Erik Johnson

Associate Professor of Biology

B.A. University of Maine, 1992
Ph.D. University of Maine, 2000

222 Winston Hall

Erik C. Johnson

(336) 758-5817

Areas of Interest

Neural control of physiology and behavior, molecular biology, biological oscillators


We are broadly interested in the mechanisms of neuronal cell signaling and how these processes manifest in specific behaviors and regulate discrete aspects of physiology. In pursuit of that goal, we focus on neurotransmitters and their receptors and use the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, because of the unique genetic and molecular tools available in this organism. We use a number of different cellular and molecular techniques to partner specific neuropeptides and neurotransmitters to specific “orphan” receptors. We are interested in the anatomical distribution of these receptors as they represent postsynaptic targets for specific transmitter signaling systems. We are ultimately interested in how specific receptor properties, (i.e., desensitization and signaling) contribute to neuronal physiology and on a larger scale how these properties shape a given behavior or physiology.

Selected Publications

JT Braco, GE Gillespie, JE Alberto, and EC Johnson.  2012  Energy-dependent modulation of glucagon-like signaling in Drosophila via the AMP-activated kinase.  Genetics 192:457-466.

PM Richards, EC Johnson, and WL Silver. 2010. Four trigeminal irritants act as novel TRPA1 agonists. Chemosensory Perception 3:190-199.

EC Johnson, N Kazgan, CA Bretz, JL Fosberg, CE Hector, RJ Worthen, and JE Brenman. 2010. Altered metabolism and persistent starvation phenotypes caused by reduced AMP-activated kinase function in Drosophila. PLoS ONE. 5(9):e12799.

JR Aldridge, EC Johnson, and RE Kuhn. 2010. CpG stimulates protective immunity in Balb/CJ mice infected with larvae of Taenia crassiseps. Journal of Parasitology 96:920-8

Y Zhao, SA Hawksworth, CA Bretz, J Hirsh, and EC Johnson. 2010. Corazonin neurons participate in sexually dimorphic circuitry that shape behavioral responses to stress in Drosophila. PLoS ONE 5:e9141.

CE Hector, CA Bretz, Y Zhao, and EC Johnson. 2009. Functional differences between two CRF-related diuretic hormone receptors in Drosophila. Journal of Experimental Biology 212:3142-3147.

EC Johnson and MP White. 2009. Stressed-out Insects: Behavioral Modifications and Hormonal Actions. In: Hormones, Brain and Behavior. (2nd edition) Donald W. Pfaff, Arthur P. Arnold, Anne M. Etgen, Susan E. Fahrbach and Robert T. Rubin, editors. Vol 2. Academic Press; pp. 1069-1096.

EC Johnson, FW Tift, AK McCauley, L Liu, and G Roman. 2008. Functional characterization of kurtz, a Drosophila non-visual arrestin, reveals conservation of GPCR desensitization mechanisms. Insect Biochem. Mol. Biol. 38: 1016-1022.

Johnson, EC and White, MP. 2008. Stressed-out Insects: Behavioral Modifications and Hormonal Actions. In Hormones, Brain, and Behavior, 2nd Ed. D. Pfaff Ed.

Johnson EC, Tift FW, McCauley AK, Liu L, and Roman G. 2008. Functional characterization of kurtz, a Drosophila non-visual arrestin, reveals conservation of GPCR desensitization mechanisms. Insect Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

RE Isaac, EC Johnson, N Audsley, and AD Shirras. 2007. Metabolic inactivation of the circadian transmitter, pigment-dispersing factor, PDF, by neprilysin-like peptidases in Drosophila. Journal of Experimental Biology 210:4465-4470

EC Johnson. 2006. Post-genomic approaches to resolve neuropeptide signaling in Drosophila. In Invertebrate Neuropeptides and Hormones: Basic Knowledge and Recent Advances. Honoo Satake Ed., pgs 179-224.

RT Birse, EC Johnson, PH Taghert, and DR Nassel. 2006. Widely distributed Drosophila G-protein-coupled receptor (CG7887) is activated by endogenous tachykinin-related peptides. Journal of Neurobiology 66:33-46.

I Mertens, A Vandingenen, EC Johnson, OT Shafer, W Li, JS Trigg, A De Loof, L Schoofs, and PH Taghert. 2005. PDF receptor signaling in Drosophila contributes to both circadian and geotactic behaviors. Neuron 48:213-9.

EC Johnson, OT Shafer, JS Trigg, J Park, DA Schooley, JA Dow, and PH Taghert. 2005. A novel diuretic hormone receptor in Drosophila: evidence for conservation of CGRP signaling. Journal of Experimental Biology 208:1239-46.

EC Johnson, L Bohn, and P Taghert. 2004. Drosophila CG8422 encodes a functional diuretic hormone receptor. Journal of Experimental Biology 207:743-748.