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David Deitcher

Associate Professor

Seeley G Mudd Bio Science Wing, Room W125


I have a strong interest in how synaptic transmission is regulated. I have utilized Drosophila as a model system for identifying mutants in synaptic transmission. I have previously focused on how neurotransmitter release is controlled. Currently, I am examining what pathways regulate the overall activity in the nervous system and how these pathways go awry in disease states such as epilepsy.




  • Neurobiology and Behavior

Graduate Fields

  • Genetics, Genomics and Development
  • Neurobiology and Behavior


  • Program in Neuroscience


How are behaviors generated?   This question remains a very challenging one.  However, genetic model organisms can provide essential tools with which to probe different behaviors.  The Deitcher laboratory is using the genetic and transgenic tools of Drosophila melanogaster to uncover the molecular mechanisms that underlie normal and abnormal behaviors.  Our laboratory is also collaborating with the Bass lab in the study of communication and hearing in fish and with the Levitan lab on neuropeptide mobility and secretion.

Approximately 50 million people worldwide suffer from epilepsy.  While there are many different types of seizures, uncontrolled neural activity is shared by all forms of epilepsy.  A class of Drosophila mutants, known as bang-sensitives, reproduces many aspects of the human disease.  My laboratory has conducted screens to identify enhancers and suppressors of these bang-sensitives in order to identify pathways that regulate neuronal activity.  Our hope is that the genes we identify in Drosophila will lead to the development of new drugs to treat the human disease.  

In order for insects to grow larger and develop, they need to shed their old cuticle.  The process of ecdysis involves stereotyped rhythmic muscle contractions that free the larva from the old cuticle.  Ecdysis is initiated after a series of neuropeptide hormones are released in the proper sequence.  We are studying when these neuropeptides are secreted using a GFP-tagged neuropeptide.  We are also using RNAi to perturb the neuropeptide signaling process necessary for this behavior.  Through both approaches we will dissect the sequence of events that lead to this simple behavior. 

Drosophila males court females with a courtship song.  Like many animals, this communication is important for mating success.  What neurons are involved in this complex behavior?  What genes regulate this process?  We are investigating which genes are involved in generating the courtship song.  We have found a transcription factor that affects the ability of males to produce the song.  We are investigating how this transcription factor is involved in the network of neurons that produce the song.



