James Rand


Member, Molecular, Cell and Developmental Biology Research Program, Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation

H.A. and Mary K. Chapman Chair in Medical Research 
Adjunct Professor, Department of Cell Biology
Adjunct Professor, Department of Zoology, University of Oklahoma, Norman, OK
Adjunct Professor, Oklahoma Center for Neuroscience


B.A., Hofstra University, Hempstead, NY (cum laude)
Ph.D., The Rockefeller University, New York


Society for Neuroscience
Genetics Society of America


For a number of years, we have studied the mechanisms used within nerve terminals to coordinate neurotransmitter supply and release. In the simple, 302-cell nervous system of the soil nematode Caenorhabditis elegans, we can apply powerful tools of genetics, cell biology, and molecular biology to analyze synaptic function and its regulation. One area of this research involves the molecular and genetic analysis of acetylcholine synthesis and packaging in C. elegans. These studies focus on three genes and proteins:

1) cha-1 the structural gene for choline acetyl­transferase, the enzyme that synthesizes the neurotransmitter acetylcholine; 2) unc-17, the gene that encodes the synaptic vesicle acetylcholine transporter; and 3) cho-1, which encodes the plasma membrane choline high-affinity transporter. The coordinated action of these three proteins is crucial for the rapid and precise regulation of cholinergic function in the nervous system. We have cloned and sequenced the genes required for these processes, identified the specific neurons in which these genes are expressed and studied mutants that are partially or totally deficient in these functions.

Related research projects include the genetic, behavioral and molecular analysis of genes encoding the large proteins that provide a "molecular scaffold" for the components of a presynaptic nerve terminal. These proteins not only organize and maintain the structure of the synapse, but they play essential roles in regulating and fine-tuning the synaptic machinery. In addition, we have recently begun to study the molecules involved in synapse formation and the use of C. elegans mutants with aberrant synapse formation as a model for the study of autism and autism spectrum disorders.


1. Loria PM, Duke A, Rand JB, Hobert O. Two neuronal, nuclear-localized RNA binding proteins involved in synaptic transmission. Curr Biol 13:1317-1323, 2003.

2. Duerr JS, Gaskin J and Rand JB. Identified neurons in C. elegans coexpress vesicular transporters for acetylcholine and monoamines. Am J Physiol Cell Physiol 280:C1616-C1622, 2001.

3. Lickteig KM, Duerr JS, Frisby DL, Hall DH, Rand JB, and Miller DM 3rd. Regulation of neurotransmitter vesicles by the homeodomain protein UNC-4 and its ranscriptional corepressor UNC-37/groucho in Caenorhabditis elegans cholinergic motor neurons. J Neurosci 21:2001-2014, 2001.

4. Zhu H, Duerr JS, Varoqui H, McManus JR, Rand JB and Erickson JD. Analysis of point mutants in the Caenorhabditis elegans vesicular acetylcholine transporter reveals domains involved in substrate translocation. J Biol Chem 276:41580-41587, 2001.

5. Kohn RE, Duerr JS, McManus JR, Duke A, Rakow TL, Maruyama H, Moulder G, Maruyama IN, Barstead RJ and Rand JB. Expression of multiple UNC-13 proteins in the Caenorhabditis elegans nervous system. Mol Biol Cell 11:3441-3452, 2000.

6. Rand JB, Duerr JS and Frisby DL. Neurogenetics of vesicular transporters in C. elegans. FASEB J 14:2414-2422, 2000.


Molecular, Cell and Developmental Biology Research Program, MS 48
Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation
825 N.E. 13th Street
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 73126
Phone: (405) 271-7681
Fax: (405) 271-7312