Photo of Melissa Chee

Melissa Chee

Assistant Professor

Phone:613-520-2600 x 5077
Office:5309 Health Sciences Building

Areas of Specialization / Field Affiliations

  • Optogenetics, metabolism, nutrition, body weight regulation, neural circuits, synaptic transmission, affective disorders.

Eligible to supervise at the undergraduate and graduate level.

We are always interested in exceptional, highly motivated and articulate new lab members.

  • Graduate students and postdocs: Please email with a brief introduction, curriculum vitae and 3 names of references
  • Honors thesis students: Please email with a brief introduction to discuss potential opportunities


The Chee lab focuses on three inter-related goals:

  • Decode and dissect the role of neuropeptides in a neuronal network;
  • Correlate neuronal activity to behavior;
  • Elucidate the crosstalk and feedback between neural, endocrine and neuroendocrine factors in the brain.

Broadly, we use these themes to investigate the central regulation of obesity, affective disorders and cognition. Towards these aims, we address the following questions:

  • What is the role of the lateral hypothalamus? What are the key players, interconnected brain regions and underlying neuronal mechanisms?
  • How does melanin-concentrating hormone, produced exclusively in the lateral hypothalamus, regulate body weight, learning and social behaviors? What are the neurocircuits, receptors and ion channel mechanisms that permit these physiological and behavioral actions? Which neurotransmitter systems are required?
  • How does the environment provide feedback to these neurocircuits? What is the effect of diet, macronutrient selection and/or endocrine signals on synaptic plasticity in targeted brain areas?

To address these questions, we use transgenic mouse models, whole-cell electrophysiology, optogenetics, pharmacogenetics, brain and slice imaging, neuroanatomy and behavioral testing.


Caption: Distribution of neurons expressing melanin-concentrating hormone (green) in the lateral hypothalamus. Co-expression and photostimulation of light-sensitive molecules (red), in a freely-behaving mouse allow us to form correlations between cellular activation and behavior.


Caption: At the target site, stimulation of the dark synaptic boutons that are enveloping our cell(s)-of-interest may cause a direct synaptic event that leads to a behavior.


Chee MJ, Arrigoni E, Maratos-Flier E. 2015. Melanin-concentrating hormone neurons release glutamate for feedforward inhibition of the lateral septum. J Neurosci 35:3644-51.

Chee MJ, Douris N, Forrow AB, Monnard A, Lu S, Flaherty SE 3rd, Adams AC, Maratos-Flier E. 2015. Melanin-concentrating hormone is necessary for olanzapine-inhibited locomotor activity in male mice. Eur Neuropsychopharmacol 25:1808-16.

Luchtman DW, Chee MJ, Doslikova B, Marks DL, Baracos VE, Colmers WF. 2015. Defense of elevated body weight setpoint in diet-induced obese rats on low energy diet is mediated by loss of melanocortin sensitivity in the paraventricular hypothalamic nucleus. PLoS One 10:e0139462.

Williams RH, Chee MJ, Kroeger D, Ferrari LL, Maratos-Flier E, Scammell TE, Arrigoni E. 2014. Optogenetic-mediated release of histamine reveals distal and autoregulatory mechanisms for controlling arousal. J Neurosci 34:6023-6029.

Chee MJ, Pissios P, Prasad D, Maratos-Flier E. 2014. Expression of melanin-concentrating hormone receptor 2 protects against diet-induced obesity in male mice. Endocrinology 155:81-88.

Chee MJ, Pissios P, Maratos-Flier E. 2013. Neurochemical characterization of neurons expressing melanin-concentrating hormone receptor 1 in the mouse hypothalamus. J Comp Neurol 521:2208-2234.

Adams AC, Domouzoglou EM, Chee MJ, Segal-Lieberman G, Pissios P, Maratos-Flier E. 2011. Ablation of the hypothalamic neuropeptide melanin concentrating hormone is associated with behavioral abnormalities that reflect impaired olfactory integration. Behav Brain Res 224:195-200.

Chee MJ, Myers MG Jr, Price CJ, Colmers WF. 2010. Neuropeptide Y suppresses anorexigenic output from the ventromedial nucleus of the hypothalamus. J Neurosci 30:3380-3390..