Charles S. Zuker, Ph.D.

Charles Zuker
Professor, Principal HHMI Investigator
Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics
Columbia University
701 West 168th Street
Room 517
City, State, Zip
New York, NY 10032
(212) 305-7921
Research Field
Award Year


Our long-term goal is to elucidate mechanisms used for signal transduction and information processing in sensory systems, and to understand how the senses create an internal representation of the outside world. We use the taste system as a model for our studies (chemosensation) as it provides a powerful platform to dissect the processing of sensory information, from detection at the periphery to perception in the brain. In addition, the sense of taste is exquisitely modulated by the internal state of the organism (hunger, satiety, expectation, emotion, etc.), and thus it serves as a rich model to explore multisensory integration.Our research of the past few years has focused on identifying the receptors and cells for sweet, umami, bitter, sour, salty and carbonation, and in the process, defining the logic of taste coding at the periphery. Currently, we are continuing our work on the periphery, but in addition we are moving our research vigorously into the brain to investigate how information from the tongue is mapped, decoded and transformed in the various tastebrain centers.Temperature affects nearly every biological process, hence it is not surprising that animals evolved sophisticated ways to sense and respond to temperature changes. How are hot and cold stimuli detected at the periphery? How are they processed in the brain? How are they integrated to produce behaviors such as temperature preference or avoidance of noxious extremes? We study the logic of temperature coding using the fruitfly Drosophila, a system ideally suited for a comprehensive genetic and molecular dissection of complex circuits and behaviors.

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