemia involves phospholipase C-dependent signaling. Brain Res. 2001 Nov 02; 917(2):158-66.
Vexler ZS, Ferriero DM. Molecular and biochemical mechanisms of perinatal brain injury. Semin Neonatol. 2001 Apr; 6(2):99-108.
Derugin N, Wendland M, Muramatsu K, Roberts TP, Gregory G, Ferriero DM, Vexler ZS. Evolution of brain injury after transient middle cerebral artery occlusion in neonatal rats. Stroke. 2000 Jul; 31(7):1752-61.
Vexler Z, Berrios M, Ursell PC, Sola A, Ferriero DM, Gregory GA. Toxicity of fructose-1,6-bisphosphate in developing normoxic rats. Pharmacol Toxicol. 1999 Mar; 84(3):115-21.
Derugin N, Ferriero DM, Vexler ZS. Neonatal reversible focal cerebral ischemia: a new model. Neurosci Res. 1998 Dec; 32(4):349-53.
Vexler ZS, Roberts TP, Bollen AW, Derugin N, Arieff AI. Transient cerebral ischemia. Association of apoptosis induction with hypoperfusion. J Clin Invest. 1997 Mar 15; 99(6):1453-9.
Vexler ZS, Symons M, Barber DL. Activation of Na+-H+ exchange is necessary for RhoA-induced stress fiber formation. J Biol Chem. 1996 Sep 13; 271(37):22281-4.
Roberts TP, Vexler ZS, Vexler V, Derugin N, Kucharczyk J. Sensitivity of high-speed "perfusion-sensitive" magnetic resonance imaging to mild cerebral ischemia. Eur Radiol. 1996; 6(5):645-9.
Roberts TP, Vexler ZS, Derugin N, Kozniewska E, Kucharczyk J, Emmett CJ. Evaluation of recombinant human basic fibroblast growth factor (rhbFGF) as a cerebroprotective agent using high speed MR imaging. Brain Res. 1995 Nov 13; 699(1):51-61.
Arieff AI, Kozniewska E, Roberts TP, Vexler ZS, Ayus JC, Kucharczyk J. Age, gender, and vasopressin affect survival and brain adaptation in rats with metabolic encephalopathy. Am J Physiol. 1995 May; 268(5 Pt 2):R1143-52.
Kozniewska E, Roberts TP, Vexler ZS, Oseka M, Kucharczyk J, Arieff AI. Hormonal dependence of the effects of metabolic encephalopathy on cerebral perfusion and oxygen utilization in the rat. Circ Res. 1995 Apr; 76(4):551-8.
Vexler ZS, Ayus JC, Roberts TP, Fraser CL, Kucharczyk J, Arieff AI. Hypoxic and ischemic hypoxia exacerbate brain injury associated with metabolic encephalopathy in laboratory animals. J Clin Invest. 1994 Jan; 93(1):256-64.
Vexler ZS, Roberts TP, Derugin N, Kozniewska E, Arieff AI, Kucharczyk J. Mechanisms of brain injury associated with partial and complete occlusion of the MCA in cat. Acta Neurochir Suppl (Wien). 1994; 60:211-5.
Vexler ZS, Roberts TP, Kucharczyk J, Arieff AI. Severe brain edema associated with cumulative effects of hyponatremic encephalopathy and ischemic hypoxia. Acta Neurochir Suppl (Wien). 1994; 60:246-9.
Roberts TP, Vexler Z, Derugin N, Moseley ME, Kucharczyk J. High-speed MR imaging of ischemic brain injury following stenosis of the middle cerebral artery. J Cereb Blood Flow Metab. 1993 Nov; 13(6):940-6.
Kucharczyk J, Vexler ZS, Roberts TP, Asgari HS, Mintorovitch J, Derugin N, Watson AD, Moseley ME. Echo-planar perfusion-sensitive MR imaging of acute cerebral ischemia. Radiology. 1993 Sep; 188(3):711-7.
de Crespigny AJ, Wendland MF, Derugin N, Vexler ZS, Moseley ME. Rapid MR imaging of a vascular challenge to focal ischemia in cat brain. J Magn Reson Imaging. 1993 May-Jun; 3(3):475-81.
Kucharczyk J, Asgari H, Mintorovitch J, Vexler Z, Rocklage S, Watson A, Moseley M. Cerebrovascular transit characteristics of DyDTPA-BMA and GdDTPA-BMA on normal and ischemic cat brain. AJNR Am J Neuroradiol. 1993 Mar-Apr; 14(2):289-96.
Moseley ME, Vexler Z, Asgari HS, Mintorovitch J, Derugin N, Rocklage S, Kucharczyk J. Comparison of Gd- and Dy-chelates for T2 contrast-enhanced imaging. Magn Reson Med. 1991 Dec; 22(2):259-64; discussion 265-7.
Kucharczyk J, Asgari H, Mintorovitch J, Vexler Z, Moseley M, Watson A, Rocklage S. Magnetic resonance imaging of brain perfusion using the nonionic contrast agents Dy-DTPA-BMA and Gd-DTPA-BMA. Invest Radiol. 1991 Nov; 26 Suppl 1:S250-2; discussion S253-4.