Niels Ringstad, PhD

Assistant Professor; Departments of Cell Biology and Molecular Neurobiology

Ringstad Lab

Cell Biology, Physiology and Neuroscience, Skirball Institute of Biomolecular Medicine





Contact Information

540 First Avenue
Skirball Institute of Biomolecular Medicine
Floor 5, Lab 14
New York, NY 10016

Office Tel: (212) 263-3753
Lab Tel: (212) 263-3753
Fax: (212) 263-8214

Admin Information

Edna Normand
Tel: (212) 263-6354

Neuropeptide signaling, biogenic amine-gated channels and behavior

Caenorhabditis elegans is a free-living microscopic roundworm. The nervous system of a C. elegans hermaphrodite comprises 302 neurons, approximately one billionth the number of neurons in the human brain. Despite having 109-fold fewer cells, the C. elegans nervous system has genetic and neurochemical complexity that is comparable to the complexity of the vertebrate brain. We are seeking to identify genes that function in neurochemical signaling pathways, specifically in neuropeptide signaling and in biogenic amine signaling pathways. Such genes might encode new targets for therapeutics in the treatment of psychiatric and neurological illnesses that are associated with defects in neurochemical signaling, such as major depression, Parkinson's disease and schizophrenia.

How do we find and characterize such genes? The behaviors of C. elegans are simple and stereotyped. We can isolate mutants that are defective in behaviors that require specific neurochemical signaling pathways. By cloning the affected genes, we can discover molecular pathways that function in or function to modulate those neurochemical signals.

One behavior we study is egg laying by the C. elegans hermaphrodite. The egg-laying system uses multiple neurotransmitter systems. Diagonal vulval muscles, which contract to open the vulva and permit egg release, receive input from serotonergic and acetylcholinergic motor neurons, the HSNs and VCs, respectively.