Chi-Hon Lee, Ph.D.,M.D.

Senior Investigator

Section on Neuronal Connectivity


35 1C1004


Research Topics

Assembly and Function of Drosophila Visual Circuits 

Using the Drosophila visual system as a model, we study how neurons form complex yet stereotyped synaptic connections during development and how the assembled neural circuits extract visual attributes, such as color and motion, to guide animal behaviors. To study visual circuit functions, we combine structural and functional approaches to map visual circuits. By targeted manipulation of neuronal activity, we identified specific neurons that are functionally required for color-driven behaviors. Using both light- and electron-microscopy (EM) studies, we mapped their synaptic circuits. For circuit development, we focus on the formation of synaptic connections between the chromatic photoreceptors and their synaptic partners in the medulla neuropil. We used high-resolution imaging techniques and genetic manipulations to delineate the molecular mechanisms that control dendritic patterning and synaptic specificity of the medulla neurons.


Dr. Chi-Hon Lee is a senior investigator and the head of the Section on Neuronal Connectivity in NICHD, a position he has held since 2002. His group combines behavioral, imaging, and molecular genetic approaches to study visual circuit development and function in Drosophila. His group has elucidated the molecular mechanisms controlling layer-specific targeting and tiling of photoreceptor axons. His group pioneered in mapping Drosophila visual circuits and identified a neuronal pooling mechanism mediated by amacrine neurons for detecting dim light. Dr. Lee received his M.D. degree from China Medical College, Taiwan and his Ph.D. degree in Biophysics from the Rockefeller University, where he used structural approaches to study cellular signal transduction. During his postdoctoral training as a Life Sciences Research Foundation fellow at UCLA, he studied visual system development. In 2002, he joined NICHD as an Investigator in the laboratory of Gene Regulation and Development. He received NIH Director’s Award in 2008 and 2016, and was promoted to tenure in 2009.

Selected Publications

  1. Karuppudurai T, Lin TY, Ting CY, Pursley R, Melnattur KV, Diao F, White BH, Macpherson LJ, Gallio M, Pohida T, Lee CH. A hard-wired glutamatergic circuit pools and relays UV signals to mediate spectral preference in Drosophila. Neuron. 2014;81(3):603-15.

  2. Melnattur KV, Pursley R, Lin TY, Ting CY, Smith PD, Pohida T, Lee CH. Multiple redundant medulla projection neurons mediate color vision in Drosophila. J Neurogenet. 2014;28(3-4):374-88.

  3. Shinomiya K, Karuppudurai T, Lin TY, Lu Z, Lee CH, Meinertzhagen IA. Candidate neural substrates for off-edge motion detection in Drosophila. Curr Biol. 2014;24(10):1062-70.

  4. Ting CY, McQueen PG, Pandya N, Lin TY, Yang M, Reddy OV, O'Connor MB, McAuliffe M, Lee CH. Photoreceptor-derived activin promotes dendritic termination and restricts the receptive fields of first-order interneurons in Drosophila. Neuron. 2014;81(4):830-46.

  5. Lin TY, Luo J, Shinomiya K, Ting CY, Lu Z, Meinertzhagen IA, Lee CH. Mapping chromatic pathways in the Drosophila visual system. J Comp Neurol. 2016;524(2):213-27.

This page was last updated on July 12th, 2017