Jeffrey B. Eells, Ph.D.
office: Brody 7N-84
B.A., Miami University
Ph.D., Southern Illinois University
Postdoctoral Fellow, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; National Institute for Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
The overarching theme of my research is understanding how the environment can alter brain function. Various environmental experiences including infections, early life stressors, disrupted circadian rhythms, or exposure to toxins can increase the risk of developing neurologic and neuropsychiatric disorders such as Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, schizophrenia, and depression. The major focus of the lab is on the function of dopamine neurons. Since the number of dopamine neurons is dynamic and changes based on experiences, we use a transgenic mouse model that permanently expresses a fluorescent protein in all dopamine neurons to easily follow this process as these neurons turn on and off. This process is regulated by various transcription factors, one of which we have investigated is Nurr1, linking environmental experience with expression of proteins needed to make and handle dopamine. By following dopamine neurons in the brain, we can see how experiences alter these neurons and contribute to neurodegenerative diseases. Understanding how this process is regulated could lead to future therapies to mitigate symptoms of disease in human patients.
In collaboration with other investigators at ECU, I am also currently working on projects using SARS-CoV-2 in a mouse model to understand the long-term consequences of COVID-19 on inflammation, cognition, and neuropsychiatric symptom and the possibility of increased risk of developing neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s and/or Alzheimer’s disease. Our current work has found that a previous infection with SARS-CoV-2 can exacerbate the loss of dopamine neurons in mouse model of Parkinson’s disease. Work is ongoing to determine the mechanism(s) through with SARS-CoV-2 can damage dopamine neurons.
Techniques we use in our lab include immunohistochemistry, immunofluorescence and fluorescent microscopy to visualize dopamine neurons, stereotaxic brain surgeries, laser capture microdissection to isolate individual neurons, Q-PCR to measure gene expression, animal behavioral tests to determine effects on the brain, high pressure liquid chromatography for analysis of dopamine levels, and mouse genotyping.
My primary teaching responsibilities include gross anatomy, neuroanatomy, and neuroscience taught to the first-year medical students. I enjoy these courses because it provides an opportunity to interact with students individually, share knowledge, and learn about them.
My philosophy as a mentor first starts with teaching students about the specific information relevant to the research topic as well as the techniques available to acquire information. The next step is to train them to use that information to formulate and test that hypothesis and then evaluate that data critically. Finally, students must learn to communicate that information effectively. As a mentor, I like to talk to the students about science, sharing my thoughts and ideas so they can, based on their expanding knowledge base, contribute to these conversations and come up with their own ideas.
Current and Recent Funding
A Kinin B1R antagonist as a therapeutic to prevent COVID-19 pathology awarded by Brody Brother’s Foundation 2023 (co-PI)
Mechanisms of SARS-CoV-2 infection induced dopamine neuron damage awarded by American Parkinson Disease Association (APDA) 2023-2024 (PI)
Fernandez RF, Wilson ES, Diaz V, Martínez-Gardeazabal J, Foguth R, Cannon JR, Jackson SN, Hermann BP, Eells JB, Ellis JM. Lipid metabolism in dopaminergic neurons influences light entrainment. J Neurochem. 2023 May;165(3):379-390. PMID: 36815399.
Smeyne RJ*, Eells JB*, Chatterjee D*, Byrne M, Akula SM, Sriramula S, O’Rourke DP, Schmidt P. COVID-19 Infection Enhances Susceptibility to Oxidative Stress-Induced Parkinsonism. Mov Disord. 2022 Jul;37(7):1394-1404. PMID: 35579496.
Fernandez RF, Pereyra AS, Diaz V, Wilson ES, Litwa KA, Martínez-Gardeazabal J, Jackson SN, Brenna JT, Hermann BP, Eells JB, Ellis JM. Acyl-CoA synthetase 6 is required for brain docosahexaenoic acid retention and neuroprotection during aging. JCI Insight. 2021 Jun 8;6(11) PMID: 34100386
Partington HS, Nutter JM, Eells JB. Nurr1 deficiency shortens free running period, enhances photoentrainment to phase advance, and disrupts circadian cycling of the dopamine neuron phenotype. Behav Brain Res. 2021 Aug 6;411:113347. PMID: 33991560.
Kummari E, Guo-Ross SX, Partington HS, Nutter JM, Eells JB. Quantitative Immunohistochemistry to Measure Regional Expression of Nurr1 in the Brain and the Effect of the Nurr1 Heterozygous Genotype. Front Neuroanat. 2021 Apr 30;15:563854. PMID: 33994958.
