Penn Comprehensive Neuroscience Center

Faculty Members
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Minghong Ma, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Neuroscience
Department: Neuroscience

Contact information
110 Johnson Pavilion
University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine
Philadelphia, PA 19104
Office: (215) 746-2790
Fax: 215-573-9050
Graduate Group Affiliations
B.S. (Biophysics)
Peking University , 1988.
M.S. (Biophysics)
Chinese Academy of Sciences, 1991.
Ph.D. (Neuroscience)
Columbia University , 1997.
Post-Graduate Training
Postdoctoral Associate, Yale University, 1997-2002.
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Description of Research Expertise


Neurobiology of the sense of smell


Patch clamp, Optical imaging, In situ hybridization, Immunohistochemistry, Neurotracing, Genechip, and Gene targeting


The mammalian olfactory system has the amazing capability of detecting and discriminating a myriad of odors, which relies on a large number (~1200 in rodents) of G-protein coupled odorant receptors. Each olfactory sensory neuron in the nose manages to express only one type odorant receptor. Even though the sensory neurons expressing a particular receptor are scattered in the nose, their axons converge onto two topographically specific microdomains (named glomeruli) in the olfactory bulb, the first relay center in the brain for processing odor information. By combining patch clamp, optical imaging, molecular, and genetic approaches, we are investigating how the olfactory sensory neurons with defined odorant receptors encode different odors in the environment and how olfactory experience modifies the sensitivity and organization of the system. In addition, we recently discovered that the olfactory sensory neurons serve dual functions as odor detectors and mechanical sensors. We are investigating the molecular mechanisms underlying the mechanosensitivity of these neurons and integration of the odor and airflow information by the olfactory system.

Selected Publications

Jiang Y†, Li YR†, Tian H, Ma M*, Matsunami H*: Muscarinic acetylcholine receptor M3 modulates odorant receptor activity via inhibition of β-Arrestin-2 recruitment. Nature Commun in press, 2015. Notes: †equal contribution and *corresponding authors.

Connelly T, Yu Y, Grosmaitre X, Wang J, Santarelli LC, Savigner A, Qiao X, Wang Z, Storm DR, Ma M: G Protein-coupled odorant receptors underlie mechanosensitivity in mammalian olfactory sensory neurons. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 112: 590-5, 2015.

Lee AC, He J and Ma M: Olfactory Marker Protein Is Critical for Functional Maturation of Olfactory Sensory Neurons and Development of Mother Preference. J Neurosci 31: 2974–2982, 2011.

Tan J, Savigner A, Ma M and Luo M: Odor information processing by the olfactory bulb analyzed in gene-targeted mice. Neuron 65: 912-926, 2010.

Grosmaitre X, Fuss SH, Lee AC, Adipietro KA, Matsunami H, Mombaerts P and Ma M: SR1, a mouse odorant receptor with an unusually broad response profile. J Neurosci 29: 14545-14552, 2009.

Tian H and Ma M: Activity plays a role in eliminating olfactory sensory neurons expressing multiple odorant receptors in the mouse septal organ. Mol Cell Neurosci 38: 484-488, 2008.

Grosmaitre X, Santarelli LC, Tan J, Luo M and Ma M: Dual functions of mammalian olfactory sensory neurons as odor detectors and mechanical sensors. Nature Neurosci 10: 348-354, 2007. Notes: Featured in Research Highlights in Nature (March 1, 2007), 446:5.

Grosmaitre X, Vassalli A, Mombaerts P, Shepherd GM and Ma M: Odorant responses of olfactory sensory neurons expressing the odorant receptor MOR23: a patch clamp analysis in gene-targeted mice. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 103: 1970-1975, 2006. Notes: Featured in “In This Issue” by PNAS.

Tian H and Ma M: Molecular organization of the olfactory septal organ. J Neurosci 24: 8383-8390, 2004.

Ma M, Grosmaitre X, Iwema CL, Baker H, Greer CA and Shepherd GM: Olfactory signal transduction in the mouse septal organ. J Neurosci 23: 317-324, 2003.

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Last updated: 06/15/2015
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