University of Vermont

The College of Arts and Sciences

Department of Biology

Judith Van Houten

Faculty - Judith Van Houten

judy van houten

Judith Van Houten, Professor

Area of expertise
Contact Information
Email: Judith Van Houten

Office Hours: By appointment
Marsh Life Science Building, Rm 120 A
Phone: (802) 656-2922


My interests center on chemoreception using Paramecium, a single-celled animal, as a model. These cells are like little swimming neurons and, like our neurons that detect odors or tastes, they respond to stimuli by membrane electrical changes.

We approach sensing of chemical stimuli on several levels:

  • membrane biochemistry to identify receptors and "signal transduction" components that turn a chemical stimulus signal into anelectrical one;
  • molecular genetics to clone genes for receptors and other proteins in chemoreception and to make predictable changes in the gene and protein sequences;
  • measurements of calcium and calcium metabolism by fluorescence and isotopic methods;
  • measurements of internal, second messengers such as cyclic nucleotides;
  • electrophysiology to characterize membrane electrical changes;
  • motion analysis to digitize normal and mutant swimming.

We are extending our expertise in plasma membrane calcium pumps (PMCAs) to mouse olfactory neurons. We have found 4 PMCAs in mouse olfactory neurons, and loss of PMCAs in knockout animals (courtesy of G. Shull) slows calcium clearance after stimulation.

