• Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute
  • Adjunct Professor, Human Genetics
  • Adjunct Professor, Biomedical Engineering
  • Distinguished Professor, School Of Biological Sciences

Research Summary

The Jorgensen laboratory studies the molecular basis of synaptic transmission, focusing on the mechanisms of synaptic vesicle fusion and synaptic strength. Other projects include (1) studies of neuroendocrine secretion, specifically, (2) understanding the neuronal circuits that give rise to behaviors, and (3) transposons in the worm, as well as double-strand break repair of DNA.


Dr. Jorgensen received his Bachelor’s of Science Degree in Animal Resources from the University of California at Berkeley in 1979. He completed his graduate work with Dr. Richard Garber and received his Ph.D. from the Department of Genetics at the University of Washington in 1981. Postdoctoral work was conducted in H. Robert Horvitz’s laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where Jorgensen initiated studies into the genetic basis of GABA transmission in the nematode C. elegans. In 1994 Jorgensen established his own laboratory in the Department of Biology at the University of Utah. Jorgensen is currently a Distinguished Professor in the Department of Biology and an Adjunct Professor in the Departments of Human Genetics and Bioengineering. In 2005, Jorgensen was named an Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Jorgensen has held the position of Visiting Scientist at Charité Universitätsmedizin in Berlin, Germany since 2013.

Jorgensen studies the molecular mechanisms of synaptic transmission using the nematode C. elegans and the mouse. His studies have focused on four main areas: neurotransmitters, exocytosis, endocytosis and genome engineering.

  1. Neurotransmitters. The Jorgensen laboratory has made several important discoveries in GABA neurotransmission including the identification of the vesicular GABA transporter and a novel excitatory GABA receptor.
  2. Exocytosis. Jorgensen’s laboratory pioneered electrophysiological techniques in C. elegans. Notable results include the demonstration that the SNARE protein syntaxin is required for docking and priming synaptic vesicles, in contrast to previous experiments.
  3. Endocytosis. Jorgensen’s laboratory demonstrated that there is an ultrafast mechanism of endocytosis (50 ms) at C. elegans synapses and at mouse hippocampal synapses. Nonetheless regeneration of synaptic vesicles requires clathrin and the clathrin adaptor complex AP2. He has further demonstrated that AP2 can function as two hemicomplexes.
  4. Genome Engineering. The laboratory has also contributed several new techniques including methods to generate single copy gene insertions, and targeted knockouts in C. elegans. The laboratory has also developed new techniques for microscopy, notably a method to correlate super-resolution fluorescence microscopy with electron microscopy.