Parekh RU, White A, Leffler KE, Biancardi VC, Eells JB, Abdel-Rahman AA, Sriramula S. Hypothalamic kinin B1 receptor mediates orexin system hyperactivity in neurogenic hypertension. Sci Rep. 2021 Oct 26;11(1):21050. PMID: 34702886.
Kummari E, Guo-Ross S, Eells JB. Region Specific Effects of Aging and the Nurr1-Null Heterozygous Genotype on Dopamine Neurotransmission. Neurochem Neuropharmacol. 2017 Jun;3(1):114. PMID: 28989991.
Eells JB, Varela-Stokes A, Guo-Ross SX, Kummari E, Smith HM, Cox AD, Lindsay DS. Chronic Toxoplasma gondii in Nurr1-null heterozygous mice exacerbates elevated open field activity. PLoS One. 2015 Apr 9;10(4). PMID: 25855987.
Kummari E, Guo-Ross SX, Eells JB. Laser capture microdissection–a demonstration of the isolation of individual dopamine neurons and the entire ventral tegmental area. J Vis Exp. 2015 Feb 6;(96):e52336. doi: 10.3791/52336. PMID: 25742438.
Eells JB, Wilcots J, Sisk S, Guo-Ross SX. NR4A gene expression is dynamically regulated in the ventral tegmental area dopamine neurons and is related to expression of dopamine neurotransmission genes. J Mol Neurosci. 2012 Mar;46(3):545-53. PMID: 21932041.
Moore TM, Brown T, Cade M, Eells JB. Alterations in amphetamine-stimulated dopamine overflow due to the Nurr1-null heterozygous genotype and postweaning isolation. Synapse. 2008 Oct;62(10):764-74. PMID: 18655117.
Carr, R.L., N.H. Armstrong, A.T. Buchanan, J.B. Eells, A.N. Mohammed, M.K. Ross, and C.A. Nail. 2017. Decreased anxiety in juvenile rats following exposure to low levels of chlorpyrifos during development. NeuroTox. 59: 183-190. PMID: 26642910
Yang, E.J., J.V. Stokes, E. Kummari, J. Eells, and B.L. Kaplan. 2016. Immunomodulation by subchronic low dose 2,3,7,8-Tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin in experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis in the absence of pertussis toxin. Toxicol. Sci. 151: 35-43. PMID: 26822306
Eells, J.B., A. Varela-Stokes, S.X. Guo-Ross, E. Kummari, H.M. Smith, E. Cox, and D.S. Lindsay. 2015. Chronic toxoplasma gondii in Nurr1-null heterozygous mice exacerbates elevated open field activity. PLoS ONE. 10: e0119280. PMID: 25855987
Kummari, E., S.X. Guo-Ross, and J.B. Eells. 2015. Laser capture microdissection – a demonstration of the isolation of individual dopamine neurons and the entire ventral tegmental area. J. Vis. Exp. 96: e52336. PMID: 25742438
Eells, J.B., J. Wilcots, S. Sisk, and S.X. Guo-Ross. 2011. NR4A gene expression is dynamically regulated in the ventral tegmental area dopamine neurons and is related to expression of dopamine neurotransmission genes. J. Mol. Neurosci. 46: 545-553. PMID: 21932041
Scott, V.L., L.A. Shack, J.B. Eells, P.L. Ryan, J.R. Donaldson, and K.S. Coats. 2011. Immunomodulator expression in trophoblasts from the feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV)-infected cat. Virol. J. 8: 336. PMID: 21729293
Eells, J.B. and T.W. Brown. 2009. Repeated developmental exposure to chlorpyrifos and methyl parathion causes persistent alterations in nicotinic acetylcholine subunit mRNA expression with chlorpyrifos altering dopamine metabolite levels. Neurotoxiol. Teratol. 31: 90-103. PMID: 18977431
Moore, T.M., T. Brown, M. Cade, and J.B. Eells. 2008. Alterations in amphetamine-stimulated dopamine overflow due to the Nurr1-null heterozygous genotype and postweaning isolation. Synpase. 62: 764-774. PMID: 18655117
Gil, M., C. McKinney, M.K. Lee, J.B. Eells, M.A. Phyillaier, and V.M. Nikodem. 2007. Regulation of GTP-cyclohydrolase 1 gene expression by orphan receptor Nurr1 in cell culture and in vivo. J. Neurochem. 101: 142-150. PMID: 17394463
Eells, J.B., J.A. Misler, and V.M. Nikodem. 2006. Reduced tyrosine hydroxylase and GTP cyclohydrolase mRNA expression, tyrosine hydroxylase activity, and associated neurochemical alterations in Nurr1-null heterozygous mice. Brain Res. Bull. 70: 186-195. PMID: 16782508
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