Awards and Distinctions

Selected Publications

  • Christopher Koliba, Asim Zia, Andrew W Schroth, Arne Bomblies, Judith Van Houten, Donna M Rizzo. The Lake Champlain Basin as a Complex Adaptive System: Insights from the Research on Adaptation to Climate Change (RACC) Project. Vermont Journal of Environmental Law. 2016;17(4):533-563 (pdf)
  • Asim Zia, Arne Bomblies, Andrew W Schroth, Christopher Koliba, Peter DF Isles, Yu-Shiou Tsai, Ibrahim N Mohammed, Gabriela Bucini, Patrick J Clemins, Scott Turnbull, Morgan Rodgers, Ahmed A Hamed, Brian Beckage, Jonathan M Winter, E Carol Adair, Gillian L Galford, Donna M Rizzo, Judith Van Houten. Coupled impacts of climate and land use change across a river-lake continuum: insights from an integrated assessment model of Lake Champlain’s Missisquoi Basin, 2000-2040. Environmental Research Letters. 2016;11(11):114026; doi: 10.1088/1748-9326/11/11/114026
  • Sukanya Lodh, Junji Yano, Megan S. Valentine and Judith L. Van Houten (2016). Voltage-gated calcium channels of Paramecium cilia. (pdf) (Highlight)
  • Yano, J., Valentine, M.S., and Van Houten, J.L. Novel insights into the development and function of cilia using the advantages of the Paramecium cell and its many cilia. Cells 4: 297-314 (2015) doi:10.3390/cells4030297 (pdf)
  • Steven J. Kleene; Judith L. Van Houten (2014) Electrical Signaling in Motile and Primary Cilia. BioScience 2014 64 (12): 1092-1102 doi:10.1093/biosci/biu181
  • Tyler Picariello, Megan Smith Valentine, Junji Yano and Judith Van Houten (2014). Reduction of meckelin leads to general loss of cilia, ciliary microtubule misalignment and distorted cell surface organization. Cilia, 3:2 doi:10.1093/biosci/biu181 (pdf)
  • Yano, J., Valentine, M., Ballif, B., Saha, M. and Van Houten, J.L. (2012). Proteomic Analysis of the Cilia Membrance of Paramecium tetraurelia. Journal of Proteomics. 78: 113-122.doi:10.1016/j.jprot.2012.09.040. (pdf)
  • Valentine, M.S., Rajendran, A., Yano, J., Weeraratne, S.D., Beisson, J., Cohen, J., Koll, F. and Van Houten, J. (2012) Paramecium BBS genes are key to the presence of channels in cilia. Cilia 2012, 1:16 (pdf)
  • Müller; A., Christine Klöppel; Megan Smith-Valentine; Judith Van Houten; Martin Simon. (2012) Selective and programmed cleavage of GPI-anchored proteins from thesurface membrane by phospholipase C. BBA 1818: 117-124. (.pdf)
  • John F. O'Toole, (Judith Van Houten) et al. (2010), Individuals with mutations in XPNPEP3, which encodes a mitochondrial protein, develop a nephronophthisis-like nephropathy J. Clinical (2010). doi:10.1172/JCI40076. (pdf)
  • Van Houten, J.L., Valentine, M, and Yano, J. (2010) Behavioral Genetics of Paramecium. In: Encyclopedia of Animals Behavior, Ross Crozier, ed., pp. 677-682, Oxford: Academic Press.
  • S. Ponissery Saidu, SD. Weeraratne, M. Valentine, R. Delay and Judith L. Van Houten (2009) Role of Plasma Membrane Calcium ATPases in Calcium Clearance from Olfactory Sensory Neurons, Chemical Senses; doi: 10.1093/chemse/bjp008.
  • Valentine, M., Yano, J. and Van Houten, J.L. (2008) Chemosensory Transduction in Paramecium. Jpn. Journal Of Protozoology. 41: 1-8. (pdf)
  • Bell, W.E. and J.L. Van Houten (2008) Chemical Sense: Protozoa. In: Larry R. Squire, Editor-in-Chief, Encyclopedia of Neuroscience, Academic Press, Oxford, pp. 813-818.
  • Wade E. Bell, Robin R. Preston, Junji Yano and Judith L. Van Houten (2007) Genetic dissection of attractant-induced conductances in Paramecium, The Journal of Experimental Biology 210, 357-365. (.pdf)
  • S. Dilhan Weeraratne, Megan Valentine, Matthew Cusick, Rona Delay and Judith L. Van Houten (2006) Plasma Membrane Calcium Pumps in Mouse Olfactory Sensory Neurons, Chemical Senses Advance Access. doi:10.1093/chemse/bjl014. (.pdf)
  • de Ondarza, J., Symington, S.B., Van Houten, J.L. and Clark, J. M. (2003) G-Protein Modulators Alter the Swimming Behavior and Calcium Influx of Paramecium tetraurelia, J. Euk. Microbiol.50: 349-355. (.pdf)
  • Yano, J., Rakochy, V. and Van Houten, J.L. (2003) Studies of GPI anchored proteins in chemosensory signaling using antisense manipulation of the Paramecium PIG-A gene expression Euk. Cell 2: 1211-1219. (.pdf)
