UVA Biology People Ali Guler

Ali D. Güler

Associate Professor of Biology; Director of Graduate Studies
Gilmer 414
Office: (434) 243-4012


  • B.A., Bowdoin College, 1999
  • Ph.D., Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, 2006
  • Postdoctoral, Johns Hopkins University, 2006-2008
  • Postdoctoral, University of Washington, 2008-2013

Research Interests

Biological processes ranging from gene transcription to behavior oscillate and are synchronized to the 24-hour day/night cycle. Mammalian circadian rhythms, orchestrated by the hypothalamic suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) allow appropriately timed physiological and behavioral responses to daily recurring external cues (i.e. sunrise or timed meal availability). The resulting synchrony of physiology to the astronomical day maximizes metabolic efficiency and good health. However, many of the stresses of modern society (i.e. artificial lighting and omnipresence of food) weaken and desynchronize circadian rhythms. This in turn increases the prevalence of many pathologies including metabolic disorders (i.e. obesity, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases), neurodegenerative diseases (i.e. Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s) and many types of cancer. The aim of my laboratory is to determine how circadian rhythms are synchronized (entrained) to external cues and how desynchronization impacts health.

In a recent breakthrough, we identified a neuronal connection between midbrain dopaminergic neurons that are activated in response to salient rewarding events and SCN neurons. We showed that this pathway accelerates entrainment and drives palatable food consumption outside of mealtimes. Now, we are leveraging our expertise in disentangling circadian entrainment neurocircuitry to determine whether strengthening circadian rhythmicity ameliorates symptoms of metabolic disorders or Alzheimer’s disease. Our work is aimed at understanding the relationship between entrainment cues, physiology and behavior while providing tangible strategies against the adverse consequences of circadian misalignment.

Representative Publications

  • Tang Q§, Godschall E§, Brennan CD#, Zhang Q§, Abraham-Fan RJ, Williams SP#, Güngül TB§, Onoharigho R§, Buyukaksakal A#, Salinas R, Sajonia IR§, Olivieri JJ§, Calhan OY ƥ, Deppmann CD, Campbell JNŦ, Podyma B§,ŦGüler ADŦ. Leptin receptor neurons in the dorsomedial hypothalamus input to the circadian feeding network. Sci Adv. Aug 25;9(34):eadh9570 (2023). 
  • Weigel TK§, Guo CL, Güler AD, Ferris HA. Altered circadian behavior and light sensing in mouse models of Alzheimer's disease. Front Aging Neurosci. Jun 20;15:1218193 (2023). 
  • Zhang Q§, Tang Q§, Purohit NM#, Davenport JB#, Brennan C#, Patel RK#, Godschall E§, Zwiefel LS, Spano A, Campbell JN, Güler ADŦ. Food-induced dopamine signaling in AgRP neurons promotes feeding. Cell Rep. Nov 29;41(9):111718 (2022).  
  • Altherr E§, Rainwater A, Kaviani D#, Tang Q, Güler ADŦ. Long-term high fat diet consumption reversibly alters feeding behavior via a dopamine-associated mechanism in mice. Behav Brain Res. Sep 24;414:113470 (2021). 
  • Podyma B§, Johnson DA#, Sipe L§, Remcho TP#, Battin K, Liu Y, Yoon SO, Deppmann CDŦGüler ADŦ. The p75 neurotrophin receptor in AgRP neurons is necessary for homeostatic feeding and food anticipation. Elife. Jan 29;9 (2020).  
  • Grippo RM§, Tang Q§, Zhang Q§, Chadwick SR§, Gao Y§, Altherr EB§, Sipe L§, Purohit AM#, Purohit NM#, Sunkara MD#, Cios KJ#, Sidikpramana M#, Spano AJ, Campbell JN, Steele AD, Hirsh J, Deppmann CD, Wu M, Scott MM, Güler ADŦ. Dopamine Signaling in the Suprachiasmatic Nucleus Enables Weight Gain Associated with Hedonic Feeding. Curr Biol. Jan 20;30(2):196-208 (2020). 


* Equal contribution, Ŧ Corresponding author 

# UVA Undergraduate student, § UVA Graduate student, ƥ Post-doctoral fellow.

For a comprehensive list of Dr. Güler's publications, please click here.