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Hojoon Lee

Assistant Professor

Ph.D., University of California, Los Angeles

Specializations

Regions(s): Developmental Neuroscience; Brain and Behavior; Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience; Neurogenetics

Research interest(s): The neurobiology of taste

Research Summary

The taste system evaluates the nutritional value (sweet, umami, salty) and safety (bitter, sour) of food. Since this assessment is critical for the survival of the animal, taste cues immediately cause stereotypical behaviors (attraction vs aversion) and evoke innate affect (pleasure vs disgust). Taste information is detected by taste receptor cells (TRCs) on the tongue, each one dedicated to a single taste quality, and relayed through neuronal projections that originate from geniculate/petrosal ganglia en route to the brain. Notably, TRCs are epithelial cells, with lifespans of only about two weeks, requiring precise wiring connections to be established with the correct partner neurons upon appearance of each new cell. Constant need for stem cell maintenance, TRC differentiation, wiring, and information processing presents a considerable challenge for a hardwired circuit, but surprisingly little is known about how this remarkable process is orchestrated. Our research focuses on three fundamental questions:

  • How are new taste receptor cells made?
  • How is the peripheral taste system wired?
  • How do tastes evoke hardwired behaviors?

Selected Publications

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