Michael N Nitabach, PhD, JD

Professor of Cellular and Molecular Physiology and Professor of Genetics

Research Interests

Behavior, Animal; Decision Making; Genetics; Ion Channels; Neuropeptides; Neurophysiology; Neurotoxins; Physiology

Research Organizations

Cellular & Molecular Physiology

Faculty Research

Interdepartmental Neuroscience Program

Kavli Institute for Neuroscience

Research Summary

Our laboratory applies cellular, molecular, genetic, and physiological approaches to the question of how neuronal circuits perform computations underlying behavioral decision making. We take an interdisciplinary approach to these questions. We manipulate the physiological properties of neurons in directed ways by genetically targeted cell-specific expression of engineered proteins in transgenic animals. These engineered proteins include ion channel subunits, optogenetic effectors, intracellular ionic buffers, signaling enzymes, membrane-tethered neuropeptides, and membrane-tethered peptide neurotoxins that target specific ion channel subtypes. Subsequently, we measure the effects of these manipulations on the whole-animal behavior of intact Drosophila flies or C. elegans worms, as well as on various physiological parameters of the manipulated neurons using cell biological, neurophysiological, functional imaging, and genomics/systems biology techniques. As model systems for addressing these issues, we study the neural circuits that control sexual courtship behavior, sleep, energy metabolism, and decision making in Drosophila melanogaster flies and Caenorhabditis elegans worms.

Selected Publications

  • Neural architecture of hunger-dependent multisensory decision making in C. elegans. D. Dipon Ghosh, Tom Sanders, Soonwook Hong, Li Yan McCurdy, Daniel L. Chase, Netta Cohen, Michael R. Koelle, and Michael N. Nitabach (in press). Neuron.
  • Presynaptic GABA Receptors Mediate Temporal Contrast Enhancement in Drosophila Olfactory Sensory Neurons and Modulate Odor-Driven Behavioral Kinetics. Raccuglia D, Yan McCurdy L, Demir M, Gorur-Shandilya S, Kunst M, Emonet T, Nitabach MN. eNeuro. 2016 Aug 23;3(4). pii: ENEURO.0080-16.2016.
  • Propagation of Homeostatic Sleep Signals by Segregated Synaptic Microcircuits of the Drosophila Mushroom Body. Sitaraman D, Aso Y, Jin X, Chen N, Felix M, Rubin GM, Nitabach MN. Curr Biol. 2015 Nov 16;25(22):2915-27.
  • A tarantula-venom peptide antagonises the TRPA1 nociceptor ion channel by binding to the S1-S4 gating domain.

    Gui, J., Liu, B., Cao, G., Lipchik, A.M., Perez, M., Dekan, Z., Mobli, M., Daly, N.L., Alewood, P.F., Parker, L.L., King, G.F., Zhou, Y., Jordt, S.-E., Nitabach, M.N. (2014). A tarantula-venom peptide antagonises the TRPA1 nociceptor ion channel by binding to the S1-S4 gating domain. Curr. Biol. 24: 473-83. [PMCID: PMC3949122] [covered by The New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/18/science/the-peruvian-green-velvet-tarantulas-gift.html]

  • Calcitonin gene-related peptide neurons mediate sleep-specific circadian output in Drosophila. Kunst M, Hughes ME, Raccuglia D, Felix M, Li M, Barnett G, Duah J, Nitabach MN. Curr Biol. 2014 Nov 17;24(22):2652-64.
  • Genetically targeted optical electrophysiology in intact neural circuits.

    Cao, G., Platisa, J., Pieribone, V.A., Raccuglia, D., Kunst, M., Nitabach, M.N. (2013). Genetically targeted optical electrophysiology in intact neural circuits. Cell 154: 904-13.

  • Autoreceptor modulation of peptide/neurotransmitter co-release from PDF neurons determines allocation of circadian activity in Drosophila.

    Choi, C., Cao, C., Tanenhaus, A.K., McCarthy, E.v., Jung, M., Schleyer, W., Shang, Y., Rosbash, M., Yin, J.C.P., Nitabach, M.N. (2012). Autoreceptor modulation of peptide/neurotransmitter co-release from PDF neurons determines allocation of circadian activity in Drosophila. Cell Rep. 2: 332-44.

  • Deep sequencing the circadian and diurnal transcriptome of Drosophila brain.

    Hughes, M.E., Grant, G.R., Paquin, C., Qian, J., Nitabach, M.N. (2012). Deep sequencing the circadian and diurnal transcriptome of Drosophila brain. Genome Res. 22: 1266-81.

Full List of PubMed Publications

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