Karen Mesce, Ph.D.

Professor, Department of Entomology

E-MAIL: mesce001@umn.edu

Research Interests:

Dopamine (DA) is an important and universal modulator of motor control, but neuroscientists have yet to determine precisely how DA-containing neurons and their targeted circuitry choreograph specific locomotor programs. My research laboratory is addressing such important questions at the level of single identified neurons; often at times while the intact animal is behaving.  The simpler nervous system of the leech (Hirudo species) was selected for study because it contains relatively large and physiologically accessible neurons and a hierarchical circuit organization, thus facilitating studies of locomotion, body movement and descending control.  Specifically, we are now characterizing constituents of the pattern-generating network underlying crawling-related behavior, and determining how DA changes the properties of neurons to facilitate their participation in crawling. This approach often leads us naturally to an understanding of the neuronal bases of decision-making; for example, we have found that whenever DA triggers crawling then swimming is inhibited.  We use a variety of behavioral, electrophysiological, anatomical and computational methods to study how DA promotes crawling behavior. Our most recent studies have revealed how unit oscillators for locomotion are coupled through long-distance and local connections.  Our simpler neural networks are perfect for investigation by graduate students as the neurons are relatively accessible for experimental analysis and research questions can be addressed at the level of the intact organism down to the level of single neurons and the cell-molecular machinery that enables them to participate adaptively within their networks of operation.


Selected Publications:

(For a comprehensive list of recent publications, refer to PubMed, a service provided by the National Library of Medicine.)

Thompson KT, Harley CM, Barthel GM, Sanders MA, Mesce KA. 2015. Plasmon resonance and the imaging of metal-impregnated neurons with the laser scanning confocal microscope. eLIFE 4:e09388.

Harley CM, Reilly MG, Stewart C, Schlegel C, Morley E, Puhl JG, Nagel C, Crisp KM, Mesce KA. Compensatory Plasticity Restores Locomotion Following Chronic Removal of Descending Projections. J Neurophysiol. 2015 Mar 18;:jn.00135.2015.

Olson JF, Moon RD, Kells SA, Mesce KA. 2014. Morphology, ultrastructure and functional role of antennal sensilla in off-host aggregation by the bed bug Cimex lectularius. Arthropod Structure & Development 43:117-122.

Puhl JG, Masino MA, Mesce KA. 2012. Necessary, sufficient and permissive: a single locomotor command neuron important for intersegmental coordination. Journal of Neuroscience 32:17646-17657.

J. E. Ferguson, C. Boldt, J. G. Puhl, T. W. Stigen, J. C. Jackson, K. M. Crisp, K. A. Mesce, T. I. Netoff, A. D. Redish 2012. “Nanowires precisely grown on the ends of microwire electrodes permit the recording of intracellular action potentials within deeper neural structures” Nanomedicine (Lond). 2012 Jun;7(6):847-53.

Mustard JA, Vergoz V, Mesce KA, Klukas KA, Beggs KT, Geddes LH, McQuillan HJ, Mercer AR. 2012. Dopamine signaling in the bee. In: Galizia CG, Eisenhardt D, Giurfa M (eds). Honeybee Neurobiology and Behavior. Springer, New York. pp. 199-209.

Crisp, KM, Gallagher, BR, Mesce, KA.  2012. Mechanisms Contributing to the Dopamine Induction of Crawl-Like Bursting in Leech Motoneurons. J Exp Biol 215: 3028-3036.

Mesce KA, Pierce-Shimomura JT. Shared Strategies for Behavioral Switching: Understanding How Locomotor Patterns are Turned on and Off. Front Behav Neurosci. 2010 Jul 30;4. pii: 49.

Puhl, J.G., Mesce, K.A. 2010. Keeping It Together: Mechanism of Intersegmental Coordination for a Flexible Locomotor Behavior. J Neurosci 30:2373-2383.(cover)

Mesce, K.A., Pierce-Shimomura, J.T. 2010. Shared Strategies for Behavioral Switching: Understanding How Locomotor Patterns Are Turned On and Off. Front Neurosci vol 4, article 49, 1-5.

Swanson, J.A.I., Torto, B., Kells, S.A., Mesce, K.A., Tumlinson, J.H., Spivak, M. 2009. Odorants that Induce Hygienic Behavior in Honeybees: Identification of Volatile Compounds in Chalkbrood-Infected Honeybee Larvae. J Chem Ecol 35:1108-1116.

Mesce, K.A., Esch T, Kristan, W.B. Jr.  2008. Cellular Substrates of Action Selection: A Cluster of Higher-Order Descending Neurons Shapes Body Posture and Locomotion. J Comp Physiol A 194:469-81.

Puhl, J.G., Mesce, K.A. 2008. Dopamine Activates the Motor Pattern for Crawling in the Medicinal Leech. J Neurosci 28:4192-200 .

Crisp KM, Mesce KA. Beyond the central pattern generator: amine modulation of decision-making neural pathways descending from the brain of the medicinal leech. J Exp Biol. 2006 May;209(Pt 9):1746-56.

Goode K, Huber Z, Mesce KA, Spivak M. Hygienic behavior of the honey bee (Apis mellifera) is independent of sucrose responsiveness and foraging ontogeny. Horm Behav. 2006 Mar;49(3):391-7. Epub 2005 Oct 12.

Fahrbach SE, Mesce KA."Neuroethoendocrinology": integration of field and laboratory studies in insect neuroendocrinology. Horm Behav. 2005 Nov;48(4):352-9. Epub 2005 Jun 13. Review.

Crisp KM, Mesce KA. A cephalic projection neuron involved in locomotion is dye coupled to the dopaminergic neural network in the medicinal leech. J Exp Biol. 2004 Dec;207(Pt 26):4535-42.

Spivak M, Masterman R, Ross R, Mesce KA. Hygienic behavior in the honey bee (Apis mellifera L.) and the modulatory role of octopamine. J Neurobiol. 2003 Jun;55(3):341-54.


Current Graduate Students:

Morgan Newhoff (Neuroscience, University of Minnesota).

Former Graduate Students:

Josh Puhl (Ph.D. 2011, Neuroscience, University of Minnesota).

Katherine Himes (Ph.D. 2007, Neuroscience, University of Minnesota).

Kevin Crisp (Ph.D. 2003, Neuroscience, University of Minnesota).

Laura Gilchrist (Ph.D. 1996, Neuroscience, University of Minnesota).

Therese Amos (Ph.D. 1993, Neuroscience, University of Minnesota).

Karen Mesce