Ellis-Davies Lab

Optical Methods & Neurophysiology


ellis daviesIn the past 30 years the use of fluorescence imaging in biological sciences has been as important as DNA-based methods advancing our understanding in almost every field. (Nobel Prizes for GFP (2008) and super resolution imaging (2014) are testament to this.) My work during this period has pioneered the use of light to control cell function, the optical tools we have made have proved to be conceptual fundamental enabling technologies. Specifically I have developed caged calcium probes, which have enabled 100s of experiments in many areas of biology and chemistry. The second focus of my research is the development of caged neurotransmitters. We have published several seminal papers in this field. These probes have also enabled many important discoveries by many neuroscientists all over the world. The goal of my current and future work is to be equally transformative. Thus my research at Mount Sinai has involved developing new probes that allow chromatically selective, multi-color stimulation of cellular processes. With our recent work we have taken optical stimulation of cells out of the “monochrome era” so as to enable bi-directional control of neuronal signaling with different colors of light for the first time.

Contact Us

Ellis-Davies Laboratory
Graham Ellis-Davies, PhD
Professor, Neuroscience
Professor, Pharmacological Sciences
Chemistry lab: An22-025
NMR lab: An22-053A
Laser lab: An22-230
Lab: 212.241.6958


Cloaked Caged Compounds: Chemical Probes for Two-Photon Optoneurobiology

Caged neurotransmitters, in combination with focused light beams, enable precise interrogation of neuronal function, even at the level of single synapse. Angewandte Chemie (2017), 56, 93-197. M.T. Richers, J.M. Amatrudo, J.P. Olson, and G.C. R. Ellis-Davies.



Howarth, Sutherland, Choi, Martin, Lind, Khennouf, LeDue, Pakan, Ko, Ellis-Davies, Lauritzen, Sibson, Buchan, MacVicar (2017) J. Neurosci. 37, 2403-2414.

Richers, M.T., Amatrudo, J.P., Olson, J.P. and Ellis-Davies, G.C.R. (2017) Cloaked caged compounds: chemical probes for two-photon optoneurobiology. Angewandte Chemie 56, 193-97.


Sajo, M., *Ellis-Davies, G.C.R. and *Morishita, H. (2016) Lynx1 limits dendritic spine turnover in the adult visual cortex. J. Neurosci. 36, 9472-8
*corresponding authors.

Agarwal, H.K., Janicek, R., Chi, S.H., Perry, J.W., Niggli, E. and Ellis-Davies, G.C.R., (2016) Calcium uncaging with visible light. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 138, 3687-93.

Kantevari, S., Passlick, S., Kwon, H.B., Richers, M., Sabatini, B.L., and Ellis-Davies, G.C.R., (2016) Development of anionically decorated caged neurotransmitters: in vitro comparison of 7-nitroindolinyl- and 2-(p-phenyl-o-nitrophenyl)-propyl-based photochemical probes. ChemBioChem 17, 953-961.


Wang, H. C., Lin, C-C., Cheung, R., Zhang-Hooks, Y., Agarwal, A., Ellis-Davies, G.C.R., Rock, J., Bergles, D. E. (2015) Spontaneous Activity of Cochlear Hair Cells Triggered by Fluid Secretion Mechanism in Adjacent Support Cells. Cell 163, 1348-1359.

Amatrudo, J.M., Olson, J.P., Agarwal, H.K. and Ellis-Davies G.C.R. (2015) Caged compounds for multichromic optical interrogation of neural systems. Eur. J. Neurosci. 41, 5-16.


Yagishita, S., A. Hayashi-Takagi, A., Ellis-Davies, G.C.R., Urakubo, H., Ishii, S. and Kasai, H. (2014) A critical time window for dopamine actions on the structural plasticity of dendritic spines. Science 345, 1616-1620.

Crowe, S.E. and Ellis-Davies, G.C.R. (2014) Longitudinal in vivo two-photon fluorescence imaging. J. Com. Neurol. 522, 1708-1727.

Watkins, S. Robel, S. Kimbrough, I.F., Robert, S.M., Ellis-Davies, G.C.R. and Sontheimer, H. (2014) Disruption of astrocyte-vascular coupling and the blood-brain barrier by invading glioma cells. Nature Commun. 5, e4196.

Crowe, S.E. and Ellis-Davies, G.C.R. (2014) Spine pruning in 5xFAD mice starts on basal dendrites of layer 5 pyramidal neurons. Brain Struct. Funct. 219, 571-580.

Amatrudo, J.M., Olson, J.P., Lur, G., Chiu, C.Q., Higley, M.J. and Ellis-Davies G.C.R. (2014) Wavelength-selective one- and two-photon uncaging of GABA. ACS Chem. Neurosci. 5, 64-70.


