Ralph Hillman


Office: Department of Biology

440 Biology - Life Sciences Building
Temple University
Philadelphia, PA 19122

Phone: (215) 204-8857
E-mail: rhillman@temple.edu

The laboratory is currently involved in two major areas of research. The first is a neurological study to determine the behavioral effects of the human gene for alpha-synuclein in transgenic Drosophila.  This gene is one whose product is considered to be a causative agent for Parkinson=s Disease.  We have found behavioral changes in these transgenic flies associated with climbing ability and locomotor activity. We are now designing experiments to determine if these behavioral changes are affected by both biochemical manipulations and genetic mutations . 

A second area of research is an investigation of the competitive inhibition of tyrosine hydroxylase, the enzyme catalysing the first step, tyrosine to L-DOPA, in catecholamine biosynthesis, in the development and behavior of Drosophila.  This enzyme is the product of the pale gene in Drosophila. We are using a null mutant and a conditional mutant of pale, both of which inactivate this enzyme, result in embryonic lethality, and reduce behavioral activity.  We are presently investigating if we can restore normal development and behavior by treating the transgenic flies with compounds designed to increase catecholamine biosynthesis by bypassing the block, tyrosine to L-DOPA, and restoring dopamine production. In addition, agonists and antagonists of the catecholamine pathway neuroreceptors are being used in this study.

A third series of investigations involves a continuation of long term research studying the role of a polygenic controlled inhibition of protein synthesis on the development of the adult abdominal histoblast nests of Drosophila and on nuclear divisions and cell divisions in embryos and imaginal discs.  This investigation includes chromatographic and electrophoretic assays of proteins during oogenesis and early embryogenesis.  The modifier genes in the system are located throughout the genome while the major gene is located near the distal end of the X-chromosome.  The entire network involves the control of aminoacylation of tRNA and the translation mechanism in the mutant flies


Representative Publications:

Pendleton, R., Alday, A., Paluru, P., Joyner, J., Jerome, N., and Hillman, R. Maternal and Embryonic Sources of tyrosine hydroxylase during Drosophila Embryogenesis. Genesis 45:152-155 (2007)

Hillman, R. and Pendleton, R. Behavior in Drosophila, in Animal Models of Movement Disorders., ed. Mark LeDoux. Elsevier Academic Press. Pages 101-110. (2005)

Pendleton, R.G., Rasheed, A., Paluru, P., Joyner, J., Jerome, N., Meyers, R.D., and Hillman, R. A Developmental Role for Catecholamines in Drosophila Behavior. Pharmacol. Biochem. Behavior  8:849-53 (2005)

Pendleton, R.G., Parvez, F., Sayed, M., and Hillman, R. Effects of Pharmacological Agents upon a Transgenic Model of Parkinson’s Disease in Drosophila melanogaster.  J. Pharm. Exptl. Therapeutics 300:91-96 (2002)

Hillman, R. Polygenic Control of Drosophila Morphogenesis during Stages of Determination and Specification of Adult Structures. Amer. Zool. 17:521-533 (1977)