Michael N Nitabach PhD, JD

Associate Professor of Cellular and Molecular Physiology and of Genetics

Research Interests

Neurophysiology; Molecular genetics; Systems Physiology; Animal Behavior

Research Summary

Our laboratory applies cellular, molecular, genetic, and systems biology approaches to the question of how neuronal physiological properties determine the information processing characteristics of neural networks. 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, 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 flies as well as on various physiological parameters of the manipulated neurons using cell biological, neurophysiological, functional imaging, and genomics/systems biology techniques. As a model system for addressing these issues, we study the neural circuits that control circadian rhythms of locomotor activity, sexual courtship behavior, sleep, and energy metabolism in Drosophila melanogaster flies.

We also have a new project in the laboratory aimed at identifying novel analgesics from the venom of Australian funnel-web spiders.

Selected Publications

  • Hughes ME, Grant GR, Paquin C, Qian J, Nitabach MN. Deep sequencing the circadian and diurnal transcriptome of Drosophila brain. Genome Res, 2012 May 21. [Epub ahead of print]
  • McCarthy EV, Wu Y, Decarvalho T, Brandt C, Cao G, Nitabach MN. Synchronized bilateral synaptic inputs to Drosophila melanogaster neuropeptidergic rest/arousal neurons. J Neurosci, 31:8181-93, 2011.
  • Choi C, Fortin JP, McCarthy EV, Oksman L, Kopin AS, Nitabach MN. Cellular dissection of circadian peptide signals with genetically encoded membrane-tethered ligands. Curr Biol, 19:1167-75, 2009.
  • Wu Y, Cao G, Pavlicek B, Luo X, Nitabach MN. Phase coupling of a circadian neuropeptide with rest/activity rhythms detected using a membrane-tethered spider toxin. PLoS Biol, 6:E273, 2008.
  • Cao G and Nitabach MN. Circadian control of membrane excitability in Drosophila melanogaster lateral ventral clock neurons. J Neurosci, 28:6493-501, 2008.
  • Nitabach MN and Taghert PH. Organization of the Drosophila circadian control circuit. Curr Biol, 18:84-93, 2008.
  • Harrisingh MC, Wu Y, Lnenicka G, Nitabach MN. Intracellular Ca2+ regulates free-running circadian clock function in vivo. J Neurosci, 27:12489-99, 2007.

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