Skip to Main Content

You are in the main content

Susan Halsell
Contact Info

B.A. - University of Texas at Austin
M.A. - University of Texas at Austin
Ph.D. - California Institute of Technology

E-mail -
Phone - 540-568-3909
Fax - 540-568-3333
Office - Bioscience 3016E

Office Hours

Courses:   Genetics and Development (BIO 224), Human Genetics (BIO 324), Scientific Communication (BIO 500), Effective Teaching (BIO 600), and Scientific Presentations

Research Interests:  Genetic and Cellular Characterization of Nociception

Nociception describes a collection of nervous system responses to potentially damaging stimuli.  For example, when you pull your hand away from a hot stove, this is a nociception response.  This perception of pain and the reflexive response are clearly beneficial to the organism.  However, mistakes in the process may contribute to debilitating chronic pain. Understanding the underlying cellular and molecular components of nociceptor neurons may lead to better treatments of pain.

Work in my laboratory utilizes Drosophila melanogaster (the fruit fly) to dissect the nociception response to extreme cold.  A simple behavioral assay reveals that larvae contract (the cringe response) in response to cold.  Further, studies show that a specific set of peripheral neurons mediate this response.  We are identifying molecules that contribute to this response with a high throughput behavioral assay.  Expression of candidate proteins, including ion channels and innexins,  is down-regulated by RNA interference.  If larvae fail to cringe under this condition, we further characterize the role of the protein utilizing optogenetic assays.  In this way, we hope to discover proteins involved in the reception of the noxious stimulus and/or propagation of the signal.  At the neuronal level, nociceptors are similar in Drosophila and humans and they share molecular signaling pathways.  Thus, we anticipate we will identify evolutionarily conserved nociception mechanisms.

Selected Publications:   *undergraduate co-author

Filak, M.*, Johnson, R.*, Campo, J.J.* and Halsell, S.R. (2014) Creation of a Heat-inducible Drosophila RhoA+ Transgene and Chromosomal Mapping of the Genomic Insertions of the Transgene. BIOS. 85:19-29.

Bayer, C.A., Halsell, S.R., Fristrom, J.W., Kiehart, D.P. and von Kalm, L.  (2003) Genetic Interactions between the RhoA and Stubble-stubbloid Loci Suggest a Role for a Type II Transmembrane Serine Protease in Intracellular Signaling during Drosophila Imaginal Disc Morphogenesis. Genetics, 165:1417-1432.

Halsell, S.R., Chu, B.I.* and Kiehart, D.P.  (2000) Genetic analysis demonstrates a direct link between Rho signaling and nonmuscle myosin function during Drosophila morphogenesis. Genetics, 155:1253-1265.

Bashirullah, A., Halsell, S.R., Cooperstock, R.L., Kloc, M., Karaiskakis, A., Fisher, W.W., Fu, W., Hamilton, J.K., Etkin, L.D. and Lipshitz, H.D.  (1999) Joint action of two RNA degradation pathways controls the timing of maternal transcript elimination at the midblastula transition in Drosophila melanogaster.  EMBO J. 18:2610-2620

Halsell, S.R. and Kiehart, D.P.  (1998) Second-site noncomplementation identifies genomic regions required for Drosophila nonmuscle myosin function during morphogenesis.  Genetics.  148:1845-1863.

Halsell, S.R. and Lipshitz, H.D..  (1995) Mechanisms and functions of RNA localization to the posterior pole of the Drosophila oocyte and early embryo.  In: Localized RNAs, Lipshitz, H.D. (ed) pp. 9-39.  Austin: R.G. Landes/CRC Press.

Ding, D., Parkhurst, S.M., Halsell, S.R., and Lipshitz, H.D.  (1993) Dynamic Hsp83 RNA localization during Drosophila oogenesis and embryogenesis.  Mol. Cell. Biol.  13:3773-3781.

Strecker, T.R., Halsell, S.R., Fisher, W.W., and Lipshitz, H.D.  (1989) Reciprocal effects of hyper- and hypoactivity mutations in the Drosophila pattern gene torso.  Science.  243:1062-1066.