Dengke Ma, PhD

Assistant Professor
Cardiovascular Research Institute
Department of Physiology
+1 415 502-3386

We study how genes control life processes in homeostasis and organismic responses to extreme physical chemical conditions. Low temperature (hypothermia) and reduced oxygen (hypoxia) pervasively affect cellular metabolism and physiology, decelerate organismic biological time and trigger instinctive animal behaviors. Many species in nature have evolved unique traits to respond and adapt to severe hypothermia/hyperthermia/hypoxia. We use 1) genetically tractable C. elegans mutants isolated from large-scale screens with abnormal behavioral and extremophile-like phenotypes and 2) Mangrove Killifish, the only known self-fertilizing vertebrate with genetics similar to that of C. elegans and known extreme physiological phenotypes, as discovery tools. We also culture mammalian neural stem cells ex vivo from hibernating ground squirrels to unravel cellular intrinsic mechanisms of hypoxia/hypothermia tolerance. With multidisciplinary approaches and technologies, our long-term goal is to understand how animals integrate interoceptive states with environmental stimuli through nervous/vascular/respiratory systems to coordinate internal homeostasis and tolerance of severe abiotic stresses. This will identify new mechanisms of extreme physiology and general principles of biological adaptation, with potential applications in organ transplantation, reversible cryo-preservation and novel therapeutics to treat metabolic, neurological and ischemic disorders.

Primary Thematic Area: 
Tissue / Organ Biology & Endocrinology
Secondary Thematic Area: 
Neurobiology
Research Summary: 
Genetic analysis of extreme physiology and stem cell biology

Websites

Publications: 

Multiple excitatory and inhibitory neural signals converge to fine-tune Caenorhabditis elegans feeding to food availability.

FASEB journal : official publication of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology

Dallière N, Bhatla N, Luedtke Z, Ma DK, Woolman J, Walker RJ, Holden-Dye L, O'Connor V

Acyl-CoA Dehydrogenase Drives Heat Adaptation by Sequestering Fatty Acids.

Cell

Ma DK, Li Z, Lu AY, Sun F, Chen S, Rothe M, Menzel R, Sun F, Horvitz HR

CYP-13A12 of the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans is a PUFA-epoxygenase involved in behavioural response to reoxygenation.

The Biochemical journal

Keller J, Ellieva A, Ma DK, Ju J, Nehk E, Konkel A, Falck JR, Schunck WH, Menzel R

Cytochrome P450 drives a HIF-regulated behavioral response to reoxygenation by C. elegans.

Science (New York, N.Y.)

Ma DK, Rothe M, Zheng S, Bhatla N, Pender CL, Menzel R, Horvitz HR