Pelin Cayirlioglu Volkan

Associate Professor of Biology

4313 French Family Science Center, Durham, NC 27708
Campus Box: 
Box 90338, Durham, NC 27708-0338
(919) 684-1150
The long-term goal in the lab is to understand the developmental processes that establish the basic organizational and functional principles of the neuronal circuits in the brain. We investigate how the neuronal circuits assemble, functionally mature, remodel in developmental and evolutionary time scales. To understand these processes the Volkan lab uses the olfactory system of the genetically tractable Drosophila melanogaster as a model organism and apply molecular, developmental and systems level approaches. Our research aims to answer three fundamental questions in developmental and evolutionary neurobiology using the Drosophila olfactory system: 1- What are the transcriptional and epigenetic networks that regulate cellular specification and diversity of olfactory receptor neurons? 2- How is sensory neuron function established during development and modulated with experience? 3- What are the molecular, developmental and functional changes underlying evolution of species-specific differences in odor-guided behaviors?


  • Ph.D., University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill 2003

  • M.S., Bogazici University (Turkey) 1997

  • B.S., Bogazici University (Turkey) 1995

Hueston, C., and P. C. Volkan. “Generation of neuronal diversity in the peripheral olfactory system in drosophila.” In Decoding Neural Circuit Structure and Function: Cellular Dissection Using Genetic Model Organisms, 399–418, 2017. Full Text

Duan, Qichen, and Pelin Cayirlioglu Volkan. “Ant Olfaction: Smells Like an Insect, Develops Like a Mammal.Current Biology : Cb 30, no. 16 (August 2020): R950–52. Full Text

Zhao, Songhui, Bryson Deanhardt, George Thomas Barlow, Paulina Guerra Schleske, Anthony M. Rossi, and Pelin C. Volkan. “Chromatin-based reprogramming of a courtship regulator by concurrent pheromone perception and hormone signaling.Science Advances 6, no. 21 (May 22, 2020): eaba6913. Full Text

Sethi, Sachin, Hui-Hao Lin, Andrew K. Shepherd, Pelin C. Volkan, Chih-Ying Su, and Jing W. Wang. “Social Context Enhances Hormonal Modulation of Pheromone Detection in Drosophila.Current Biology : Cb 29, no. 22 (November 2019): 3887-3898.e4. Full Text

Barish, Scott, Sarah Nuss, Ilya Strunilin, Suyang Bao, Sayan Mukherjee, Corbin D. Jones, and Pelin C. Volkan. “Combinations of DIPs and Dprs control organization of olfactory receptor neuron terminals in Drosophila.Plos Genetics 14, no. 8 (August 13, 2018): e1007560. Full Text

Barish, Scott, and Pelin C. Volkan. “Preparing Developing Peripheral Olfactory Tissue for Molecular and Immunohistochemical Analysis in Drosophila.Journal of Visualized Experiments : Jove, no. 136 (June 13, 2018). Full Text

Pan, Jia Wern, Joi McLaughlin, Haining Yang, Charles Leo, Paula Rambarat, Sumie Okuwa, Anaïs Monroy-Eklund, Sabrina Clark, Corbin D. Jones, and Pelin Cayirlioglu Volkan. “Comparative analysis of behavioral and transcriptional variation underlying CO2 sensory neuron function and development in Drosophila.Fly 11, no. 4 (October 2017): 239–52. Full Text

Pan, Jia Wern, Qingyun Li, Scott Barish, Sumie Okuwa, Songhui Zhao, Charles Soeder, Matthew Kanke, Corbin D. Jones, and Pelin Cayirlioglu Volkan. “Patterns of transcriptional parallelism and variation in the developing olfactory system of Drosophila species.Scientific Reports 7, no. 1 (August 18, 2017): 8804. Full Text

Barish, Scott, Qingyun Li, Jia W. Pan, Charlie Soeder, Corbin Jones, and Pelin C. Volkan. “Transcriptional profiling of olfactory system development identifies distal antenna as a regulator of subset of neuronal fates.Scientific Reports 7 (January 19, 2017): 40873. Full Text

Hueston, Catherine E., Douglas Olsen, Qingyun Li, Sumie Okuwa, Bo Peng, Jianni Wu, and Pelin Cayirlioglu Volkan. “Chromatin Modulatory Proteins and Olfactory Receptor Signaling in the Refinement and Maintenance of Fruitless Expression in Olfactory Receptor Neurons.Plos Biology 14, no. 4 (April 19, 2016): e1002443. Full Text Open Access Copy

Li, Q., S. Barish, S. Okuwa, and P. C. Volkan. “Examination of Endogenous Rotund Expression and Function in Developing Drosophila Olfactory System Using CRISPR-Cas9 Mediated Protein Tagging (vol 5, pg 2809, 2015).” G3 Genes Genomes Genetics 6, no. 3 (March 1, 2016): 771–771.


Duan, Qichen, Yetong Huang, Scott Barish, and Pelin C. Volkan. “Interacting Ig Superfamily Proteins Organize Axon Terminals of Olfactory Receptor Neurons Regulated by Olfactory Receptors in Drosophila.” In Chemical Senses, 44:E68–E68. OXFORD UNIV PRESS, 2019.

Pan, Jia W., Scott Barish, Tristan Li, Catherine Hueston, Doug Olsen, Songhui Zhao, Sayan Mukherjee, Corbin D. Jones, and Pelin C. Volkan. “Stability and plasticity in the Drosophila olfactory system across timescales.” In Chemical Senses, 42:E3–E3. OXFORD UNIV PRESS, 2017.

Selected Grants

Genetic and Genomics Training Grant awarded by National Institutes of Health (Mentor). 2020 to 2025

Role of insect olfactory receptors and cell adhesion molecules in circuit organization awarded by National Science Foundation (Principal Investigator). 2020 to 2024

Neurobiology Training Program awarded by National Institutes of Health (Mentor). 2019 to 2024

Sensing Dietary Amino Acids from Gut to Brain awarded by National Institutes of Health (Co-Mentor). 2021 to 2024

Epigenetic reprogramming of behaviors with sensory experience awarded by National Institutes of Health (Principal Investigator). 2018 to 2023

Training Program in Developmental and Stem Cell Biology awarded by National Institutes of Health (Mentor). 2001 to 2022

Genetics Training Grant awarded by National Institutes of Health (Mentor). 1979 to 2020

Organization and Function of Cellular Structure awarded by National Institutes of Health (Mentor). 1975 to 2020

Basic predoctoral training in neuroscience awarded by National Institutes of Health (Training Faculty). 1992 to 2018