Stephen Liberles, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor in Cell Biology
250 Longwood Ave.
Seeley Mudd Building, Room 529
Boston, MA 02115
Visit my lab page here.
Characterization of candidate mammalian pheromone receptors
The mammalian nose is a powerful chemosensor, capable of detecting and distinguishing a myriad of chemicals. Sensory neurons in the olfactory epithelium contain two types of receptors: odorant receptors (ORs), which comprise the largest gene family in mammals, and trace amine-associated receptors (TAARs), a second family that we recently discovered to be in the nose. Do TAARs play a specialized role in olfaction distinct from that of ORs? Genes encoding TAARs are found in diverse vertebrates- from fish to mice to humans- and like OR genes, are expressed in unique subsets of sensory neurons in the olfactory epithelium. TAAR ligands include amines that are naturally produced by mice of different genders or behavioral states, raising the possibility that some TAARs might be involved in pheromone responses. Future research will explore the roles of TAARs in mammalian olfaction.
Charting neural circuits that control appetite
The hypothalamus is an important regulator of instinctive behaviors- such as feeding, sleep, aggression, and sex. To study instinctive behaviors at a molecular level, we have developed a strategy of first purifying hypothalamic neurons that are activated during various behavioral states by flow cytometry, and then asking what genes they express by PCR. Initial experiments will focus on characterizing hunger-activated neurons, with the goal of searching for novel cell surface receptors that may respond to gut-derived feeding signals. If this technique proves successful, future gene searches will focus on other instinctive behaviors mediated by the hypothalamus.
For a complete listing of publications click here.