HomeFacultyDiane O’Dowd

Diane O’Dowd

Diane O’Dowd, Ph.D.
HHMI Professor 
Developmental and Cell Biology
Vice Provost, Academic Personnel
University of California Irvine
Irvine, CA 92697-2300
Lab Office Tel: (949) 824-4562
Lab Tel: (949) 824-8141
Vice Provost Office Tel: 949-824-0663
Email: dkodowd@uci.edu
Website: Lab Homepage


Sypnatic plasticity; Excitability – For the past 25 years my research lab at UCI has studied the activity of living neurons from the brains of both flies and mice. Using molecular genetic manipulations and whole cell electrophysiology we are exploring the role of specific genes in regulating functional plasticity of developing and mature neural circuits. We are also examining how environmental factors such as exposure to specific drugs, including nicotine, can influence information transfer between neurons. A basic understanding of the genes and environmental factors that influence information processing between small groups of neurons is key to development of drugs and gene therapies aimed at restoring normal activity in the human brain that has been damaged by injury, disease, or exposure to drugs of abuse. These studies will also provide important clues as to the factors that might enhance normal cognitive function both during development and in the mature human brain. We are currently exploring the role of human sodium channel mutations that cause epilepsy on channel function and neuronal activity using knock-in transgenic flies along with parallel studies in neurons derived from induced human pluripotent stem cells generated from fibroblasts obtained from individuals with these mutations.

Teaching is also an important facet of my career. With resources provided by an HHMI Professorship we are working to transform the relationship between teaching and research at UCI, a setting where research tends to dominate, and teaching is often viewed a burdensome chore. We are developing strategies to help create dynamic learning environments in large biology classes that are compatible with the faculty building or maintaining successful research programs. We also provide training in interactive teaching for graduate students TAs teaching discussions and postdoctoral fellows mentoring undergraduates in research. Finally, we have a program aimed at increasing the number of undergraduate biology majors participating in education abroad, with a particular focus on recruiting students who are members of groups underrepresented in the sciences.

Recent Publications

  • Schutte, Ryan J., S.S. Schutte, J.Algara, E.V. Barragan, J.Gilligan, Cynthia Staber, Yiannis A. Savva, Martin A. Smith, Robert Reenan, and Diane K. O’Dowd (2014) Knock-in model of Dravet Syndrome reveals a constitutive and conditional reduction in sodium current. J. Neurophysiol. 112: 903-912. PMID: 24805083
  • Brick, D.J., H.E. Nethercott, S. Montesano, M.G. Banuelos, A.E. Stover, S.S. Schutte, D. K. O’Dowd, R. J. Hagerman, M. Ono, D.R. Hessl, F. Tassone, and P.H. Schwartz (2014) The autism spectrum disorders stem cell resource at CHOC Children’s: Implication for disease modeling and drug discovery. Stem Cells Translational Medicine 3: 1275-1286. PMID: 25273538
  • Narayanareddy, B.R.J, S. Vartiainen, N. Hariri, D.K. O’Dowd and S.P. Gross(2014) A biophysical analysis of mitochondrial movement: differences between transport in neuronal cell bodies versus processes. Traffic 15: 762-71. PMID 24673933
  • Jiang*, S., A.E. Williams*, M. Warschauer, W. He, and D.K.O’Dowd (2014) Influence of incentives on performance in a Pre-college Biology MOOC. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning (IRRODL), 15.5 (*co-first authors).
  • Iniguez, J., S.S. Schutte, and D.K. O’Dowd (2013) Cav3-type α1T calcium channels mediate transient calcium currents that regulate repetitive firing in Drosophila antennal lobe PNs. J. Neurophysiol. 110: 1490-1496 PMID: 23864373
  • Stover, A., D. Brick, H. Nethercott, M. Banuelos, L. Sun, D. K. O’Dowd, and P. Schwartz (2013) Process-based expansion and neural differentation of human pluripotent stem cells for transplantation and disease-modeling. J. Neurosci. Res 91: 1247-1262. PMID: 23893392
  • Sun, L., J. Gilligan, C. Staber, R.J. Schutte, V. Nguyen, D.K.O’Dowd* and R. Reenan* (2012) A knock-in model of human epilepsy in Drosophila reveals a novel cellular mechanism associated with heat-induced seizure. J. Neurosci. 32: 14145-14155. *co-corresponding authors
  • Aguilar-Roca, N.M., A. E. Williams, and D.K. O’Dowd (2012) The impact of laptop-free zones on student performance and attitudes in large lectures.  Computers & Education, in press.
  • William, A., N.M. Aguilar-Roca, M. Tsai, M. Wong, M. Moravec Beaupré, and D. K. O’Dowd (2011) Assessment of learning gains associated with independent exam analysis in introductory biology. CBE-Life Science Education 10: 346-356. PMC3228653
  • Ren, P., H. Zhang, F. Qiu, Y.Q. Liu, H. Gu, D.K. O’Dowd, Q.Y. Zhou, and W.P. Hu. (2011) Prokineticin 2 regulates the electrical activity of rat suprachiasmatic nuclei neurons. PloSOne 6:(6):e20263. PMC3110640.
  • Anderson, W.A., U. Banerjee, C.L. Drennan, S.C.R. Elgin, I.R. Epstein, J. Handelsman, G.F. Hatfull, R. Losick*, D.K. O’Dowd*, B.M. Olivera, S.A. Strobel, G.C. Walker, and I.M. Warner (2011) Changing the Culture of Science Education at Research Universities. Science 331: 152-153. *corresponding authors.
  • Moravec, M, A. Williams, N. Aguilar-Roca, D.K. O’Dowd (2010) Learn before lecture: A strategy that improves learning outcomes in a large introductory biology class. CBE-Life Science Education 9: 473-481. PMC2995765
  • Gu*, H., S.A. Jiang*, J.M. Campusano*, J. Iniguez*, H. Su, A.A. Hoang, M. Lavian, X. Sun, and D.K.O’Dowd (2009) Cav2-type calcium channels encoded by cac regulate AP-independent neurotransmitter release at cholinergic synapses in adult Drosophila brain. J. Neurophysiol. 101: 42-53. * authors contributed equally. PMC2637009
  • Sheeba, V.*, H. Gu*, V.K. Sharma, D.K.O’Dowd, and T. Holmes (2008) Circadian- and light-dependent regulation of resting membrane potential and spontaneous action potential firing of Drosophila  circadian pacemaker neurons. J. Neurophysiol. 99: 976-88. *authors contributed equally to the work. PMC2692874
  • Oh, H-W, J,M. Campusano, L.G.W. Hilgenberg, X. Sun, M.A. Smith, and D.K. O’Dowd (2008) Ultrastructural analysis of chemical synapses and gap junctions between Drosophila brain neurons in culture. Dev. Neurobiology 68: 281-294.
  • Gu, H. and D.K. O’Dowd (2006) Cholinergic synaptic transmission in Drosophila Kenyon cells in situ. J. Neurosci. 26: 265-272. PMID: 16399696
  • Hilgenberg, L.G.W, H. Su, H. Gu, D.K.O’Dowd, and M.A. Smith (2006) a3Na+/K+-ATPase is a neuronal receptor for agrin. Cell 125: 359-369. PMID: 16630822

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