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Deniz Atasoy, PhD

Assistant Professor of Neuroscience and Pharmacology

Contact Information

Primary Office
2-432 BSB
51 Newton Rd.
Iowa City, IA 52242

2-440 BSB
51 Newton Rd.
Iowa City, IA 52242


BS, Molecular Biology and Genetics, Bilkent University
PhD, Neuroscience, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center - Mentors: Profs. Thomas Sudhof & Ege Kavalali
Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Janelia Research Campus, Howard Hughes Medical Institute

Education/Training Program Affiliations

Interdisciplinary Graduate Program in Neuroscience

Center, Program and Institute Affiliations

Fraternal Order of Eagles Diabetes Research Center, Iowa Neuroscience Institute

Research Summary

We are interested in neural circuits that regulate feeding behavior and metabolism with a special emphasis on disease models of obesity and eating disorders. Using a variety of cutting edge circuit dissection approaches including optogenetic and pharmacogenetic tools, electrophysiology, imaging as well as behavioural analysis, we map and manipulate neuronal networks to understand synaptic and circuit mechanisms of body weight regulation in health and disease. Environmental conditions such as extended exposure to high fat diet, perinatal undernutrition, aging as well as genetic factors are well known to influence long term body weight and feeding behavior. A major focus of our lab is to understand cellular and circuit level maladaptations to such disease-state feeding behavior. We use cell type specific transcriptomics in combination with circuit dissection approaches to identify molecular and cellular basis of maladaptations. Dissecting out the molecular level alterations that have causal role in dysregulation of feeding behavior may eventually lead to novel candidate targets for therapeutic interventions. Feeding behavior is also strongly influenced by global neuromodulators such as acetylcholine, serotonin as well as catecholamines. Circuit level mechanisms of how these modulators interact with hypothalamic feeding pathways are poorly understood. We are using transgenic mouse models to gain access to various neuromodulator-expressing neuron populations and to map out their interactions with key appetite regulating neurons.


Jensen-Cody, S. O., Flippo, K. H., Claflin, K. E., Yavuz, Y., Sapouckey, S. A., Walters, G. C., Usachev, Y. M., Atasoy, D., Gillum, M. P. & Potthoff, M. J. (2020). FGF21 Signals to Glutamatergic Neurons in the Ventromedial Hypothalamus to Suppress Carbohydrate Intake. Cell metabolism, 32(2), 273-286.e6. PMID: 32640184.

Aklan, I., Sayar Atasoy, N., Coban, I., Oncul, M., Dilsiz, P., Ates Oz, E., Ates, T., Yilmaz, B., Hajdukiewicz, K., Davis, D., Saito, K., Konopka, W. & Atasoy, D. (2019). NTS Catecholamine Neurons Mediate Hypoglycemic Hunger Via Medial Hypothalamic Feeding Pathways. Cell Metabolism. PMID: 31839488.

Dilsiz, P., Aklan, I., Sayar Atasoy, N., Koksalar, F., Oncul, M., Civas, C., Ates, T., Yilmaz, B. & Atasoy, D. (2019). MCH neuron activity is sufficient for reward and reinforces feeding. Neuroendocrinology. PMID: 31154452.

Ates, T., Oncul, M., Dilsiz, P., Topcu, I. C., Civas, C. C., Alp, M. I., Aklan, I., Ates Oz, E., Yavuz, Y., Yilmaz, B., Sayar Atasoy, N. & Atasoy, D. (2019). Inactivation of Magel2 suppresses oxytocin neurons through synaptic excitation-inhibition imbalance. Neurobiology of disease, 121, 58-64. PMID: 30240706.

Oncul, M., Dilsiz, P., Ates oz, E., Ates, T., Aklan, I., Celik, E., Sayar Atasoy, N. & Atasoy, D. (2018). Impaired melanocortin pathway function in Prader-Willi Syndrome gene-Magel2 deficient mice. Hum Mol Genet. PMID: 29878108.

Atasoy, D., Sternson, S. M. (2018). Chemogenetic Tools for Causal Cellular and Neuronal Biology. Physiological reviews, 98(1), 391-418. PMID: 29351511.

Sternson, S. M., Atasoy, D., Betley, J. N., Henry, F. E. & Xu, S. (2016). An Emerging Technology Framework for the Neurobiology of Appetite. Cell metabolism, 23(2), 234-53. PMID: 26724860.

Atasoy, D., Betley, J. N., Li, W. P., Su, H. H., Sertel, S. M., Scheffer, L. K., Simpson, J. H., Fetter, R. D. & Sternson, S. M. (2014). A genetically specified connectomics approach applied to long-range feeding regulatory circuits. Nature neuroscience, 17(12), 1830-9. PMID: 25362474.

Sternson, S. M., Atasoy, D. (2014). Agouti-related protein neuron circuits that regulate appetite. Neuroendocrinology, 100(2-3), 95-102. PMID: 25402352.

