Department of Biological Sciences
Delaware State University
1200 N. Dupont Highway,
Dover, DE 19901
Post-doctoral Research in Behavior, University of Toronto, Canada, 1999
Ph.D. in Molecular Neurobiology, Rutgers University, New Jersey, 1997
M.Sc. in Molecular Biology, University of Baroda, Gujarat, 1988
B.Sc. in Biochemistry, Punjab Agricultural University, Punjab, 1986
My students and I are using a reductionist approach to understand behavior. Insights into the molecular and cellular basis of learning and memory are particularly important in understanding the neural functional design of normal human memory, as well as in age related deficits and complex neural pathologies such as Schizophrenia and other psychoses. Modulatory effects of biogenic amine neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin are known to play key roles in a variety of behavioral processes including behavioral plasticity, in vertebrates as well as invertebrates. In the multicellular eukaryotic lab model Caenorhabditis elegans, dopamine was first implicated in habituation, a simple form of behavioral plasticity, and subsequently in associative learning.
Our current goals are focused towards understanding the modulatory interactions of dopamine auto-receptors in regulating synaptic neurotransmitter levels. We are using genetic, behavioral, pharmacological, and imaging based approaches to unravel synaptic modulation of dopamine by DOP-2, a C. elegans D2-like dopamine auto-receptor. Our lab has focused on the modulation of dopaminergic transmission via a D2-like auto-receptor DOP-2. Using molecular and biochemical techniques we showed that DOP-2 physically interacts with GPA-14, an inhibitory Galpha subunit expressed in a subset of dopaminergic neurons [Pandey and Harbinder, 2012 J. Molecular Signaling 7:3-13]. In a follow up work, we used genetic and behavioral approaches to describe the role of DOP-2 and GPA-14 in behavioral plasticity [Mersha et al., 2013 Behavioral & Brain Functions 22;9(1):16]. A subsequent invited review described the current status of molecular interactions in dopamine receptors and the relevance of fundamental research in biomedical understanding [Pandey et al., 2013 J. Molecular Signaling 8(1):13]
Since spending my sabbatical year (2015-16) at the University of British Columbia, Canada in the lab of my collaborator Dr. Catharine Rankin, a pioneer in studying behavioral plasticity, we have recently set up an automated Multi-Worm-Tracker (MWT) platform along with my departmental colleague Dr. Hakeem Lawal, a fly geneticist. In the medium term, we expect results from our experiments to help put together the role of dopamine auto-receptors from the molecular to the behavioral level. In addition to the above, our lab is also looking at developmental consequences of nervous system function [Mersha et al., 2105 Behavioral & Brain Functions 11(1): 27] and its epigenetic basis of disease development in adults [Harbinder et al., 2103 Herediary Genetics doi 10.4172/2161-1041.S2-005] as a collaborative project with Dr. Amar Klar at the National Cancer Institute of NIH. Major support through NIH including initial (2P20RR-016472) and current (1P20GM103653) funding is gratefully acknowledged.