  • Dessen, P., Zagulski, M., Gromadka, R., Plattner, H., Kissmehl, R., Meyer, B., Betermier, M., Schultz, J., Linder, J.U., Pearlman, R.E., Kung, C., Forney, J., Satir, B., Van Houten, J., Keller, A-M., Froissard, M., Sperling, L., Cohen, J. 2001. Paramecium genome survey: a pilot project. Trends in Genetics 17 306-308. (.pdf)
  • Paquette, C.A., V. Rakochy, A. Bush, and J.L. Van Houten. (2001) GPI anchored proteins in Paramecium tetraurelia: Possible role in chemoresponse. J. Exp. Biol. 204: 2899-2910 (.pdf)
  • Van Houten, J.L. (2000) Chemoreception in Microorganisms. In "Neurobiology of Taste and Smell." Silver, Restrepo, Finger eds., Wiley, NY. Pg 11-40.
  • Van Houten, J.L., Yang, W.Q. and Bergeron, A. (2000) Glutamate chemosensory signal transduction in Paramecium. J. Nutrition 130: 946S-949S. (.pdf)
  • Symington, S., Zhang, A., Karstens, W., Van Houten, J.L., and Clark, J.M. (1999) Characterization of pyrethroid action on ciliary calcium channels in Paramecium tetraurelia. Pesticide Biochem. Physiol. 65: 181-193. (pdf)
  • Van Houten, J.L. 1998. Chemosensory Transduction in Paramecium. Eur. J. Protistol. 34: 301-307. (pdf)
  • Bell, W.E., W. Karstens, Y. Sun, and J.L. Van Houten. (1998) Biotin chemoresponse in Paramecium. J. Comp. Physiol. A. 183: 361-366. (.pdf)
  • Fraga, D., Yano, J., Reed, M., Chuang, R., Bell, W.E., Van Houten, J.L. and Hinrichsen, R. (1998) Introducing Antisense Oligonucleotides into Paramecium via electroporation. J. Euk. Microbiol. 45: 582-588 (pdf)
  • Davis, D., Fiekers, J., and J.L. Van Houten. (1998) Intracellular pH and chemoresponse to NH4 + Paramecium. Cell Motil. and the Cytoskeleton. 40: 107-118. (pdf)
  • Yang, W.Q., Braun, C., Plattner, H., Purvee, J., and J.L. Van Houten. (1997) Cyclic nucleotides in glutamate chemosensory signal transduction of Paramecium. J. Cell Science 110:2567-2572. (.pdf)
  • Elwess, N.L., and J.L. Van Houten. (1997) Cloning and molecular analysis of the plasma membrane Ca2+ ATPase gene in P. tetraurelia. J. Euk. Microbiol. 44: 250-257. (pdf)
  • Schlichtherle, M., Roos, D. and Van Houten, J.L. (1996) Cloning and molecular analysis of the bifunctional Dihydrofolate reductase-thymidylate synthase gene in the ciliated protozoan P.tetraurelia. Molec. and Gen. Genetics 250: 665-673.(pdf)
  • Yano, J., Fraga, D., Hinrichsen, R. and Van Houten, J.L. (1996) Effects of calmodulin antisense oligonucleotides on chemoresponse in Paramecium. Chem. Senses 21: 55-58. (.pdf)
  • Van Houten, J. and K. Guthrie. (1995) Gene expression in neuronal activity. Chem. Senses 19: 149-150. (pdf)
  • Clark, J.M., Edman, S.J., Nagy, S.R., Canhoto, A., Hecht, F., and Van Houten, J.L. (1995) Action of DDT and Pyrethroids on Calcium Channels in Paramecium tetraurelia. Molecular actions of insecticides. (J.M. Clark, ed.) pp 173-190.
  • Van Houten, J. (1994) Chemosensory transduction in eukaryotic microorganisms: trends for Neuroscience? In: TINS 17:62-71. (pdf)
  • Van Houten, J. (1993) Chemosensory Transduction in Paramecium. In: Signal Transduction: Prokaryotic and Simple Eukaryotic Systems. J. Kurjan and B. Taylor, eds, Academic Press. pp. 309-328.
  • Wright, M., Elwess, N. and Van Houten, J. (1993) Ca2+ Transport and Chemoreception in Paramecium. J. Comp. Physiol. B. 163: 288-296. (pdf)
  • Wright, M., Frantz, M., and Van Houten, J. (1992) Lithium fluxes in Paramecium and their relationship to chemoresponse. Biochim. Biophys. Acta. 1107: 223-230. (pdf)
  • Van Houten, J. (1992) Chemoresponse in Microorganisms. Ann. Rev. Physiol. 54:639-63. (pdf)
  • Van Houten, J. (1991) Signal transduction in chemoreception. In: Modern Cell Biology, J. Spudich, ed. pp. 65-135. (pdf)
  • Van Houten, J., Cote, B., Zhang, J., Baez, J., and M.L. Gagnon. (1991) Studies of the Cyclic AMP Chemoreceptor of Paramecium, J. Membrane Biol. 119 15-24. (pdf)
  • Van Houten, J. (1990) Chemosensory Transduction in Paramecium. In: Biology of the Chemotactic Response, J. Armitage and J.M. Lackie, eds, Cambridge University Press, pp. 297-321.
