Home > About > Faculty Profiles > Harbinder S. Dhillon, PhD

Harbinder S. Dhillon, PhD

Harbinder Dhillon, PhDProfessor
Science Center South, lab: SCS 100
hsdhillon [at] desu.edu

Educational training

Post-doc (1997-1999) Behavioral Genomics, University of Toronto, Canada.

PhD. (1991-1997) Molecular Biology, Rutgers University, New Jersey.

M.Sc. (1986-1988) Molecular Biology, University of Baroda, Gujarat.

B.Sc. (1983-1986) Biochemistry, Punjab Agricultural University, Punjab.

Research Interests/Area

  • Molecular basis of behavior
  • Role of epigenetics in development
  • Professional Memberships
  • Genetics Society of America
  • Society for Neuroscience

Publications (peer-reviewed)

  1. Rosaria Formisano*, Mahlet D. Mersha*, Jeff Caplan, Abhyudai Singh, Catharine H. Rankin, Nektarios Tavernarakis, Harbinder S. Dhillon (2019) Synaptic vesicle fusion is modulated through feedback inhibition by dopamine auto-receptors. Synapse. 74(1):e22131. doi: 10.1002/syn.22131. PMID: 31494966
  2. Mersha, M. D., Sanchez, K. R., Temburni, M. K., Dhillon, H. S. (2018). Long-term Behavioral and Reproductive Consequences of Embryonic Exposure to Low-dose Toxicants. J. Vis. Exp. (133), e56771, doi:10.3791/56771. PMID:29578512
  3. Sanchez, K.R., Mersha, M.D., Dhillon, H.S., Temburni, M.K. (2018). Assessment of the Effects of Endocrine Disrupting Compounds on the Development of Vertebrate Neural Network Function Using Multi-electrode Arrays. J. Vis. Exp. (134), e56300, doi:10.3791/56300. PMID: 29757267
  4. Mersha MD, Patel BM, Patel D, Richardson BN, Dhillon HS. (2015) Effects of BPA and BPS exposure limited to early embryogenesis persist to impair non-associative learning in adults Behav Brain Funct.11:27. doi: 10.1186/s12993-015-0071. PMID: 26376977
  5. Pratima Pandey, Mahlet D. Mersha and Harbinder S Dhillon (2013) A synergistic approach towards understanding the functional significance of dopamine receptor interactions. Jo Molecular Signaling. 8(1):13 . doi: 10.1186/1750-2187-8-13. PMID: 24308343
  6. Mersha M, Formisano R, McDonald R, Pandey P, Tavernarakis N, Harbinder S (2013) GPA-14, a Gαi subunit mediates dopaminergic behavioral plasticity in C. elegans. Behav Brain Funct. 22;9(1):16. doi: 10.1186/1744-9081-9-16. PMID:23607404
  7. Harbinder S, Lazzara CA and Klar, AJS (2013) Implication of the strand-specific imprinting and segregation model: Integrating in utero hormone exposure, stem cell and lateral asymmetry hypotheses in breast cancer aetiology. Hereditary Genetics. doi 10.4172/2161-1041.S2-005​​​​​​​
  8. Pandey P and Harbinder, S (2012) The Caenorhabditis elegans D2-like dopamine receptor DOP-2 physically interacts with GPA-14, a Gαi subunit. J. Molecular Signaling. 7:3-13. doi: 10.1186/1750-2187-7-3. PMID:22280843
  9. Scott D, Deane N, Straker M, Shields A, Dalrymple H, Dhillon PK and Harbinder S. Variations in pheromone profiles and mating behavior of wild caught Drosophila melanogaster. PLoS-One 6: 8: e23645. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0023645. PMID:21858189​​​​​​​
  10. Nuttley W, Harbinder S and van der Kooy D (2001) Genetic dissection and kinetics of opposing attractive and aversive components triggered in response to benzaldehyde in C. elegans. Learning & Memory. 8(3):170. PMID:11390637​​​​​​​
  11. Harbinder S, Taveranarakis N, Herndon LA, Kinnel M, Xu SQ, Fire A and Driscoll M (1997) Genetically targeted cell disruption in Caenorhabditis elegans mediated by mec-4(d). Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 94:3128. PMID:9371811​​​​​​​
  12. Harbinder S, Gupta, V. and Lakshmikumaran, M. (1992) Fluidity of the tandemly repeated DNA family of Brassica nigra. Pl. Molec. Biol. 18:1213. PMID:1600160​​​​​​​
  13. Harbinder S (1991) Transient expression of GUS and CAT genes in electroporated rice protoplasts. Curr. Science 60(10): 603-605​​​​​​​
  14. Harbinder S and Lakshmikumaran, S. (1990) A repetitive sequence from Diplotaxis erucoides is highly similar to that of Brassica campestris and Brassica oleracea. Pl. Molec. Biol. 15:155. PMID:2103429


