Mark A. Hoon, Ph.D.

Senior Investigator

Laboratory of Sensory Biology/Molecular Genetics Unit


Building 49, Room 1A16
49 Convent Drive
Bethesda, MD 20892


Research Topics

The Molecular Genetics Unit investigates the biology of somatosensation (e.g. thermal and nociceptive stimulation and the sense of touch) at a molecular and cellular level. We are particularly interested in molecules that have roles in signaling cascades within the primary sensory neurons that transform stimulation into membrane depolarization. These studies will provide information about the mechanisms by which somatosensory receptor cells transduce signals. Identification of these genes will also provide important tools to develop genetically engineered mice for physiological and behavioral studies to help define the function of cell types in vivo. For instance, recently we generated transgenic mice that allowed us to identify the cellular basis of acute temperature sensation and the neurons that control core body temperature. These and related studies continue to determine other modality specific populations of neurons involved in somatosensation. Ultimately, we would like to establish how different types of stimuli are distinguished by determining the neural circuitry of functionally defined receptor cells and through these experiments determine the biologically relevant molecules and cell-types that are involved in sensing pain and touch.


Mark Hoon received a B.S. in biochemistry from the University of Birmingham, UK in 1986. He performed his graduate studies in the lab of Dr. John Findlay at the University of Leeds, studying the mechanisms of light activation of visual pigments in the invertebrate eye. In Leeds he developed an interest in using molecular biology to study complex problems in sensory biology. After a two year postdoc at the University of Freiburg in Germany, he joined the group of Nick Ryba at NIH. During his time in Dr. Ryba's group he worked on the molecular basis of taste. Over a period of about 10 years in collaboration with the group of Charles Zuker they identified and characterized the receptors for four main taste modalities. They went on to establish the cellular logic that encodes taste discrimination. In 2006 he started his own lab in NIDCR studying nociception (pain) and touch. His work focuses on identifying and dissecting molecules and cells involved in these senses. The Hoon lab continues to use molecular genetic approaches; combining molecular biological methods and generating transgenic mice models that can be interrogated using a variety of techniques including, behavioral and electrophysiological testing, cell-culture and biochemical assays.

Selected Publications

  1. Solinski HJ, Dranchak P, Oliphant E, Gu X, Earnest TW, Braisted J, Inglese J, Hoon MA. Inhibition of natriuretic peptide receptor 1 reduces itch in mice. Sci Transl Med. 2019;11(500).

  2. Solinski HJ, Kriegbaum MC, Tseng PY, Earnest TW, Gu X, Barik A, Chesler AT, Hoon MA. Nppb Neurons Are Sensors of Mast Cell-Induced Itch. Cell Rep. 2019;26(13):3561-3573.e4.

  3. Huang J, Polgár E, Solinski HJ, Mishra SK, Tseng PY, Iwagaki N, Boyle KA, Dickie AC, Kriegbaum MC, Wildner H, Zeilhofer HU, Watanabe M, Riddell JS, Todd AJ, Hoon MA. Circuit dissection of the role of somatostatin in itch and pain. Nat Neurosci. 2018;21(5):707-716.

  4. Szczot M, Pogorzala LA, Solinski HJ, Young L, Yee P, Le Pichon CE, Chesler AT, Hoon MA. Cell-Type-Specific Splicing of Piezo2 Regulates Mechanotransduction. Cell Rep. 2017;21(10):2760-2771.

  5. Mishra SK, Hoon MA. The cells and circuitry for itch responses in mice. Science. 2013;340(6135):968-71.

This page was last updated on August 14th, 2019