Dr. Michael Chao

C. elegans Professor of Biology

Office: BI-318
phone: 909.537.5388
email: mchao@csusb.edu
C. elegans

B.S. Zoology, National Taiwan University

Ph.D. Genetics and Development, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center

Postdoctoral fellow in Neuroscience, Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School


BIOL 300 - Cell Physiology

BIOL 580 - Neurobiology

Research Interests:

My research interests are in understanding the molecular basis of animal behavior, particularly in understanding neural plasticity at the molecular and cellular levels. If someone pokes you with their finger, you respond differently if they poke you from the front, or if they surprise you from the back. How are neural circuits controlled so that we respond differently to a given stimulus? What are the genes that are involved in this process?

In my lab we use the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans to study the molecular and cellular basis of chemosensory behavior and how it is regulated by environmental conditions. C. elegans is a powerful model system that is used to study molecular and behavioral neuroscience, because of its extremely simple and well-described nervous system. The adult C. elegans (~1 mm long) has only 302 neurons in its entire nervous system. Furthermore, the "wiring" of its entire nervous system is known down to the level of individual synapses. Finally, C. elegans is highly amenable to experimental manipulation. In my lab, we use various molecular, cellular, behavioral, and genetic techniques, including generating transgenic animals, laser microsurgery, and recombinant DNA.

We are currently interested in understanding how the neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine contribute to the regulation of C. elegans chemosensory behavior. Serotonin and dopamine are critical in regulating human behaviors and behavioral disorders, such as bulimia and anorexia, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, drug abuse, and others. By studying a simple model organism such as C. elegans, we hope to gain insight into understanding how the nervous systems of more complex animals function. Several C. elegans genes, including gpa-11, dgk-1, and glr-1, appear to be important for controlling C. elegans behavior. We are taking genetic and behavioral approaches to further understanding the roles of the genes.


Baidya M, Genovez M, Torres M, Chao MY. (2014). Dopamine Modulation of Avoidance Behavior in Caenorhabditis elegans Requires the NMDA Receptor NMR-1. PLoS One 9(8):e102958. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0102958. eCollection 2014.

Singh, Komudi, Michael Y. Chao, Gerard A. Somers, Hidetoshi Komatsu, Mark E. Corkins, Jonah Larkins-Ford, Tim Tucey, Heather M. Dionne, Melissa B. Walsh, Emma K. Beaumont, Douglas P. Hart, Shawn R. Lockery, and Anne C. Hart. C. elegans notch signaling regulates adult chemosensory response and larval molting quiescence. Current Biology 21, no. 10, 825-834 (2011).

Kim, Jieun, Qiong Wu, Yolanda Zhang, Katie M. Wiens, Ying Huang, Nicole Rubin, Hiroyuki Shimada, Robert I. Handin, Michael Y. Chao, Tai-Lan Tuan, Vaughn A. Stames, and Ching-Ling Lien. PDGF signaling is required for epicardial function and blood vessel formation in regenerating zebrafish hearts. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 107, no. 40, 17206-17210 (2010).

Wiens, Katie M., Hyuna L. Lee, Hiroyuki Shimada, Anthony E. Metcalf, Michael Y. Chao, and Ching-Ling Lien. "Platelet-derived growth factor receptor β is critical for zebrafish intersegmental vessel formation." PloS ONE 5, no. 6, e11324 (2010).

Komatsu, H., Chao, M.Y., Larkins-Ford, J., Corkins, M.E., Somers, G.A., Tucey, T.M., Dionne, H.M., White, J.Q., Wani, K., Boxem, M., and Hart, A.C. OSM-11 facilitates LIN-12 notch signaling during Caenorhabditis elegans vulval development. PLoS Biology 6, no. 8, e196 (2008).

Chao, M.Y., Larkins-Ford, J., Tucey, T.M., and Hart, A.C. lin-12 Notch functions in the adult nervous system. BMC Neuroscience 6:45, (2005).

Chao, M, Y., Komatsu, H., Fukuto, H.S., Dionne, H.M., and Hart, A.C. Feeding status and serotonin rapidly and reversibly modulate a C. elegans chemosensory circuit. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 101, 15512-15517 (2004).

Chao, M.Y., and Hart, A.C. Sensory biology: how the nose knows. Curr. Biol. 13, R226-R228 (2003).

Huang, H.-R., Chao, M.Y., Armsrtong, B., Wang, Y., Lambowitz, A.M., and Perlman, P.S. A high affinity maturase binding site in a group II intron is essential for intron homing but not for in vivo splicing. Mol. Cell. Biol. 23, 8809-8819 (2003).

Eskes, R., Liu, L., Ma, H., Chao, M.Y., Dickson, L., Lambowitz, A.M., and Perlman, P.S. Multiple homing pathways used by yeast mitochondrial group II introns. Mol. Cell. Biol. 20, 8432-46 (2000).

Chao, M.Y., Kan, M.C., and Lin-Chao, S. RNAII transcribed by IPTG-induced T7 RNA polymerase is non-functional as a replication primer for ColE1-type plasmids in Escherichia coli. Nucl. Acids Res. 23, 1691-1695 (1995).