Minghong Ma

faculty photo
Associate Professor of Neuroscience
Department: Neuroscience
Graduate Group Affiliations

Contact information
110 Johnson Pavilion
University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine
Philadelphia, PA 19104
Office: (215) 746-2790
Fax: 215-573-9050
B.S. (Biophysics)
Peking University , 1988.
M.S. (Biophysics)
Chinese Academy of Sciences, 1991.
Ph.D. (Neuroscience)
Columbia University , 1997.
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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

Challis RC, Tian H, Wang J, He J, Jiang J, Chen X, Yin W, Connelly T, Ma L, Yu CR, Pluznick JL, Storm DR, Huang L, Zhao K, Ma M: An olfactory cilia pattern in the mammalian nose ensures high sensitivity to odors. Curr Biol in press, 2015.

de March CA†, Yu Y†, Ni MJ, Adipietro KA, Matsunami H*, Ma M*, Golebiowski J.*: Conserved residues control activation of mammalian G Protein-coupled odorant receptors. J Am Chem Soc 137: 8611-8616, 2015 Notes: †equal contribution and *corresponding authors.

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 6: 6448 (1-15), 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.

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.

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Last updated: 07/30/2015
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