Biological Sciences

Faculty Research



Bruce Bamber


Associate Professor 
Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Dept. of Biology University of Utah, 1999
Ph.D. University of Washington, 1994
B.Sc. University of Calgary, 1987

Office:          WO 3213
Phone No:   419.530.7889



My laboratory studies the molecular signaling pathways that control neuronal function and behavior. Our major approaches include optical imaging, electrophysiology, molecular biology and genetics. Our model system of choice is Caenorhabditis elegans, which is a nematode with a very small and relatively simple nervous system (302 neurons, compared to 86 billion neurons in the human brain!). There are two major reasons to study nematode neurobiology. First we can ask questions at very high resolution; in addition to its small size, the C. elegans nervous system has been fully reconstructed by serial section electron microscopy. Importantly,neural mechanisms are highly conserved between C. elegans and humans, both in terms of the molecules involved and the principles of circuit function, so findings from the nematodes translate well to more complex vertebrate brains. Second, many nematode species are parasitic, affecting agricultural crops, livestock, and humans. Drugs that clear nematode infections (anthelmintics and nematicides) are critical to maintaining health and agricultural productivity, but drug resistant nematodes are appearing at an ever accelerating pace, which necessitates the development of new anthelmintic drugs.

Molecular Basis of Behavioral Plasticity: My lab has focused on the signaling molecules that regulate the activity of electrically-excitable cells (i.e the neurons and muscles that control behavior). Following our earlier focus on the GABA receptors expressed in the nematode muscle, our attention has more recently turned to neuromodulatory molecules and their role in behavioral plasticity. In collaboration with Richard Komuniecki (UT Biological Sciences), we have focused on aversive locomotory responses in worms exposed to 1-octanol. C. elegans is repelled by 1-octanol, and the lag time between stimulation and aversive locomotory response varies between 5s and 10s, depending on various factors such as nutrition state. Signaling cascades involving monoamines (eg. serotonin, octopamine, dopamine) and and multiple neuropeptides are critical for proper regulation of these locomotory reactions. We are specifically focused on intracellular neuromodulatory signaling pathways and their interaction with calcium signals (see Zahratka et al., 2015).

Development of New Drugs to Combat Parasitic Nematodes: Anthelmintics and nematicides are critical tools in agriculture and public health. Unfortunately, anthelmintic resistance is a serious and growing problem. Developing new anthelmintic drugs is critical, and represents an exciting opportunity for research commercialization. In collaboration with Richard Komuniecki and Paul Erhardt (UT Medicinal Chemistry), and following successful NSF I-Corps training in 2016, we are developing 5-HT1 agonists as potential anthelmintics, using targeted chemical synthesis, behavioral and electrophysiological testing in C. elegans, and in vivo testing in parasite-infected animal models.


Arunima Debnath

CURRENT laboratory grants

New Anthelmintic Drugs for Veterinary Medicine
Ohio Third Frontier Technology Validation Startup Fund

Wormbusters: Improving Agricultural Yields
NSF I-Corps


Getting under the hood of neuronal signaling in C. elegans.  Williams PDE, Zahratka JA & Bamber BA.  Journal of Experimental Neuroscience. In press

Serotonin disinhibits a C. elegans sensory neuron by suppressing Ca++-dependent negative feedback. Williams, P. D. E., Zahratka, J. A., Rodenbeck, M., Wanamaker, J., Linzie, H., Bamber, B. A. in preparation

Multiple Sensory Inputs Are Extensively Integrated to Modulate Nociception in C. elegans.
Summers PJ, Layne RM, Ortega AC, Harris GP, Bamber BA, Komuniecki RW.
The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience. 2015; 35(28):10331-42.
PubMed [journal]PMID: 26180208 PMCID: PMC4502269

Serotonin differentially modulates Ca2+ transients and depolarization in a C. elegans nociceptor.
Zahratka JA, Williams PD, Summers PJ, Komuniecki RW, Bamber BA.
Journal of neurophysiology. 2015; 113(4):1041-50.
PubMed [journal]PMID: 25411461 PMCID: PMC4329441

Context-dependent modulation reconfigures interactive sensory-mediated microcircuits in Caenorhabditis elegans.
Komuniecki R, Hapiak V, Harris G, Bamber B.
Current opinion in neurobiology. 2014; 29:17-24.
PubMed [journal]PMID: 24811318

Monoamines and neuropeptides interact to inhibit aversive behaviour in Caenorhabditis elegans.
Mills H, Wragg R, Hapiak V, Castelletto M, Zahratka J, Harris G, Summers P, Korchnak A, Law W, Bamber B, Komuniecki R.
The EMBO journal. 2012; 31(3):667-78.
PubMed [journal]PMID: 22124329 PMCID: PMC3273394

Regulated lysosomal trafficking as a mechanism for regulating GABAA receptor abundance at synapses in Caenorhabditis elegans.
Davis KM, Sturt BL, Friedmann AJ, Richmond JE, Bessereau JL, Grant BD, Bamber BA.
Molecular and cellular neurosciences. 2010; 44(4):307-17.
PubMed [journal]PMID: 20403442

Three distinct amine receptors operating at different levels within the locomotory circuit are each essential for the serotonergic modulation of chemosensation in Caenorhabditis elegans.
Harris GP, Hapiak VM, Wragg RT, Miller SB, Hughes LJ, Hobson RJ, Steven R, Bamber B, Komuniecki RW.
The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience. 2009; 29(5):1446-56. NIHMSID: NIHMS93396
PubMed [journal]PMID: 19193891 PMCID: PMC3418693

Presynaptic terminals independently regulate synaptic clustering and autophagy of GABAA receptors in Caenorhabditis elegans.
Rowland AM, Richmond JE, Olsen JG, Hall DH, Bamber BA.
The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience. 2006; 26(6):1711-20.

The composition of the GABA receptor at the Caenorhabditis elegans neuromuscular junction.
Bamber BA, Richmond JE, Otto JF, Jorgensen EM.
British journal of pharmacology. 2005; 144(4):502-9.
PubMed [journal]PMID: 15655525 PMCID: PMC1576029

Pharmacological characterization of the homomeric and heteromeric UNC-49 GABA receptors in C. elegans.
Bamber BA, Twyman RE, Jorgensen EM.
British journal of pharmacology. 2003; 138(5):883-93.
PubMed [journal]PMID: 12642390 PMCID: PMC1573730

Regulation of presynaptic terminal organization by C. elegans RPM-1, a putative guanine nucleotide exchanger with a RING-H2 finger domain.
Zhen M, Huang X, Bamber B, Jin Y.
Neuron. 2000; 26(2):331-43.
PubMed [journal]PMID: 10839353

The Caenorhabditis elegans unc-49 locus encodes multiple subunits of a heteromultimeric GABA receptor.
Bamber BA, Beg AA, Twyman RE, Jorgensen EM.
The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience. 1999; 19(13):5348-59.
PubMed [journal]PMID: 10377345

Last Updated: 5/27/20