I am interested in how transient events during development program neurons to take on a specific identity and function. More specifically, I am studying how estrogen and testosterone generate sex differences in the brain and behavior.
The Tollkuhn Lab seeks to understand how transient events during brain development exert lasting effects on gene expression, circuit function and, ultimately, behavior. We study how sex-specific neural circuits in rodents are established and modulated by the gonadal hormones estrogen and testosterone. The cognate receptors for these hormones are nuclear receptor transcription factors, which orchestrate modification of local chromatin environment and thus exert long-term effects on gene expression. However, the genes regulated by these receptors, as well as the specific mechanisms they utilize, remain poorly understood in the brain. This is in part because the extraordinary cellular heterogeneity of the brain complicates analysis of the small subpopulations of neurons that mediate sex-specific behaviors.
Having recently identified sex differences in both gene expression and chromatin in brain regions known to regulate sex-specific behaviors, my lab is now working to understand how hormones generate these molecular sex differences during development, through the use of biochemical, genomic, and behavioral analyses. We have developed a method that permits genome-wide analysis of histone modifications or DNA methylation in genetically defined populations of neurons. We hypothesize that these epigenetic data, combined with gene expression profiling, define the molecular signature of the critical period for sexual differentiation of the brain. Our goal is to provide a mechanistic link between the transcriptional effects of hormone signaling during development and the consequent social behaviors displayed in adulthood.
2021 Women’s Partnership luncheon raises $250,000
September 23, 2021
The twentieth annual Women’s Partnership for Science lecture and luncheon was held to support, promote, and celebrate women researchers at CSHL.
What do these scientist moms do? Ask their kids.
May 8, 2020
We asked the children of three scientists to describe their mother’s work. See what they had to say.
A home like no other, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
November 7, 2019
Hear why our campus, our community, and our collaborative nature makes us a place that so many scientists call "home."
Discussing sex differences and your brain with Jessica Tollkuhn–A Cocktails and Chromosomes talk
June 20, 2018
Mars & Venus? Not quite. Jessica Tollkuhn, was at Six Harbors Brewing Company to discuss how sex differences in the brain may alter how we behave.
Portrait of a Neuroscience Powerhouse
April 27, 2018
A relatively small neuroscience group at CSHL is having an outsized impact on a dynamic and highly competitive field
Mouse masculinization traced to estrogen receptor in inhibitory neurons
July 27, 2017
What makes a male animal act "male?"
Team traces masculinization in mice to estrogen receptor in inhibitory neurons
July 20, 2017
CSHL researchers discover when ERα receptors are deleted in the brains of male mice, they do not exhibit typical "masculine" behaviors during puberty.
New junior faculty join CSHL
November 12, 2014
Interviews with new junior faculty members Jessica Tollkuhn and Je Lee.