Niels Ringstad

Assistant Professor, Skirball Institute of Biomolecular Medicine, Molecular Neurobiology. Department of Cell Biology

Ph.D., 2000 Yale University

Lab Website:

Keywords: Molecular and Behavioral Genetics, Neuromodulation


Contact Information: 

Skirball Institute of Biomolecular Medicine
540 First Avenue 5th floor, Lab 14
New York, N.Y. 10016
Office Tel: (212) 263-3753
Lab Tel: (212) 263-3753
Fax: (212) 263-8214

Administrative Contact:

Katherine Moore
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.

Selected Publications:

The neurobiology of sensing respiratory gases for the control of animal behavior. Ma DK, Ringstad N. Front Biol. 2012 Jun;7(3):246-253. PMID: 22876258

A single gene target of an ETS-family transcription factor determines neuronal CO2-chemosensitivity. Brandt JP, Aziz-Zaman S, Juozaityte V, Martinez-Velazquez LA, Petersen JG, Pocock R, Ringstad N. PLoS One. 2012;7(3):e34014. Epub 2012 Mar 29. PMID: 22479504

Receptor-type guanylate cyclase is required for carbon dioxide sensation by Caenorhabditis elegans. Hallem EA, Spencer WC, McWhirter RD, Zeller G, Henz SR, Rätsch G, Miller DM 3rd, Horvitz HR, Sternberg PW, Ringstad N. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2011 Jan 4;108(1):254-9. Epub 2010 Dec 20. PMID: 21173231

Ligand-gated chloride channels are receptors for biogenic amines in C. elegans. Ringstad N, Abe N, Horvitz HR. Science. 2009 Jul 3;325(5936):96-100. PMID: 19574391

FMRFamide neuropeptides and acetylcholine synergistically inhibit egg-laying by C. elegans. Ringstad N, Horvitz HR. Nat Neurosci. 2008 Oct;11(10):1168-76. Epub 2008 Sep 21. PMID: 18806786

Click here to see all publications in PubMed