Nigel Atkinson

Atkinson, Nigel
Professor in Neuroscience



Main Office: PAT 228
Phone: 232-3404

Alternate Office: PAT 230
Phone: (512) 471-1629

Mailing Address:
The University of Texas at Austin
Neurobiology, Section of
1 University Station C0920
Austin, TX 78712-0248

Research Lab Students:
    Graduate Student
  • AlHazan, Yazan - Graduate Student
  • Li, Xiaolei - Graduate Student
  • Pohl, Jascha - Graduate Student
  • Ramazani, Rosie - Graduate Student
  • Troutwine, Benjamin - Graduate Student
  • Wang, Yan (Diane) - Graduate Student
    Post Doctoral
  • Krishnan, Harish - Post Doctoral

  • Research Summary:

    Tolerance is an insidious response to an addictive drug. It causes one to consume more of the drug and and speeds the user down the path of addiction. We study the molecular mechanisms underlying drug tolerance in the fruit fly Drosophila. We sedate flies with organic solvent anesthetics and with alcohol and then monitor animal behavior. We use Drosophila genetics and molecular biology to determine how the Drosophila nervous system responds to the drug to generate behavioral tolerance. We then use the drug-induced patterns of histone modification to identify genes and DNA elements that are important for production of tolerance. We have shown that the BK-type Ca2+-activated K+ channel gene is induced by sedation and is required for production of tolerance. In the presence of the drug, increased expression from this gene counters the effects of the drug, but once the drug is cleared the increase in expression produces a withdrawal phenotype. We have mapped drug-responsive DNA elements that are important for gene induction. We are now taking this approach to a genomic level to identify additional genes and transcriptional responses.

    Research Images:

    Ring of Flies

    One fly

    Still another fly

    Three Ring Flies

    Electrodes and a fly



    2010Ghezzi A, Pohl JB, Wang Y and Atkinson NS, BK channels play a counter-adaptive role in drug tolerance and dependence, PNAS 107:16360-16365 view.
    2009Wang Y, Ghezzi A, Yin JC, Atkinson NS, CREB regulation of BK channel gene expression underlies rapid drug tolerance, Genes Brain Behav 8:369-376 view.
    2007Wang, Y, Krishnan, HR, Ghezzi, A, Yin, JCP, Atkinson, NS , Drug-induced epigenetic changes produce drug tolerance, PLoS-Biology 5:e265 view.
    2006Cowmeadow RB, Krishnan HR, Ghezzi A, Al'Hasan YM, Wang YZ, Atkinson NS, Ethanol tolerance caused by slowpoke induction in Drosophila., Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 30:745-753.
    2005Cowmeadow RB, Krishnan HR, Atkinson NS, The slowpoke gene is necessary for rapid ethanol tolerance in Drosophila., Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 29:1777-0786.
    2004Ghezzi A, Al-Hasan YM, Larios L, Bohm R, Atkinson N, slo K+ channel gene regulation mediates rapid drug tolerance., Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 101:17276-17281 view.

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