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Molecular and Human Genetics

Houston, Texas

Department of Molecular and Human Genetics
Department of Molecular and Human Genetics
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Rodney C. Samaco, Ph.D.

Rodney C. Samaco, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor of Molecular and Human Genetics

Other Positions

Assistant Professor, Jan and Dan Duncan Neurological Research Institute, Texas Children's Hospital


Ph.D., Baylor College of Medicine, 2010
Postdoc, Jan and Dan Duncan Neurological Institute, Texas Children's Hospital, 2011

Research Interests

The primary research interest of my laboratory is to identify and understand the key neuroanatomical and molecular determinants of social behavior using mouse models of syndromic autism. Social behavior is governed by both genetic and environmental factors, yet the genetic basis for normal social behavior remains poorly explored in spite of a need to better understand it for human health. Through the use of genetically engineered mouse models combined with neurobehavioral measurements and high-throughput molecular and biochemical approaches, our lab studies the temporal requirement of syndromic autism-causing genes for normal social behavior, and aims to uncover the molecular changes that are responsible for social behavior abnormalities in specific neuronal populations. Such work will provide the foundation for studies designed to improve social behavior phenotypes in mouse models of autism by either genetic or pharmacological means, and will have clinical implications for human neuropsychiatric conditions characterized by impaired sociability.

Another avenue of research in the laboratory is the investigation of how non-coding RNA contribute to normal brain function. We are currently studying the role of microRNA (miRNA) in the regulation of social behavior and sensorimotor gating in the mouse. By focusing on the endogenous role of miRNA in the regulation of these neurological phenotypes, we seek to gain a deeper understanding of the manifestation of complex features associated with disorders such as autism and schizophrenia.

Selected Publications

  1. Samaco RC, Mandel-Brehm C, McGraw CM, Shaw CA, McGill BE, Zoghbi HY (2012). Crh and Oprm1 mediate anxiety-related behavior and social approach in a mouse model of MECP2 duplication syndrome. Nat. Genet. 44(2): 206-11. PubMed PMID: 22231481
  2. McGraw CM, Samaco RC, Zoghbi HY (2011). Adult neural function requires MeCP2. Science 333(6039): 186. PubMed PMID: 21636743
  3. Samaco RC, Neul JL (2011). Complexities of Rett syndrome and MeCP2. J. Neurosci. 31(22): 7951-9. PubMed PMID: 21632916
  4. Chao HT, Chen H, Samaco RC, Xue M, Chahrour M, Yoo J, Neul JL, Gong S, Lu HC, Heintz N, Ekker M, Rubenstein JL, Noebels JL, Rosenmund C, Zoghbi HY (2010). Dysfunction in GABA signalling mediates autism-like stereotypies and Rett syndrome phenotypes. Nature 468(7321): 263-9. PubMed PMID: 21068835
  5. Samaco RC, Mandel-Brehm C, Chao HT, Ward CS, Fyffe-Maricich SL, Ren J, Hyland K, Thaller C, Maricich SM, Humphreys P, Greer JJ, Percy A, Glaze DG, Zoghbi HY, Neul JL (2009). Loss of MeCP2 in aminergic neurons causes cell-autonomous defects in neurotransmitter synthesis and specific behavioral abnormalities. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U S A 106(51): 21966-71. PubMed PMID: 20007372
  6. Fyffe SL, Neul JL, Samaco RC, Chao HT, Ben-Shachar S, Moretti P, McGill BE, Goulding EH, Sullivan E, Tecott LH, Zoghbi HY (2008). Deletion of Mecp2 in Sim1-expressing neurons reveals a critical role for MeCP2 in feeding behavior, aggression, and the response to stress. Neuron 59(6): 947-58. PubMed PMID: 18817733
  7. Lee Y, Samaco RC, Gatchel JR, Thaller C, Orr HT, Zoghbi HY (2008). miR-19, miR-101 and miR-130 co-regulate ATXN1 levels to potentially modulate SCA1 pathogenesis. Nat. Neurosci. 11(10): 1137-9. PubMed PMID: 18758459
  8. Samaco RC, Fryer JD, Ren J, Fyffe S, Chao HT, Sun Y, Greer JJ, Zoghbi HY, Neul JL (2008). A partial loss of function allele of methyl-CpG-binding protein 2 predicts a human neurodevelopmental syndrome. Hum. Mol. Genet. 17(12): 1718-27. PubMed PMID: 18321864
  9. Bowman AB, Lam YC, Jafar-Nejad P, Chen HK, Richman R, Samaco RC, Fryer JD, Kahle JJ, Orr HT, Zoghbi HY (2007). Duplication of Atxn1l suppresses SCA1 neuropathology by decreasing incorporation of polyglutamine-expanded ataxin-1 into native complexes. Nat. Genet. 39(3): 373-9. PubMed PMID: 17322884
  10. Shah R, Medina-Martinez O, Chu LF, Samaco RC, Jamrich M (2006). Expression of FoxP2 during zebrafish development and in the adult brain. Int. J. Dev. Biol. 50(4): 435-8. PubMed PMID: 16525940

Contact Information

Rodney C. Samaco, Ph.D.
Jan and Dan Duncan Neurological Research Institute
Texas Children's Hospital
1250 Moursund St., Ste. 1250, Rm. 1270.02
Houston, TX 77030

Phone: 832-824-8788
Fax: 832-825-1249

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