Atasoy, D., Betley, J. N., Su, H. H. & Sternson, S. M. (2012). Deconstruction of a neural circuit for hunger. Nature, 488(7410), 172-7. PMID: 22801496.

Yang, Y., Atasoy, D., Su, H. H. & Sternson, S. M. (2011). Hunger states switch a flip-flop memory circuit via a synaptic AMPK-dependent positive feedback loop. Cell, 146(6), 992-1003. PMID: 21925320.

Magnus, C. J., Lee, P. H., Atasoy, D., Su, H. H., Looger, L. L. & Sternson, S. M. (2011). Chemical and genetic engineering of selective ion channel-ligand interactions. Science (New York, N.Y.), 333(6047), 1292-6. PMID: 21885782.

Aponte, Y., Atasoy, D. & Sternson, S. M. (2011). AGRP neurons are sufficient to orchestrate feeding behavior rapidly and without training. Nature neuroscience, 14(3), 351-5. PMID: 21209617.

Peng, H., Ruan, Z., Atasoy, D. & Sternson, S. (2010). Automatic reconstruction of 3D neuron structures using a graph-augmented deformable model. Bioinformatics (Oxford, England), 26(12), i38-46. PMID: 20529931.

Zhang, C., Atasoy, D., Araç, D., Yang, X., Fucillo, M. V., Robison, A. J., Ko, J., Brunger, A. T. & Südhof, T. C. (2010). Neurexins physically and functionally interact with GABA(A) receptors. Neuron, 66(3), 403-16. PMID: 20471353.

Atasoy, D., Ertunc, M., Moulder, K. L., Blackwell, J., Chung, C., Su, J. & Kavalali, E. T. (2008). Spontaneous and evoked glutamate release activates two populations of NMDA receptors with limited overlap. The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience, 28(40), 10151-66. PMID: 18829973.

Atasoy, D., Aponte, Y., Su, H. H. & Sternson, S. M. (2008). A FLEX switch targets Channelrhodopsin-2 to multiple cell types for imaging and long-range circuit mapping. The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience, 28(28), 7025-30. PMID: 18614669.

Chubykin, A. A., Atasoy, D., Etherton, M. R., Brose, N., Kavalali, E. T., Gibson, J. R. & Südhof, T. C. (2007). Activity-dependent validation of excitatory versus inhibitory synapses by neuroligin-1 versus neuroligin-2. Neuron, 54(6), 919-31. PMID: 17582332.

Atasoy, D., Schoch, S., Ho, A., Nadasy, K. A., Liu, X., Zhang, W., Mukherjee, K., Nosyreva, E. D., Fernandez-Chacon, R., Missler, M., Kavalali, E. T. & Südhof, T. C. (2007). Deletion of CASK in mice is lethal and impairs synaptic function. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 104(7), 2525-30. PMID: 17287346.

Ertunc, M., Sara, Y., Chung, C., Atasoy, D., Virmani, T. & Kavalali, E. T. (2007). Fast synaptic vesicle reuse slows the rate of synaptic depression in the CA1 region of hippocampus. The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience, 27(2), 341-54. PMID: 17215395.

Ho, A., Morishita, W., Atasoy, D., Liu, X., Tabuchi, K., Hammer, R. E., Malenka, R. C. & Südhof, T. C. (2006). Genetic analysis of Mint/X11 proteins: essential presynaptic functions of a neuronal adaptor protein family. The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience, 26(50), 13089-101. PMID: 17167098.

Atasoy, D., Kavalali, E. T. (2006). Presynaptic unsilencing: searching for a mechanism. Neuron, 50(3), 345-6. PMID: 16675387.

Virmani, T., Atasoy, D. & Kavalali, E. T. (2006). Synaptic vesicle recycling adapts to chronic changes in activity. The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience, 26(8), 2197-206. PMID: 16495446.

Sara, Y., Biederer, T., Atasoy, D., Chubykin, A., Mozhayeva, M. G., Südhof, T. C. & Kavalali, E. T. (2005). Selective capability of SynCAM and neuroligin for functional synapse assembly. The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience, 25(1), 260-70. PMID: 15634790.

Chandra, S., Fornai, F., Kwon, H. B., Yazdani, U., Atasoy, D., Liu, X., Hammer, R. E., Battaglia, G., German, D. C., Castillo, P. E. & Südhof, T. C. (2004). Double-knockout mice for alpha- and beta-synucleins: effect on synaptic functions. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 101(41), 14966-71. PMID: 15465911.

Biederer, T., Sara, Y., Mozhayeva, M., Atasoy, D., Liu, X., Kavalali, E. T. & Südhof, T. C. (2002). SynCAM, a synaptic adhesion molecule that drives synapse assembly. Science (New York, N.Y.), 297(5586), 1525-31. PMID: 12202822.