Benjamin A. Eaton, Ph.D.



Cellular and Integrative Physiology

Benjamin A. Eaton, Ph.D.

Associate Professor


B.A., University of Colorado, Boulder, 1990
Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley, 2000


Our lab is interested in defining the molecular mechanisms that stabilize and maintain synapse function throughout the lifespan of an organism.  These mechanisms include stabilization of both synaptic innervations and synaptic transmission.  Furthermore, we predict that these mechanisms contribute to age-dependent declines in nervous system function that are observed normally and during disease. Our primarily analysis is performed on the neuromuscular junction of Drosophila in both larvae and adult (see Figure).  This system combines high-resolution synaptic analysis with power molecular and genetic approaches.  Current projects include:

1) The effects of age and diet on synaptic function.  We are using the newly developed synapse system, the CM9 NMJ, to investigate changes to synapse function with age and how these changes contribute to the overall decline in neuromuscular performance observed with age.  We are particularly interested in studies focused on changes in the composition and function of ion channels within the nerve terminal and changes to the active zone.

2) How the selective trafficking of components required for normal synaptic function is achieved.  The long-term maintenance of synapse function requires the turnover and replacement of synaptic material with age.  We are interested in determining the molecules involved in the selective trafficking of presynaptic components.  We are particularly interested in microtubule-based transport mechanisms utilizing the dynactin complex.  Mutations in DCTN1 result in age-dependent neurological disorders including lower motor disease and frontotemporal dementia.


Rebekah Mahoney, Joel M Rawson and Benjamin A. Eaton.  “An age-dependent change in the synaptic homeostasis set point at the NMJ.”  Journal of Neuroscience (in press).

Luis E. D. Gimenez, Parakashtha Ghildyal, Kathleen E. Fischer, Hongxiang Hu, William W. Ja, Benjamin A. Eaton, Yimin Wu, Steven N Austad, and Ravi Ranjan. “Modulation of Methuselah expression targeted to Drosophila Insulin-producing cells extends life and enhances oxidative stress resistance.”  Aging Cell, 2013, vol. 12 (1), pp. 121-129.

Leo Chang, Holly Davison, Tabita Kreko, Rebekah Mahoney, Tim Cusmano, Yimin Wu, Adrian Rothenfluh, and Benjamin A. Eaton.  “Genetic dissection of synaptic pathologies in dynactin mutants identifies Arfaptin, a specifier of dynactin complex function during synapse growth.”  Molecular Biology of the Cell, June, 2013, vol. 24 (11), pp. 1749-64.

Nina Boiko, Volodymyr Kucher, Benjamin A. Eaton, and James D. Stockand. “Inhibition of Neuronal Deg/ENaC Channels by the Multiple Sclerosis Drug 4-Aminopyridine.”  Journal of Biological Chemistry, March 29, 2013, vol. 288 (13), pp. 9418-27.

Nina Boiko, Volodymyr Kucher, Benjamin A. Eaton, and James D. Stockand.  “Patch clamping Drosophila sensory neurons.”  Methods in Molecular Biology, 2013, vol. 998, pp. 385-97.

Joel M Rawson, Tabita Kreko, Holly Davison, Rebekah Mahoney, Leo Chang, Alex Bokov, Jon Gelfond, Greg Macleod, and Benjamin A. Eaton.  “Effects of diet on synaptic vesicle release in dynactin comples mutants: a mechanism for improved vitality by diet during motor disease” Aging Cell, June 2012, vol. 11(3), pp. 410-419.  (Journal cover image)

Nina Boiko, Volodymyr Kucher, James D. Stockand, and Benjamin A. Eaton. “Pickpocket1 is a molecular signal transducer necessary for mechanosensation.”  Journal of Biological Chemistry, November 16, 2012, vol. 287 (47), pp. 39878-86.

Raniero L Peru y Colon de Portugal, Summer F. Acevedo, Aylin R. Rodan, Leo Chang, Benjamin A. Eaton, and Adrian Rothenfluh. “Adult neuronal Arf6 controls ethanol-induced behavior downstream of Rac1.”  Journal of Neuroscience, 2012, vol 32 (49), pp. 17706-13.

Eaton BA and Davis GW. LIM Kinase1 controls synaptic stability downstream of the type II BMP receptor. Neuron. 2005 Sep 1;47(5):695-708.

Eaton BA and Davis GW. Synapse disassembly. Genes Dev. 2003 Sep 1;17(17):2075-82.

Eaton BA, Fetter RD, and Davis GW. Dynactin is necessary for synapse stabilization. Neuron, May 30, 2002, vol. 34(5), pp. 729-741.