Yuuki Obata, Ph.D.


Yuuki Obata, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Immunology and Neuroscience
University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center
5323 Harry Hines Blvd.
City, State, ZIP
Dallas, TX 75390-9093
[email protected]
Research field
Award year


The Obata lab will determine whether the gut harbors a circadian pacemaker, separate from that of the brain. Circadian rhythms allow organisms to synchronize their physiology with the time of day, regulating everything from body temperature to sleep. The intestine is particularly in sync with these cycles, even boosting its immune defenses at feeding time—when an animal might encounter food-borne, disease-causing microbes. Although it is currently thought that these activities are all coordinated by a master clock present in the brain, I hypothesize that the intestine might harbor a timekeeper of its own. After all, the gut possesses its own independent nervous system (termed the enteric nervous system), and I have found that the enteric nervous system separated from the body shows rhythmic expression of genes that form the gears of the circadian clock. Now, using advanced techniques in neuroscience, immunology, microbiology, and optogenetics, I will examine mouse models with the inactivation of a core clock gene specifically in the enteric nervous system to determine whether these animals become more susceptible to a food-borne infection and to observe changes in the rhythmic activity of intestinal immune cells as well as in circadian behaviors. My findings will bridge the understanding of gut neural connections with the immune system and the brain and could lead to new treatments for intestinal infections and disorders of the gut-brain axis.

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