Center for Cancer and Developmental Biology

  • Dr. Oppenheimer and student

Dr. Steven Oppenheimer, Director

Steven Oppenheimer

Steven Oppenheimer
(818) 677-3336
Office location:
Chaparral Hall 5433


A.    Personal Statement

We are examining the putative role of specific glycans in cellular interactions using the sea urchin embryo . The sea urchin embryo has been designated by NIH as a model system to learn more about physiological mechanisms important in human health and disease. About 20 such mechanisms have already been discovered or developed in the sea urchin embryo model. We are currently using specific glycans and specific glycosidases that we independently characterize to determine if specific glycans mediate cellular interactions in the sea urchin gastrula. We have so far identified a role for glucose/mannose, polyglucans, and L-rhamnose in sea urchin embryo cellular interactions and current work is using specific glycosidases and an elegant microdissection method to probe specific cellular interactions in the sea urchin embryo model during gastrulation.  We are also identifying reagents that reduce cell clumping, important in reducing cancer cell spread, biofilm development, infectivity and thrombosis. My past MARC/MBRS and other mentees have gone on for Ph.D. degrees at universities including Harvard, Yale, U. Colorado, UCLA, U. Minnesota, U. Utah, USC, U. Kansas,  Cornell, , UC Berkeley, UCSD, Johns Hopkins, City of Hope,  Sloan Kettering, UC Riverside. I am a recipient of a U.S. Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and engineering mentoring and recipient of 26 awards and honors in teaching, research and research mentoring. I mentored hundreds of students in 42 years at this institution with a documented list of student outcomes including many who went on for a Ph.D. degree. I have been elected Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), for my research into cell surface glycans and for my work with students. Hundreds of my mentored students co-authored our publications, published abstracts and national presentations.


B.    Positions and Honors

Academic Positions:

Assistant Professor Biology, California State University, Northridge (CSUN) 1971-1974

Associate Professor (CSUN) 1974-1977

Professor (CSUN) 1977-present

Director, School of Science and Mathematics Center for Cancer and Developmental Biology (CSUN) 1984-present

Participating Investigator, Consortium for Functional Glycomics, 2006-2010

National/Statewide Honorary Positions

Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), 1992-present

Trustees Outstanding Professor, The California State University system, 1984-present

United States Presidential Award

Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Mentoring, 2010.

This is the 2007 Presidential Award awarded in 2009  after a 27 month selection process by the White House and the National Science Foundation. White House Ceremony, Jan 6, 2010.

Editor, 2005-present

Acta Histochemica- Elsevier

Some Federal Grant Review Panels


2014– NSF PAESMEM Panel 6



2009 – PANEL CHAIR, NIH R13 applications

2008 – PANEL CHAIR, NIH R13 applications

2008 – NIH, developmental biology model systems


C.    Contribution to Science

We have discovered that specific glycans mediate cellular interactions in development and cancer.  Most recently we have discovered that L-rhamnose and polyglucans control cellular interaction in the sea urchin gastrula, a NIH model system.

Summary:  @300 published papers, published abstracts/national presentations including @700 student co-authors. 14 textbook editions.

ABOUT THE SINGH ET AL. (2013)., SMITH AND OPPENHEIMER (2013), AND LIANG ET AL(2015)  PAPERS BELOW. Singh et al. (2013) for the first time used an elegant new assay developed in the Oppenheimer lab that directly discovered a role of polyglucans in a cellular adhesive interaction of interest to biologists for over a century, adhesion of the archenteron tip to the blastocoel roof in the NIH model sea urchin embryo system.  What is found in sea urchins is often found in humans.

Liang et al. (2015) and Smith and Oppenheimer (2013) found for the first time in animal systems using both enzyme and sugars that L-rhamnose is involved in sea urchin embryo cellular interactions.  This sugar has not previously been definitively shown to be involved in cellular interactions in ANY animal system. This is a big first.

ABOUT GHAZARIAN AND OPPENHEIMER (2014) PAPER BELOW. Ghazarian and Oppenheimer (2014) found, using new quantitative kinetic profile assays, that D-melezitose was the best inhibitor of yeast binding to lectin microbeads, a model system for identifying agents that could block cancer cell clumping, pathogen binding to cells, biofilm development and thrombocytic events.

Liang, J., Aleksanyan, H., Metzenberg, S., Oppenheimer, S.B., Involvement of L(-) Rhamnose in Sea Urchin Gastrulation, Part II: Alpha-L-Rhamnosidase, Zygote, Accepted May 15, 2015, in press.

Oppenheimer, S.B., Simple Novel Assays in Glycobiology. Journal of Glycobiology 3:112. Doi: 10.4172/168-958X.1000112 (2014)

Ghazarian, A., Oppenheimer, S.B., Microbead Analysis of Cell Binding to Immobilized Lectin. Part II: Quantitative Kinetic Profile Assay for Possible Identification of Anti-Infectivity and Anti-Cancer Reagents. Acta Histochemica (2014)

Smith, T., Oppenheimer, S.B.,  Involvement of L-rhamnose in Sea Urchin Gastrulation: A Live Embryo Assay, Zygote, doi:10.1017/S0967199413000452 (2013)

Singh, S., Karabidian, E., Kandel, A., Metzenberg, S., Carroll, Jr.,  Oppenheimer, S.B., A Role for Polyglucans in a Model Sea Urchin Embryo Cellular Interaction, Zygote doi:10.1017/S0967199413000038 (2013)


D.    Research Support

Ongoing Research Support

Carbohydrates in adhesive interactions

About $100,000 in Oppenheimer accounts for research supplies . No ending dates. Fund is continually supplemented with donations.

California State University Northridge Foundation

University Corporation, California State University Northridge

The goals of these projects are to involve students in the identification of carbohydrates putatively involved in mediating cellular interactions and to identify anti-clumping reagents. Publish and nationally present the results with student co-authors.

Completed Research Support

Presidential Award National Science Foundation 2009-2011

Involved students in published cell adhesion research

NIH Score grant 2006-2010

Involved students in published cell adhesion research

Steve's methods of student research training were recently highlighted in SCIENCE and NATURE:


NATURE 518, 127-128.