Lori Zeltser, PhD

  • Professor of Pathology and Cell Biology
Profile Headshot


Dr. Zeltser is a Professor in the Department of Pathology and Cell Biology and in the Naomi Berrie Diabetes Center. Dr. Zeltser received her A.B. degree from Princeton University and her Ph.D. degree from The Rockefeller University. She continued her research training in development neurobiology as a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratories of Andrew Lumsden at Kings College London and Claudio Stern and Thomas Jessell at Columbia University. She became an Assistant Professor at Columbia University in 2007. She serves as the Co-Director of the Nutritional and Metabolic Biology Ph.D. program and the Director Advanced Tissue Pathology and Imaging Core of the Columbia Diabetes Research Center. Her laboratory studies central and peripheral neural circuits regulating eating behavior and metabolism.

Email: lz146@cumc.columbia.edu

Academic Appointments

  • Professor of Pathology and Cell Biology

Administrative Titles

  • Director, Advanced Tissue Pathology and Imaging Core of the Columbia Diabetes Research Center
  • Co-Director, Nutritional and Metabolic Biology Ph.D. program


  • Female

Credentials & Experience

Education & Training

  • AB, 1989 Molecular Biology and the Woodrow Wilson School of International Affairs and Public Policy, Princeton University
  • PhD, 2006 Molecular and Developmental Biology, The Rockefeller University


Research in the Zeltser laboratory explores how developmental influences exert lasting impacts on body weight regulation. Epidemiological studies provide strong evidence that interactions between genetic and early environmental factors influence later susceptibility to obesity and eating disorders. A major obstacle to elucidating the underlying mechanism for these effects is that most research programs are focused on the neuroanatomy and physiology of body weight regulation in adults. We are using a two-pronged approach to identify critical developmental processes in the central and peripheral nervous system that regulate susceptibility to childhood obesity and anorexia nervosa. First, we use a combination of genetic, environmental and/or dietary manipulations in mice to define the timing and types of exposures needed to recapitulate basic epidemiological observations in humans. Then we use genetic and pharmacological tools to characterize the consequences of these developmental factors on the maturation of neuronal circuits that, in turn, mediate effects on metabolic, neuroendocrine and behavioral phenotypes. By applying the rigor and precision of developmental neuroscience to mouse models of susceptibility to body weight dysregulation, our research is yielding new insights into the causes of childhood obesity and anorexia nervosa, and could lead to new therapeutic strategies to treat these disorders.

Research Interests

  • Cellular/Molecular/Developmental Neuroscience
  • Circuits Regulating Food Intake and Body Weight
  • Maternal Programming of Metabolic Disease
  • Models of Psychiatric Disorders (Anorexia)
  • Sympathetic Innervation of Brown Adipose Tissue

Selected Publications

  • François M., Canal Delgado I., Shargorodsky N., Leu C.S. and Zeltser L.M.; (2022) Assessing effects of stress on feeding behaviors in laboratory mice. eLife. 11:e70271.
  • François, M., Fernández-Gayol, O. and Zeltser, L.M. (2021) A framework for developing translationally relevant animal models of stress-induced changes in eating behavior. Biological Psychiatry Jul 3: S0006-3223(21)01428-1.
  • Zeltser, L.M. (2018) Feeding circuit development and early life influences on future feeding behavior. Nature Reviews of Neuroscience. Apr 17;19(5):302-316. PMID: 29662204.
  • Madra, M. and Zeltser L.M.  (2016) BDNF-Val66Met variant and adolescent stress interact to promote susceptibility to anorexic behavior in mice. Translational Psychiatry Apr 5;6:e776.
  • Zeltser, L.M. (2015) Developmental influences on circuits programming susceptibility to obesity. Front Neuroendocrinol. 39:17-27. PMID:26206662. Free PMC article.
  • Lerea J.S., Ring, L.E., Hassouna, R., Chong, A.C.N., Szigeti-Buck K, Horvath, T.L. and Zeltser, L.M. (2015) Reducing adiposity in a critical developmental window has lasting benefits in mice. Endocrinology 157(2):666-78. PMC4733128.
  • Juan de Solis, A., Baquero, A., Bennett C.M., Grove K.L. and Zeltser, L.M. (2016) Postnatal undernutrition delays a key step in the maturation of hypothalamic feeding circuits. Molecular Metabolism 5(3):198-209. PMC4770263.
  • Baquero, A. Juan de Solis, A., Lee, S., Lindsley, S., Krigiti M, Smith, S.M., Cowley M, Zeltser, L.M. and Grove K.L. (2014) Developmental switch of leptin signaling in arcuate nucleus neurons. Journal of Neuroscience 34(30):10041-10054. PMC4107412.
  • Ring, L.E. and Zeltser, L.M. (2010) Disruption of hypothalamic leptin signaling in mice leads to early-onset obesity, but physiological adaptations in mature animals stabilize adiposity levels. JCI 120(8):2931-41. PMC2912188.
  • Padilla, S.L., Carmody, J.S. and Zeltser, L.M. (2010) Pomc-expressing progenitors give rise to antagonistic populations in hypothalamic feeding circuits. Nature Medicine 16(4):403-5. PMC2854504.