Olson, J.P., Banghart, M.R., Sabatini, B.L. and Ellis-Davies G.C.R. (2013) Spectral evolution of a photochemical protecting group for orthogonal two-color uncaging with visible light. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 135, 135, 15948-15954.

Buskila, Y., Crowe, S.E. and Ellis-Davies, G.C.R. (2013) Synaptic deficits in layer 5 neurons precede overt structural decay in 5xFAD mice. Neuroscience 254, 152-159.

Hayama, T., Noguchi, J., Watanabe, S., Takahashi, N., Hayashi-Takagi, A., Ellis-Davies, G.C.R., Matsuzaki, M. and Kasai, H. (2013) GABA promotes the competitive selection of dendritic spines by controlling local Ca signaling Nature Neurosci. 16, 1409-1416.

Olson, J.P., Kwon, H-B., Takasaki, K.T., Chiu, C.Q., Higley, M.J., Sabatini, B.L. and Ellis-Davies G.C.R. (2013) Optically selective two-photon uncaging of glutamate at 900 nm. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 135, 5954-5957.

Gross, G.G., Junge, J.A., Mora, R.J. Kwon, HB, Olson, C.A., Takahashi, T.T., Emily R. Liman, E.R., Ellis-Davies, G.C.R., McGee, A., Sabatini, B.L., Roberts, R.W. and Arnold, D.A. (2013) Recombinant probes for visualizing endogenous synaptic proteins in living neurons. Neuron 78, 971-85.

Chiu, C.Q. Lur, G., Morse, T.M., Carnevale, N.T., Ellis-Davies, G.C.R. and Higley, M.J. (2013) Compartmentalization of GABAergic inhibition by dendritic spines. Science 340, 759-762.

Crowe, S.E. and Ellis-Davies, G.C.R. (2013) In vivo characterization of a bigenic fluorescent mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease with neurodegeneration. J. Com. Neurol. 521, 2181-2194.

Meet the Team

Pradeep Chauhan

Pradeep Chauhan

He joined the lab in August 2016 after postdoc at the ASU Biodesign Institute and a PhD in natural product total synthesis for Steven Weinreb at Penn State. He is using his skills in synthetic organic chemistry to develop new caged compounds.

Adriana Petriz Reyes

Adriana Petriz Reyes

She joined the lab in June 2016 after completing a PhD in neuroscience at the Instituto de Neurobiologia at the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico. She is interested in using uncaging to understand neuronal function.

Matt Richers

Matt Richers

He joined the lab in November 2014 after obtaining his PhD in organic chemistry from Rutgers University where he developed new synthetic methods. He is using these skills to synthesize novel caged compounds.

Stefan Passlick

Stefan Passlick

He joined the lab in October 2014 after graduating summa cum laude from the Institute of Cellular Neurosciences at the University of Bonn where he studied the physiology of NG2 cells. He is interested in using two-color uncaging to understand GABAergic control of dendritic excitability.

Job Openings

Postdoctoral position in synaptic physiology

The goal of our research is to understand the basic mechanisms underlying synaptic function. We have recently developed new optical methods for stimulating single GABA receptors in brain slices (Nature Methods (2010) 7, 123-127; Nature Chemical Biology (2010) 39, 255-7; and ACS Chem Neurosci. (2014) 5, 64-70), and want to extend this work to detail the distribution of functional receptors and the balance of excitation and inhibition in pyramidal cells. We are looking for a highly motivated and independent candidate with strong background and publication record in neuroscience and expertise in patch-clamp in brain slices. The lab is well-equipped for this type of science, having three two-photon microscopes of our own. Interested candidates should e-mail a cover letter describing research experience, and the webpages of 3 references to graham.ellis-davies at mssm.edu.

Postdoctoral fellowships in chemical biology

The Ellis-Davies lab is well known for work at the interface of chemistry and biology (e.g. photosensitive, or caged, neurotransmitters for the stimulation of nerve cells). Two postdoctoral positions are available in our new labs at Mount Sinai School of Medicine to do make novel chromophores for photochemical uncaging in living animals using modern synthetic organic chemistry. The successful candidates will have the opportunity to interact with biologists, and learn about pharmacology and neuroscience. Our papers appear in high profile journals (eg. Nature Chemical Biology, Nature Methods, Nature Protocols, JACS, etc.). Candidates MUST HAVE a Ph.D. in synthetic organic chemistry for consideration. Please send these important details:

  1. education history
  2. webpages of three references
  3. list of publications

Ideally you live in the USA or Europe, as you will have to come to New York City for an interview.