Graduate Studies Faculty

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David B. Morton, Ph.D.

Professor, Integrative Biosciences
Admin Unit: School of Dentistry (all departments)
Phone: 503-494-8596
Office: SD 705
Mail Code: SD
Cell & Developmental Biology
Neuroscience Graduate Program
Program in Molecular & Cellular Biosciences
Research Interests:
Cell signaling in the nervous system; cellular; developmental, Neurodegeneration, Neurobiology of Disease » PubMed Listing
Preceptor Rotations
Academic Term Available Winter 2017 Yes
Faculty Mentorship
Dr. Morton is available as a mentor for 2016-2017.

Summary of Current Research

My lab is primarily interested in intracellular signaling pathways in the nervous system with a specific focus on the messenger, cyclic GMP. Cyclic GMP has been shown to be regulate diverse physiological functions including phototransduction, smooth muscle tone, water balance and ion fluxes and neuronal plasticity. Cyclic GMP is synthesized by the enzyme guanylyl cyclase (GC) of which there are two major families: cytoplasmically localized soluble GCs (sGCs) and membrane associated receptor GCs (rGCs).

Currently, my lab works exclusively on Drosophila, harnessing the astonishing array of genetic and genomic tools to understand the function and regulation of cGMP signaling. Our primary focus is on 3 genes that code for NO-insensitive sGCs. We have shown that they are regulated by oxygen and appear to play a role in olfactory and gustatory mediated behaviors.

We have recently begun a new project to use Drosophila as a model to understand genes associated with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). An RNA binding protein, TDP-43, has recently been shown to be associated with ALS, yet little is known of its normal functions. We are using reverse genetics to understand the effects of loss-of-function and gain-of-function of TDP-43.


Recent Publications

1.       Zimmer, M., Gray, J.M., Pokala, N., Chang, A.J., Karow, D.S., Marletta, M.A., Hudson, M.L., Morton, D.B., Chronis, N. and Bargmann, C.I. (2009). Neurons detect increases and decreases in oxygen levels using distinct guanylate cyclases. Neuron 61, 865-879. PMID: 19323996, PMCID: PMC2760494

2.       Morton, D. B., Clemens-Grisham, R., Hazelett, D.J. and Vermehren-Schmaedick, A. (2010). Infertility and male mating behavior deficits associated with Pde1c in Drosophila melanogaster. Genetics 186: 159–165. PMID: 20551439, PMCID: PMC2940284

3.       Vermehren-Schmaedick, A. Ainsley, J.A., Johnson, W.A., Davies, S-A. andMorton, D.B. (2010). Behavioral responses to hypoxia in Drosophila larvae are mediated by atypical soluble guanylyl cyclases. Genetics 186: 183–196. PMID: 20592263 PMCID: PMC2940286

4.       Vermehren-Schmaedick, A., Scudder, C., Timmermans, W. and Morton, D.B. (2011). Drosophila gustatory preference behaviors require the atypical soluble guanylyl cyclases. J. Comp Physiol A. 197, 717-727. PMID: 21350862

5.       Hazelett, D.J., Chang, J-C., Lakeland, D.L. and Morton, D.B. (2012). Comparison of parallel hi-throughput RNA-sequencing between knockout of TDP-43 and its overexpression reveals primarily non-reciprocal and non-overlapping gene expression changes in the central nervous system of Drosophila. G3:Genes, Genomes, Genetics 2, 789-802. PMID: 22870402 PMCID: PMC3385985.

6.       Brown, K.M., Day, J.P., Huston, E., Zimmermann, B., Hampel, K., Christian, F., Romano, D., Terhzaz, S., Lee, L.C.Y., Willis, M.J., Morton, D.B., Beavo, J.A., Shimizu-Albergine, M., Davies, S.A., Kolch, W., Houslay, M.D. and Baillie, G.S. (2013). Phosphodiesterase-8A binds to and regulates Raf-1 kinase. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. 110, E1533-42.



BA, PhD University of Cambridge, England

Previous Positions

Post-doc, University of Washington, Seattle

Assistant, Associate Professor, University of Arizona, Tucson

Non-Academic Interests