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Molecular Neuroscience Section - Division of Intramural Research


Harold Gainer Image

Harold Gainer, Ph.D., Senior Investigator

Dr. Gainer obtained his B.S. in Chemistry from the City College of New York, and his Ph.D. in Physiology and Biochemistry from the University of California, Berkeley. After a brief period as a Postdoctoral Fellow at Berkeley and as an Instructor in Physiology at UCSF, Dr. Gainer did further postdoctoral work on the electrophysiology of muscle and synapses at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York. Dr. Gainer moved to a faculty position at the University of Maryland where his research focused on mechanisms of sound production in marine animals and on the role of calcium in excitation-contraction coupling. He has been an adjunct/visiting professor at the University of Maryland, George Washington University and Tel-Aviv University, Israel, and a summer investigator at the Marine Biological Laboratory, Woods Hole. In 1969, Dr. Gainer joined the NIH, NICHD as a Research Physiologist,and later became Chief of the Laboratory of Neurochemistry and Immunology in NICHD. In 1987 he moved to the NINDS to become Chief of the Laboratory of Neurochemistry,and also served as Basic Neuroscience Director in intramural NINDS from1990 2000. Dr. Gainer's laboratory studies the cell biology of oxytocin andvasopressin peptidergic neurons in the mammalian hypothalamus.

Laboratory Staff

Raymond Fields, B.S., Research Assistant
Shirley House, B.A., Research Assistant
Makoto Kawasaki, M.D., Ph.D., Postdoctoral Fellow
Todd Ponzio, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Fellow
Chunmei Yue, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Fellow

Research Interests

The research program of the Molecular Neurosciences Section is concerned with the elucidation of mechanisms that are involved in the establishment and maintenance of specific peptidergic neuronal phenotypes in the central nervous system. Specifically we focus on the cell biological and molecular processes that underlie cell-specific expression of oxytocin and vasopressin genes , and the biosynthesis, sorting, packaging and neurosecretion of the resulting neuropeptides in the hypothalamus. In order to systematically examine these issues, we study two specific neural systems: 1) the magnocellular neurons (MCNs) of the mammalian hypothalamo- neurohypophysial system , which secrete the nonapeptides, oxytocin (OT) and vasopressin (VP) into the general circulation, and 2) and neurons in the suprachiasmatic nucleus which secrete VP in a circadian fashion into specific hypothalamic sites..

Specific questions that we are presently engaged in studying are: 1) what are the cell signaling and molecular genetic bases that underlie the cell-specific expression of the OT and VP genes in the hypothalamus, 2) What other molecules define the MCN and SCN neuronal phenotypes? 3) How can we target the robust expression of various regulatory molecules to these peptidergic neurons in vivo and in vitro, in order to analyze the roles that various endogenous proteins in these neurons play in mechanisms that regulate OT and VP gene expression and related cell biological processes?,


Selected Recent Publications

  • Lubelski, DL, Ponzio TA, and Gainer. H.
    Effects of A-CREB, a dominant negative inhibitor of CREB, on the expression of c-fos and other immediate early genes in the rat SON during hyperosmotic stimulation in vivo, Brain Res., 2012, vol. 1429, pp. 18-28.
  • Fields, RL, Ponzio, TA, Kawasaki, M, and Gainer, H.
    Cell-type specific oxytocin gene expression from adeno-associated virus delivered promoter deletion constructs into the rat supraoptic nucleus in vivo, PLoS ONE, 2012, vol. 7, pp. e32085.
  • Gainer, H.
    Cell-type specific expression of oxytocin and vasopressin genes: An experimental odyssey, J. Neuroendocrinology, 2012, vol. 24, pp. 528-538.
  • Chen, X., Nelson, C., Li, X.,Winters, CA, Azzam, R., Sousa, A., Leapman, R., Gainer, H., Sheng, M., and , Reese, T.
    PSD-95 is required to sustain the molecular organization of the postsynaptic density, J. Neuroscience, 2011, vol. 31, pp. 6329-6338.
  • Gainer, H., Ponzio, T.A., Yue, C., and Makoto Kawasaki, M.
    Intron-specific Neuropeptide Probes. Chapter 5, In: "Neuropeptides: Methods & Protocols" Adalberto Merighi, Ed. (Methods in Molecular Biology series) Humana Press, NY, 2011, vol. 789, pp. 89-110.
  • Young, WS III and Gainer, H.
    Vasopressin/Oxytocin and Receptors, In: Larry R. Squire, Editor(s)-in-Chief, Encyclopedia of Neuroscience, Academic Press, Oxford, 2009, pp. 51-59.
  • Kawasaki, M. Ponzio, T, Yue, C, Fields, RL, and Gainer, H.
    Neurotransmitter regulation of c-fos and vasopressin gene expression in the rat supraoptic nucleus, Experimental Neurology, 2009, vol. 219, pp. 212-222.
  • House, S.B., Li, C., Yue, C., and Gainer, H.
    Effects of ciliary neurotrophic factor and leukemia inhibiting factor on oxytocin and vasopressin magnocellular neuron survival in rat and mouse hypothalamic organotypic cultures, J. Neuroscience Methods, 2009, vol. 178, pp. 128-133.

Selected Earlier Publications


Contact Information

Molecular Neuroscience Section
Laboratory of Neurochemistry, NINDS
9000 Rockville Pike
Building 49, Room 5A78, MSC 4479
Bethesda, MD 20892-4479

Telephone: 301-496-1671 (office), 301-496-6719 (laboratory), 301-496-1339 (fax)
Email: gainerh@ninds.nih.gov