Rodney K. Murphey

Photograph of First Last

Emeritus Professor

Contact Info



B.A., University of Minnesota, 1965
M.S., University of Minnesota, 1967
Ph.D., University of Oregon, 1970


1970-1971, University of California, Berkeley
1986, Grass Traveling Scientist
1986-1993 Javits Neuroscience Investigator

Research Interests

The focus of this lab is the molecular aspects of assembly and disassembly of synaptic circuits in the brain. We study the giant synapse of Drosophila where we can take advantage of the power of fly genetics and molecular biology to identify the genes and proteins involved in synapse formation and synapse degeneration. There are two main projects in the lab. In one on-going project we study the formation of the giant synapse using mutational analysis and over expression to identify the genes involved in this process. For example, we assembled a poison subunit of the dynein-dynactin retrograde motor and showed that it disrupted synapse formation by disrupting the growth of the presynaptic cell. We combine physiological and anatomical studies to characterize the synapse in these mutant animals. In another experiment we over expressed the robo receptor and showed that it altered dendritic guidance in the postsynaptic cell and ultimately disrupted synpatogenesis. Recently we have initiated studies of degeneration at this synapse. We have demonstrated that we can disconnect the pre- and postsynaptic cells with a variety of reagents and are trying to understand how this disruption of a mature synapse occurs. We are in the process of expressing human genes known or thought to be involved in neurodegeneration such as the ubiquitin ligases involved in protein degradation or the tau gene involved in microtubule structure and function. We will determine their affects on synapse formation and degeneration in Drosophila with the ultimate goal of discerning how these genes and the proteins they encode perform their normal tasks and how mutant versions of the proteins disrupt synaptic function and lead to degeneration.

Representative Publications

Murphey, R.K. and T.A. Godenschwege. 2002. New roles for ubiquitin in the assembly and function of neuronal circuits. Neuron 36(1): 5-8.

Godenschwege, T.A., H. Hu, X. Shan-Crofts, C.S. Goodman and R. K. Murphey. 2002. Bi-directional signaling by Semaphorin 1a during central synapse formatoin in Drosophila. Nat. Neurosci. 5(12): 1294-301.

Godenschwege,T.A., J.H. Simpson, X. Shan, G J. Bashaw, C.S. Goodman and R. K. Murphey 2002. Ectopic expression in the giant fiber system of Drosophila reveals distinct roles for roundabout (Robo), Robo2, and Robo3 in dendritic guidance and synaptic connectivity. J. Neurosci. 22(8): 3117-29.

Allen, M.J., X. Shan and R.K. Murphey. 2000. A role for Drosophila Drac1 in neurite outgrowth and synaptogenesis in the giant fiber system. Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience. Mol. Cell Neuroscience 16: 754-765

Murphey, R.K., P.C. Caruccio, M. Getzinger, P.J. Westgate and R.W. Phillis. 1999. Dynein-dynactin function and sensory axon growth during Drosophila metamorphosis: A role for retrograde motors. Dev. Biol. 209(1): 86-97.

Allen, M.J., X. Shan, P. Caruccio, S. Froggett and R.K. Murphey. 1999. Targeted expression of truncated Glued disrupts giant fiber synapse formation in Drosophila. J. Neurosci. 19: 9374-9384.

R.K. Murphey, P.C. Caruccio, M. Getzinger, Pam Westgate and R. Phillis. 1999. Dynein-dynactin function and sensory axon growth during drosophila metamorphosis: a role for retrograde motors. Dev. Biol. 209: 86-97.

Jin, P., Griffith, L. and Murphey, R.K. 1998. Presynaptic calcium-calmodulin dependent protein kinase II regulates habituation of a simple reflex in adult Drosophila. J. Neuroscience, in press.

Reddy, S. Jin, P., Trimarchi, J., Caruccio, P., Phillis, R. and Murphey, R.K. 1997. Mutant molecular motors disrupt neural circuits in Drosophila. J. Neurobiology 33: 711-723.

Trimarchi, J.R. and Murphey, R.K. 1997. The Shanking-B2 mutation disrupts electrical synapses in a flight circuit in adult Drosophila. J. Neuroscience 17: 4700-4710.

Phillis, R., Statton, P., Caruccio, P. and Murphey, R.K. 1996. Mutations in the 8 kDa dynein light chain gene disrupt sensory axon projections in the Drosophila imaginal CNS. Development 122: 2955-2963.

Davis, G.W. and Murphey, R.K. 1994. Long-term regulation of short-term transmitter release properties; retrograde signaling and synaptic development. TINS 17: 9-13.