Gary H. Laverty, Ph.D.


  • BISC207, BISC208 - Introductory Biology I and II
  • BISC 305 - Cell Biology
  • BISC 315 - Experimental Cell Biology

*Course web site available through MyCourses

Research Interests


Tetrahymena thermophila is a unicellular ciliated organism that lives in freshwater ponds and streams. A distant relative of the more familiar Paramecium species, Tetrahymena is smaller, but has served as an important eukaryotic model organism for many years. Tetrahymena can reproduce both asexually and sexually, with seven different mating types and separate germinal and somatic nuclei. The latter is involved in the normal transcriptional activity in vegetatively growing cells, while the germinal nucleus (micronucleus) becomes active in mating cells. The recent sequencing of the T. thermophila genome has generated renewed interest in the annotating and functional characterization of the estimated 25,000 protein-coding genes.

My laboratory is pursuing several different projects on Tetrahymena cell biology and physiology, using a combination of molecular and microscopic/behavioral approaches. Current projects include:

1. We are examing the role of a possible Tetrahymena homolog of TRPA1, an ion channel that, in mammals, is responsive to respiratory irritants, compounds from certain spicy foods (eg, mustard oil, wasabi) and to oxidative stress. TRPA1 is a member of the large TRP (transient receptor potential) family that includes the well-studied TRPV1, the "chile pepper (capsaicin) receptor", and which are also involved in many types of pain sensation. In Tetrahymena we hypothesize that TRPA1 functions as a sensor for reactive oxygen species (ROS).

2. The contractile vacuole is an organelle found in ciliates that is involved in osmoregulation. Under the microscope, the contractile vacuole can be seen to undergo cycles of filling with accumulated water and emptying via a process of exocytosis, We hypothesize that mechanosensitive channels are involved in regulating the timing of these cycles. We are also interested in characterizing the aquaporins or water channels that are presumed to be localized to the contractile vacuole and its associated accessory structures.

3. Tetrahymena are known to communicate and interact via purinergic signaling (ie, ATP acting as an extracellular signaling molecule). We are interested in characterizing the purinergic receptors and signal pathways that lead to behavioral responses under different kinds of environmental conditions.

Students working in this lab will learn basic microscopy, including fluorescence methods, PCR approaches to investigating gene expression and some basic bioinformatics. We also work on developing basic laboratory "bench" skills, on experimental design and critical reading of the relevant research literature.


Selected Publications

Associate Professor

Phone: (302) 831-8180

Fax: (302) 831-2281


Office: 244 Wolf Hall

Lab: 262 Wolf Hall

Department of Biological Sciences
Wolf Hall
University of Delaware
Newark, DE 19716


  • B.S. - Lowell Technological Institute
  • Ph.D. - University of Connecticut
  • Postdoctoral - University of Arizona Health Sciences Center