Michael Gordon


I use molecular genetics, imaging, and behaviour to explore the organization, function, and development of neural circuits that process sensory information in the fruit fly brain.

Our brains are composed of billions of neurons, wired together in neural circuits that process information from the environment and produce behaviours. My lab is interested in the organization, function, and development of these circuits. We study this problem in the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster, an organism with a brain that is much simpler than ours (~100,000 neurons compared to our ~100 billion), but still capable of generating complex behaviours. The fly also offers a powerful array of molecular and genetic tools for identifying, manipulating, and measuring the activity of neural circuits. With a focus on the circuits underlying taste perception and feeding behaviour, we are interested in the following questions:

  1. How are sensory circuits organized? We use behavioural assays to identify new circuit neurons, and imaging of specialized molecular labels to understand how these neurons are connected together in the brain.
  2. How do neural circuits control behaviour? We use genetic techniques to manipulate neuron activity and measure the behavioural consequences. We also use functional live imaging to measure neural activity in an awake, behaving fly.
  3. How do neural circuits adapt? We use molecular genetics to manipulate gene function and determine how different molecules modulate circuit activity and fly behaviour.
  4. How do circuits develop? We use a combination of genetics and behaviour to uncover molecules regulating circuit assembly and understand their roles during development.

Our hope is that answering these questions will reveal fundamental principles of neural circuit assembly and function, and important molecules that regulate feeding. Since many of the characteristics of fly circuits are likely to be conserved in mammals, this should give us insight into our own brain, and how it controls what (and how much) we eat.

2022 Faculty Excellence in Service Award

For Service

Faculty of Science, University of British Columbia

Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research Scholar

For Research

Canadian Association of Neuroscience Young Investigator

For Research

CIHR New Investigator

For Research
A complex peripheral code for salt taste in Drosophila
eLife 2018;7:e37167
Jaeger AH*, Stanley M*, Weiss Z, Musso P-Y, Chan RCW, Zhang H, Feldman-Kiss D, Gordon MD
Heparan sulfate organizes neuronal synapses through Neurexin partnerships
Cell 174:1-15
Zhang P, Lu H, Peixoto RT, Pines MK, Ge Y, Oku S, Siddiqui TJ, Xie Y, Wu W, Archer-Hartmann S, Yoshida K, Tanaka KF, Aricescu AR, Azadi P, Gordon MD, Sabatini BL, Wong ROL, Craig AM.
Starvation-induced depotentiation of bitter taste in Drosophila
Current Biology 26(21):2854-2861
LeDue EE, Mann K, Koch E, Chu B, Dakin R, Gordon MD
Pharyngeal sense organs drive robust sugar consumption in Drosophila
Nature Communications 6:6667 doi: 10.1038/ncomms7667
LeDue EE, Chen Y-C, Jung AY, Dahanukar A, Gordon MD
Four GABAergic interneurons impose feeding restraint in Drosophila
Neuron 83(1):164-77
Pool A-H, Kvello P, Mann K, Gordon MD, Cheung SK, Scott K
Presynaptic gain control drives sweet and bitter taste integration in Drosophila
Current Biology 24(17):1978-84
Chu B, Chui V, Mann K, Gordon MD
A pair of interneurons influences the choice between feeding and locomotion in Drosophila
Neuron 79(4):754-765
Mann K, Gordon MD, Scott K
Integration of taste and calorie sensing in Drosophila
J Neurosci 32(42): 14767-74
Stafford JW, Lynd KM, Jung AY, Gordon MD
A suppressor/enhancer screen in Drosophila reveals a role for Wnt-mediated lipid metabolism in primordial germ cell migration
PLOS ONE 6(11):e26993
McElwain MA, Ko DC, Gordon MD, Fryst H, Saba JD, Nusse R
Control of postmating response in Drosophila females by internal sensory neurons
Neuron 61(4): 519-26
Yang CH, Rumpf S, Xiang Y, Gordon MD, Song W, Jan LY, Jan YN