Genes, Circuits, and Behavior

We seek to discover and then dissect basic molecular mechanisms that underpin the functions of neurons and neural circuits. Neurons are highly specialized cells and many fundamental questions about their organization, function and plasticity remain unaddressed. 

We initiate many of our studies in C. elegans, because of its advantages for molecular and cellular neuroscience. We can identify and visualize each neuron of this animal in vivo, selectively manipulate it using transgenes, and monitor its activity with genetically-encoded sensors. Powerful genetics and advanced genomic resources make high-throughput forward genetics single neuron profiling possible. We can also complement our genetics with excellent biochemistry, to get at molecular mechanisms that are usually conserved from the worm to man. We aim to take discoveries made in the worm into mammalian models.

To achieve our goals we are deconstructing global animal states in molecular and circuitry terms. An animal state is a coordinated response to a threat (e.g. predators) or opportunity (e.g. a potential mate). Such states arise from dynamically reconfigured neural circuits that optimize the response to the situation encountered. Hallmarks include a change in arousal, rearranged responsiveness to sensory cues, and altered physiology, with effects that often outlast the evoking stimulus.


Mario De Bono
Institute of Science and Technology Austria (IST Austria)
Am Campus 1
A – 3400 Klosterneuburg



de Bono lab web site


Elisabeth Hacker
Phone: +43 (0)2243 9000-1015

Open positions in the de Bono Laboratory

Doctoral scientists interested in joining the de Bono lab should get in touch with Mario  de Bono by email. The IST PhD program attracts students from all over the world to do cutting edge research in an inter-disciplinary, supportive, and well-funded environment. Prospective students interested in joining the lab should contact Mario De Bono by email.

Selected Publications

  • IL-17 is a neuromodulator of Caenorhabditis elegans sensory responses.
    Chen C, Itakura E, Nelson GM, Sheng M, Laurent P, Fenk LA, Butcher RA, Hegde RS,
    de Bono M.  Nature. 2017 542:43-48.
  • Memory of recent oxygen experience switches pheromone valence in Caenorhabditis
    elegans. Fenk LA, de Bono M. PNAS 2017 114:4195-4200.
  • Decoding a neural circuit controlling global animal state in C. elegans.
    Laurent P, Soltesz Z, Nelson GM, Chen C, Arellano-Carbajal F, Levy E, de Bono M*.
    Elife 2015 4:e04241.


2019 Professor, IST Austria
2004–2019 Tenured Group Leader, MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Cambridge, UK
1999–2004 Tenure-track Group Leader, MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Cambridge, UK
1997–1999 Research Associate Howard Hughes Medical Institute, UCSF, San Francisco, USA
1995–1997 Wellcome Trust Travelling Prize Fellow, UCSF, San Francisco, USA
2010 PhD, ETH Zurich

Selected Distinctions

2018 Wellcome Investigator Award
2011 Advanced Grant ERC
2014 Honorary Appointment, Garvan Medical Institute, Australia
2011 CoEN Award (Centre of Excellence in Neurodegeneration)
2006 Human Frontiers Science Program Organization grant
2007 Elected to EMBO
2005 The Balfour Lecture, The Genetics Society, UK
2004 Max Perutz Prize, MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology
1995 Wellcome Trust Prize Fellowship
1990 Wellcome Trust Prize Studentship
1990 Research Studentship, Trinity College, University of Cambridge

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