  • Behavior BIOL 315
  • Molecular Genetics & Genomics BIOL 375
  • Molecular basis of behavior BIOL 515
  • Cell Biology BIOL 520
  • Molecular Biology BIOL 521
  • Genomics BIOL 575

Additional Information

Brief Non-technical Description of Research:

My students and I are using a reductionist approach to understand behavior. Insights into the molecular and cellular basis of learning and memory are particularly important in understanding the neural functional design of normal human memory, as well as in age related deficits and complex neural pathologies such as Schizophrenia and other psychoses. Modulatory effects of biogenic amine neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin are known to play key roles in a variety of behavioral processes including behavioral plasticity, in vertebrates as well as invertebrates. In the multicellular eukaryotic lab model Caenorhabditis elegans, dopamine was first implicated in habituation, a simple form of behavioral plasticity, and subsequently in associative learning.

Our current goals are focused towards understanding the modulatory interactions of dopamine auto-receptors in regulating synaptic neurotransmitter levels. We are using genetic, behavioral, pharmacological, and imaging based approaches to unravel synaptic modulation of dopamine by DOP-2, a C. elegans D2-like dopamine auto-receptor. Our lab has focused on the modulation of dopaminergic transmission via a D2-like auto-receptor DOP-2. Using molecular and biochemical techniques we showed that DOP-2 physically interacts with GPA-14, an inhibitory Galpha subunit expressed in a subset of dopaminergic neurons [Pandey and Harbinder, 2012 J. Molecular Signaling 7:3-13]. In a follow up work, we used genetic and behavioral approaches to describe the role of DOP-2 and GPA-14 in behavioral plasticity [Mersha et al., 2013 Behavioral & Brain Functions 22;9(1):16]. A subsequent invited review described the current status of molecular interactions in dopamine receptors and the relevance of fundamental research in biomedical understanding [Pandey et al., 2013 J. Molecular Signaling 8(1):13; Formisano et al., 2019 Synapse 74(1):e22131]

Since spending my sabbatical year (2015-16) at the University of British Columbia, Canada in the lab of my collaborator Dr. Catharine Rankin, a pioneer in studying behavioral plasticity, we have recently set up an automated Multi-Worm-Tracker (MWT) platform along with my departmental colleague Dr. Hakeem Lawal, a fly geneticist. In the medium term, we expect results from our experiments to help put together the role of dopamine auto-receptors from the molecular to the behavioral level. In addition to the above, our lab is also looking at developmental consequences of nervous system function [Mersha et al., 2015 Behavioral & Brain Functions 11(1): 27] and its epigenetic basis of disease development in adults [Harbinder et al., 2013 Hereditary Genetics doi 10.4172/2161-1041.S2-005] as a collaborative project with Dr. Amar Klar at the National Cancer Institute of NIH. Major support through NIH including initial (2P20RR-016472) and current (1P20GM103653) funding is gratefully acknowledged.

Major research Grants

  1. 07/2019-07/2022: Modulation of Synaptic Neurotransmitter Levels by Auto-receptors (NSF Excellence in Research award #1900212) Role: PI, Amount ~$500,000/-
  2. 09/2012-06/2018: Molecular basis of learning behavior in C. elegans: The Delaware Center for Neuroscience Research (NIH-1P20GM103653-01A1-NIGMS; Role: Target Investigator (R01 equivalent) Amount ~$600,000/-)
  3. 05/2009-03/2012: Investigating the role of DEG/ENaC ion channel family in learning behavior of Caenorhabditis elegans (Grant # NIH 2P20RR-016472-09/10) Role: Research project PI; Amount: ~$200,000/-
  4. 01/2011-12/2011: Identification of molecular components of insect pheromone sensing and adaptive resistance (EPSCoR competitive grant; Amount ~$30,000; Role: PI).
  5. 06/2010-07/2012: Molecular genetic analysis of response to male pheromone in Drosophila melanogaster (Agency: USDA; Sub-contract from SCX-311-09-08; Amount ~$100,000; Role: PI).