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R. David Heathcote
rdhLapham Hall 411

R. David Heathcote

Biological Sciences


  • Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Colorado School of Medicine, 1985-1988
  • Postdoctoral Fellow, Stanford University School of Medicine, 1981-1985
  • PhD, University of California Berkeley, 1981
  • AB, University of Missouri-Colombia, 1974

Research Interests

My interest in the development of the nervous system stems from the relatively simple idea that we can better understand how the nervous system works if we can figure out how it is put together. Toward this end, I am studying the patterns formed by newly generated neurons in the frog, Xenopus laevis. My research group uses a number of cellular and molecular techniques to study the underlying mechanisms. The techniques range from using molecular biology tools to change gene expression to embryonic dissection, intracellular injection, immunocytochemistry and many different types of light microscopy. Thus, our strategy is to use a multidisciplinary approach to try and understand how neurons become organized during development.

We are currently interested in the patterns formed by sensory neurons in the developing nervous system. The first or primary sensory neurons are known as Rohon Beard cells. They form in the central nervous system (CNS) and provide the sensory information needed to mediate hatching and early larval life. The secondary sensory neurons form in the peripheral dorsal root ganglia (DRG) and provide sensory information for the rest of the animal’s life. We are interested in how each population forms and becomes patterned, in order to properly innervate their targets and the role of the targets in stimulating the switch in innervation between the two populations of sensory neurons. Ultimately we would like to understand the rules involved in forming functional groups of cells.

Selected Publications

Monroe, Jerry D., and Heathcote, R. D. “Protein phosphatases regulate the growth of developing neurites.” International Journal of Developmental Neuroscience 31.4 (2013): 250-257.
Binor, E., and Heathcote, R. D. “Activated notch disrupts the initial patterning of dopaminergic spinal cord neurons.” Developmental Neuroscience 27.5 (2005): 306-12.
Moghadam, K. S., Chen, A., and Heathcote, R. D. “Establishment of a ventral cell fate in the spinal cord.” Developmental Dynamics 227.4 (2003): 552-62.
Binor, E., and Heathcote, R. D. “Development of GABA-immunoreactive neuron patterning in the spinal cord.” J. Comp. Neurol. 438.1 (2001): 1-11.
Heathcote, R. D., Ekman, J. M., Campbell, K. P., and Godfrey, E. W. “Dystroglycan overexpression in vivo alters acetylcholine receptor aggregation at the neuromuscular junction.” Development Biology 227.2 (2000): 595-605.