  • Van Houten, J. (1990) Chemosensory Transduction in Unicellular Eukaryotes, In: Evolution of the first nervous systems, P. Anderson, ed. pp. 343-371.
  • Wright, M. and J. Van Houten. (1990) Characterization of a putative Ca2+-transporting Ca2+-ATPase in the pellicles of Paramecium, Biochim. Biophys. Acta 1029 241-251. (pdf)
  • Sasner, J. M. and J. Van Houten. (1989) Evidence for a Paramecium folate chemoreceptor, Chem. Sen. 14 587-595. (pdf)
  • Van Houten, J. (1988) Chemoreception Mechanisms: Toward the Molecular Level. J. Protozool, 35 241-243. (pdf)
  • Van Houten, J. and R. R. Preston. (1988) Chemokinesis. In: Paramecium, H. D. Görtz, ed., Springer-Verlag, Heidelberg. pp. 282-300. (pdf)
  • Van Houten, J. and R. R. Preston. (1987) Eucaryotic Unicells: How Useful in Studying Chemo-reception? in: From Reception to Perception. J. Atema, ed. N.Y. Academy of Sciences. pp. 16-23. (pdf)
  • Smith, R., Preston, R., Schulz, S., and J. Van Houten. (1987) Correlation of cyclic Adenosine monophosphate binding and chemoresponse in Paramecium. Biochim. Biophys. Acta 928: 171-178. (pdf)
  • Van Houten, J. and R. R. Preston. (1987) Chemoreception: Paramecium as a Receptor Cell. In Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology, Y. Ehrlich, R. Lenox, E. Kornecki and W. O. Berry, eds., Plenum Press, NY, pp. 375-384. (pdf)
  • Preston, R.R. and J. Van Houten (1987) Chemoreception in Unicellular Organisms, in: Neurobiology of Taste and Smell. (W. Silver, T. Finger eds.) J. Wiley, pp. 11-38
  • Preston, R.R. and J. Van Houten (1987) Localization of Chemoreceptive Properties of the Surface Membrane of Paramecium tetraurelia. J. Comp. Physiol. 160: 537-541 (pdf)
  • Preston, R.R. and J. Van Houten. (1987) Chemoreception in Paramecium tetraurelia: acetate and folate-induced membrane hyperpolarization. J. Comp. Physiol. 160: 525-536. (pdf)
  • Hendley, E. D., Wessel, D., and J. Van Houten. (1986) In breeding of Wistar-Kyoto rat strain with hyperactivity but without hypertension, Behav. Neuro. Biol. 45: 1-16.
  • Van Houten, J., Smith, R., Wymer, J., Palmer, B., and M. Denaro. (1985) Fluorescein-conjugated folate as an indicator of specific folate binding to Paramecium, J. Protozool. 32: 613-616. (pdf)
  • Schulz, S., Denaro, M., and J. Van Houten. (1984) Relationship of folate binding to chemoreception in Paramecium, J. Comp. Physiol. 155: 113-119. (pdf)
  • Van Houten, J., Martel, E., and T. Kasch. (1982) Kinetic analysis of chemokinesis in Paramecium. J. Protozoology 29: 226-230. (pdf)
  • DiNallo, M., Wohlford, M., and J. Van Houten. (1982) Mutants of Paramecium defective in chemoreception of folate. Genetics 102: 149-158. (pdf)
  • Van Houten, J. and J. Van Houten. (1982) Computer analysis of Paramecium chemokinesis behavior. J. Theor. Biol. 98: 453-468. (pdf)
  • Van Houten, J., Hauser, D.C.R., and M. Levandowsky. (1981) Chemosensory Behavior in Protozoa. In: Biochemistry and Physiology of Protozoa, V. 4, M. Levandowsky and S. H. Hutner, eds. Academic Press, New York. pp. 67-124. (pdf)
  • Van Houten, J. (1980) Chemoreception in Paramecium: role of membrane potential. In: Olfaction and Taste VII, H. van der Starre, ed., IRL Press, London. pp. 53-56. (pdf)
  • Van Houten, J. (1979) Membrane potential changes during chemokinesis in Paramecium. Science 204:1100-1103. (pdf)
  • Van Houten, J. (1978) Two mechanisms of chemotaxis in Paramecium. J. Comp. Physiol. A 127:167-174. (pdf)
  • Van Houten, J. (1977) A mutant of Paramecium defective in chemotaxis. Science 198:746-749. (pdf)
  • Van Houten, J., Chang, S., and C. Kung. (1977) Genetic analysis of Paranoiac mutants of Paramecium. Genetics 86:113-120 (pdf)
  • Van Houten, J., Hansma, H., and C. Kung. (1975) Two quantitative assays for chemotaxis in Paramecium. J. Comp. Physiol. A 104:211-223. (pdf)
  • Kung, C., Chang, S.Y., Satow, Y., Van Houten, J., and H. Hansma. (1975) Genetic dissection of behavior in Paramecium. Science 188:898-904 (pdf)
  • Chang, S. Y., Van Houten, J., Robles. L.J., Lui, S., and C. Kung. (1974) An extensive behavioral and genetic analysis of the Pawn mutants in Paramecium aurelia. Genet. Res. Camb. 23:165-173. (pdf)