Minghong Ma, Ph.D.

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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


We are interested in how the brain perceives sensory information and responds appropriately using the mouse olfactory system as a model. Rodents primarily use olfactory cues to guide their behaviors (e.g., locating food, communicating with conspecifics, and avoiding danger). Odor detection relies on a large family (~1200 in mice) of G-protein coupled odorant receptors (ORs) expressed in olfactory sensory neurons (OSNs) in the nose. OSNs transmits sensory information to the olfactory bulb (the first relay station in the brain), which projects to several olfactory cortical and subcortical regions. Some OSNs serve dual functions as odor detectors and mechanical sensors, thus the olfactory system carries both the odor information and nasal breathing signal into the brain. Our current investigation focuses on how the olfactory system interacts with non-olfactory regions (e.g., the prefrontal cortex and striatum) to influence the brain activity and behavioral output. Since olfactory dysfunction is manifested in neuropsychiatric and neurodegenerative disorders, we are also interested in analyzing the olfactory system and related circuits in diseased states.


optogenetics, ex vivo and in vivo electrophysiology, fiber photometry, neural circuit tracing, mouse behavior, CRISPR-cas9 gene editing, immunohistochemistry, molecular biology

We welcome inquiries and applications from prospective students and postdocs. Please contact minghong@pennmedicine.upenn.edu.

Selected Publications

Bhattarai JP*, Schreck M, Moberly AH, Luo W, Ma M* : Aversive learning increases release probability of olfactory sensory neurons. Curr Biol 30: 31-41, 2020. Notes: *corresponding authors.

Moberly AH*, Schreck M, Bhattarai JP, Zweifel LS, Luo W, Ma M*: Olfactory inputs modulate respiration-related rhythmic activity in the prefrontal cortex and freezing behavior. Nat Commun 9: 1528, 2018. Notes: *corresponding authors.

Yu Y†*, Moberly AH†, Bhattarai JP, Duan C, Zheng Q, Li F, Huang H, Olson W, Luo W, Wen T, Yu H, Ma M*: The stem cell marker Lgr5 defines a subset of postmitotic neurons in the olfactory bulb. J Neurosci 37(39): 9403-9414, 2017. 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 112: 590-5, 2015. Notes: †equal contribution.

Yu Y†, de March CA†, Ni MJ, Adipietro KA, Golebiowski J*, Matsunami H*, Ma M* : Responsiveness of G protein-coupled odorant receptors is partially attributed to the activation mechanism. Proc Natl Acad Sci 112: 14966-14971, 2015. Notes: †equal contribution and *corresponding authors.

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 25: 2503-2512, 2015. Notes: Commented by Wall CM and Zhao H (2015) Sensory Biology: Novel Peripheral Organization for Better Smell. Curr Biol. 25:R833-6.

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.

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 103: 1970-1975, 2006. Notes: Featured in “In This Issue” by PNAS.

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Last updated: 06/11/2020
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