Balapal Lab

Head of Lab

Basavaraj Balapal, PhD

The central focus of Dr. Basavaraj Balapal’s laboratory is to understand the function of endocannabinoid systems and epigenetics in synaptic plasticity and learning and memory disorders. While the main focus of the lab is on fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD), our studies span many different drug (marijuana and synthetic cannabinoids or Spice) induced synaptic disorders.

Research in the Balapal lab is focused on the function of lipid-derived messengers, with particular emphasis on the endogenous cannabinoids anandamide and 2-arachidonoylglycerol. Current research efforts converge on three areas: endocannabinoids signaling; physiological roles of the endogenous cannabinoid system during early brain development; understanding the role of endogenous cannabinoid system in synaptic plasticity and learning and memory disorders.

Hippocampal slices and primary neural cell cultures and state-of-the-art double patch-clamp and slices electrophysiology is used to understand the physiological role of endocannabinoids; liquid chromatography/mass-spectrometry is used to investigate the formation and deactivation of anandamide and 2-arachidonoylglycerol in brain cells. Western blot and molecular biology approaches are employed to characterize the molecular mechanisms underlying these processes. The potential pharmacological agents that interfere with various aspects of endogenous cannabinoid function, and their therapeutic potential is explored in vitro and in vivo for many learning and memory disorders.

Dr. Balapal also investigates marijuana, synthetic cannabinoids and endocannabinoid compounds that stimulate the CB1 cannabinoid receptor and regulate signal transduction pathways in the brain hippocampus. The lab studies the endocannabinoids and their CB1 receptor signaling in the regulation of synaptic plasticity and learning and memory disorders. In addition, the lab investigates epigenetic modifications such as histone associated DNA methylation and histone protein acetylation and methylation of many target genes including CB1 receptor gene and their transcriptional regulation in many cognitive disorders.

Selected Publications

Shivakumar M, Subbanna S, Joshi V, Basavarajappa BS. Postnatal Ethanol Exposure Activates HDAC-Mediated Histone Deacetylation, Impairs Synaptic Plasticity Gene Expression and Behavior in Mice. Int J Neuropsychopharmacol. 2020 May 27;23(5):324-338. doi: 10.1093/ijnp/pyaa017. PMID: 32170298; PMCID: PMC7251635
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Joshi V, Subbanna S, Shivakumar M, Basavarajappa BS. CB1R regulates CDK5 signaling and epigenetically controls Rac1 expression contributing to neurobehavioral abnormalities in mice postnatally exposed to ethanol. Neuropsychopharmacology. 2019 Feb;44(3):514-525. doi: 10.1038/s41386-018-0181-y. Epub 2018 Aug 22. PMID: 30143782; PMCID: PMC6333777
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Subbanna S, Nagre NN, Shivakumar M, Joshi V, Psychoyos D, Kutlar A, Umapathy NS, Basavarajappa BS. CB1R-Mediated Activation of Caspase-3 Causes Epigenetic and Neurobehavioral Abnormalities in Postnatal Ethanol-Exposed Mice. Front Mol Neurosci. 2018 Feb 20;11:45. doi: 10.3389/fnmol.2018.00045. PMID: 29515368; PMCID: PMC5826222
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All publications

Balapal Lab Members

Shivakumar Subbanna, PhD
Postdoctoral Researcher