Jean C. Shih, Ph.D.

Boyd and Elsie Welin Professor
Molecular Pharmacology and Toxicology
Norris Cancer Center, Associate Member

Neurotransmitter Gene and Behavior


My research objectives are to understand the molecular mechanisms involved in neurotransmission, and to provide novel approaches for designing brain specific therapeutic agents for the treatment of depression and age-related neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinsonís and Alzheimerís disease. Our research projects are focused on regulation, structure and function of the monoamine oxidase enzyme and serotonin receptors.

Monoamine oxidase (MAO) A and B play vital roles in the metabolism of catecholamines and serotonin in the central nervous system and peripheral tissues. Abnormal levels of MAO are associated with Schizophrenia, Alzheimerís disease, Depression and Alcoholism. Deficiency in MAO A are related to aggressive behavior. Serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine, 5-HT) and itsí receptors regulate hormone secretion, blood pressure, sleep and sexual behavior. Low serotonin levels and abnormal 5-HT receptor activity have been implicated in the etiology and therapeutic treatment of mental depression.

The work in my laboratory is moving toward a detailed functional understanding of these important and complex brain molecules which will greatly contribute to our knowledge and treatment of mental disorder including aggressive behavior in human.

Selected Publications

  1. Case, O., Seif., Grimsby, J., Gaspar, P., Chen, K., Pournin, S., Miller, U., Auget, M., Babinet, C., Shih, J.C., and De Maeyer, E. Aggressive behavior and altered amounts of brain serotonin and norepinephrine in mice lacking MAO A. Science 268: 1763-76, (1995).
  2. Zhu, Q-S, Chen, K., and Shih, J.C. Characterization of human 5-HT2A receptor promotor. J. Neurosci. 15: 4885-95, (1995).
  3. Chen, K.,Wu, H-F, grimsby, J., and Shih, J.C. Cloning of a novel monoamine oxidase (MAO) cDNA from trout liver. Mol. Pharmacol. 46: 1226-33, (1994).