Mark Hoon, PhD

Senior Investigator

Molecular Genetics Section


Building 35A, Room 3F143
35A Convent Dr. MSC 3757
Bethesda MD 20892-3757


Research Topics

Dr. Hoon studies, at a molecular and cellular level, the basic neuroscience underlying the sense of somatosensation (hot, cold, pain, itch and the sense of touch), particularly the molecules that contribute to the detection, neural transmission and neuronal pathways employed by somatosensation. Molecular genetic approaches in combination with anatomical, pharmacological, and behavioral methods are used in mouse models to probe these neuronal components and circuits. These studies provide information about the mechanisms by which somatosensory stimuli are distinguished from each other, and the means by which distinct innate responses are elicited by these stimuli (for example the scratching that accompanies itch). Ultimately, these studies will reveal biologically relevant molecules and cell-types that are involved in sensing pain and itch, and will help identify potential targets for therapeutic intervention.


Dr. Mark Hoon earned his Ph.D. in the lab of John Findlay at the University of Leeds where he studied the molecular components in invertebrate vision. After completing a NATO postdoctoral fellowship in Freiburg, Germany, Dr. Hoon joined Nicholas Ryba's lab at NIDCR to investigate taste. Over a period of 15 years, in collaboration with the Charles Zuker’s laboratory at Columbia University, they discovered the receptors and cells required for sweet, bitter, and sour taste. At the end of 2006, Dr. Hoon started his own lab working on deciphering signaling pathways involved in mammalian somatosensation. The lab has been dissecting the cellular basis for thermosensation and pain signaling. Recently uncovered the neural pathway for itch by studying neuropeptides. Dr. Hoon's group is continuing to study peripheral mechanisms of somatosensation using molecular genetic techniques.

Selected Publications

  1. Gu X, Zhang YZ, O'Malley JJ, De Preter CC, Penzo M, Hoon MA. Neurons in the caudal ventrolateral medulla mediate descending pain control. Nat Neurosci. 2023;26(4):594-605.
  2. 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).
  3. Tseng PY, Hoon MA. Oncostatin M can sensitize sensory neurons in inflammatory pruritus. Sci Transl Med. 2021;13(619):eabe3037.
  4. 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.
  5. Mishra SK, Hoon MA. The cells and circuitry for itch responses in mice. Science. 2013;340(6135):968-71.

Related Scientific Focus Areas

This page was last updated on Thursday, November 9, 2023