  • Dean DM, Maroja LS, Cottrill S, Bomkamp BE, Westervelt KA, Deitcher DL (2015) The wavy Mutation Maps to the Inositol 1,4,5-Trisphosphate 3-Kinase 2 (IP3K2) Gene of Drosophila and Interacts with IP3R to Affect Wing Development. G3 6:299-310. PDF
  • Lawton KJ, Wassmer TL, Deitcher DL. (2014) Conserved role of Drosophila melanogaster FoxP in motor coordination and courtship song. Behav Brain Res. 268:213-21.
  • Bulgari D, Zhou C, Hewes RS, Deitcher DL, Levitan ES. (2014) Vesicle capture, not delivery, scales up neuropeptide storage in neuroendocrine terminals. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 111:3597-601.
  • Gallant JR, Hopkins CD, Deitcher DL. (2012) Differential expression of genes and proteins between electric organ and skeletal muscle in the mormyrid electric fish Brienomyrus brachyistius. J Exp Biol. 215:2479-94
  • Wong MY, Zhou C, Shakiryanova D, Lloyd TE, Deitcher DL, Levitan ES. (2012)
  • Neuropeptide delivery to synapses by long-range vesicle circulation and sporadic capture. Cell 148:1029-38.
  • Shakiryanova D, Morimoto T, Zhou C, Chouhan AK, Sigrist SJ, Nose A, Macleod GT, Deitcher DL, Levitan ES (2011) Differential control of presynaptic CaMKII activation and translocation to active zones. J Neurosci. Jun 31:9093-100.
  • Arterbery AS, Fergus DJ, Fogarty EA, Mayberry J, Deitcher DL, Lee Kraus W, Bass AH. (2011) Evolution of ligand specificity in vertebrate corticosteroid receptors. BMC Evol Biol. 11:14.
  • Loveall BJ, Deitcher DL. (2010) The essential role of bursicon during Drosophila development. BMC Dev Biol. 10:92. PDF
  • Arterbery AS, Deitcher DL, Bass AH. (2010) Divergent expression of 11beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase and 11beta-hydroxylase genes between male morphs in the central nervous system, sonic muscle and testis of a vocal fish. Gen Comp Endocrinol. 167:44-50.
  • Forlano PM, Marchaterre M, Deitcher DL, Bass AH. (2010) Distribution of androgen receptor mRNA expression in vocal, auditory, and neuroendocrine circuits in a teleost fish. J Comp Neurol. 518:493-512.
  • Arterbery AS, Deitcher DL, Bass AH. (2010) Corticosteroid receptor expression in a teleost fish that displays alternative male reproductive tactics. Gen Comp Endocrinol. 165:83-90.
  • Rohmann KN, Deitcher DL, Bass AH (2009). Calcium-activated potassium (BK) channels are encoded by duplicate slo1 genes in teleost fishes. Mol Biol Evol 26:1509-21.
  • Shakiryanova D, Klose MK, Zhou Y, Gu T, Deitcher DL, Atwood HL, Hewes RS, Levitan ES. (2007). Presynaptic ryanodine receptor-activated calmodulin kinase II increases vesicle mobility and potentiates neuropeptide release. J Neurosci.18:7799-806.Sturman DA,
  • Shakiryanova D, Hewes R, Deitcher D, Levitan ES. (2006). Nearly Neutral Secretory Vesicles in Drosophila Nerve Terminals. Biophys J., 90, 45-47.
  • Forlano PM, Deitcher DL, Bass AH. (2005). Distribution of estrogen receptor alpha mRNA in the brain and inner ear of a vocal fish with comparisons to sites of aromatase expression.J Comp Neurol. 483, 91-113.
  • Shakiryanova D, Tully A, Hewes RS, Deitcher DL, Levitan ES. (2005). Activity-dependent liberation of synaptic neuropeptide vesicles. Nat Neurosci. 8, 173-8.
  • Sisneros JA, Forlano PM, Deitcher DL, Bass AH (2004). Steroid-dependent auditory plasticity leads to adaptive coupling of sender and receiver. Science 305, 404-407.
  • Rivlin PK, St Clair RM, Vilinsky I, Deitcher DL. (2004). Morphology and molecular organization of the adult neuromuscular junction of Drosophila. J Comp Neurol. 468, 596-613.
  • Vilinsky, I., Stewart, B., Drummond, J., Robinson, I., and Deitcher, D. (2002). A Drosophila SNAP-25 Null Mutant Reveals Context-Dependent Redundancy With SNAP-24 In Neurotransmission. Genetics 162, 259-271.
  • Deitcher, D (2002). Effective Mining of Information in Sequence Databases. In: Bioinformatics 2002: A Neuroscientist's Guide to Tools and Techniques for Mining and Refining Massive Data Sets, Williams and Goldowitz, eds, Society for Neuroscience, Washington.
  • Deitcher, D (2002). Exocytosis, endocytosis, and development. Seminars in Cell and Developmental Biology, 13, 71-76.
  • Stewart, B., Mohtashami, M., Rivlin, P., Deitcher, D., Trimble, W., and Boulianne, G. (2002). Disruption of Synaptic Structure and Function by Mutant NSF at Drosophila Neuromuscular Synapses. J. Neurobiol., 51, 261-271.
  • Rao, S, Stewart, B, Rivlin, P, Vilinsky, I, Watson, B, Lang, C, Boulianne, G, Salpeter, M, and Deitcher, D (2001). Two Distinct Effects on Neurotransmission in a Temperature-Sensitive SNAP-25 Mutant. EMBO J, 20, 6761-6771.
  • Watson, B, Vilinsky, I, and Deitcher, D (2001). Generation of a Semi-Dominant Mutation with Temperature Sensitive Effects on Both Locomotion and Phototransduction in Drosophila Melanogaster. J. Neurgenet., 15, 75-95.
  • Forlano, P, Deitcher, D, Myers, D, and Bass, A (2001). Anatomical distribution and cellular basis for high levels of estrogen synthesis in the brain of teleost fish: aromatase enzyme and mRNA expression identify glia as source. J. Neurosci., 21, 8943-8955.
  • Rao, S, Lang, C, Levitan, E, and Deitcher, D (2001). Visualization of Neuropeptide Expression, Transport, and Exocytosis in Drosophila melanogaster. J. Neurobiol. 49, 159-172. Deitcher, D (2001). Shibire's enhancer is Cancer's Suppressor. TINS, 24, 625-626.
  • Sucher, N, Deitcher, D, Baro, D, Harris-Warrick, R, Guenther, E (2000). Genes and Channels: Patch/Voltage-Clamp Analysis and Single Cell RT-PCR. Cell Tissue Res. 302, 295-307.

Movement of Secretory Granules Across an Axon. View Movie

Movement of Secretory Granules in Synaptic Boutons. View Movie