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Messing, Robert

Robert Messing

Department Chair, Neuroscience, Professor
College of Natural Sciences, Department of Neurology

M. June and J. Virgil Waggoner Chair in Molecular Biology (Holder)

Neurobiology of addiction and pain


Phone: 512-471-1735

Office Location

Postal Address
AUSTIN, TX 78712

Dr. Messing received an MD in 1979 from Stanford University. He trained in Internal Medicine from 1979-1981 at the University of Virginia, and then in Neurology at UCSF from 1981-1984, followed by a postdoctoral fellowship in neuroscience at UCSF from 1984-86 with David A. Greenberg MD, PhD. He became a faculty member in Neurology at UCSF in 1986, and was a member of the UCSF Neuroscience Graduate Program. He was also a Principal Investigator at the Ernest Gallo Clinic and Research Center, where he became Vice President for Internal Affairs and the founding Director of the NIAAA-funded Alcohol Center for Translational Genetics at UCSF from 2008-2013. In 2013 he was recruited to the University of Texas at Austin and served from 2013-15 as the Vice Provost for Biomedical Sciences to help launch the Dell Medical School.  From 2015-17 he served as Associate Dean for Research Development for the Dell Medical School. In September 2017 he became director of the Waggoner Center for Alcohol and Addiction Research at UT Austin and Chair of Neuroscience in September 2020.

Researchers in the Messing Lab study molecular and circuit neuroadaptations to drugs of abuse that contribute to addiction and to co-morbid disorders such as anxiety and pain. The overall goal is to identify drug targets and strategies that could lead to new treatments.  We use a variety of molecular and genetic approaches including gene targeting, transgenic expression, and RNA interference, together with behavioral pharmacology and electrophysiology to identify molecules and circuits that drive addictive behavior.  Major contributions include determining that protein kinase C epsilon, protein kinase C delta, protein kinase M zeta, N-type voltage-dependent calcium channels, and the type 1 equilibrative nucleoside transporter regulate ethanol intoxication and self-administration in mice. Research on protein kinase C epsilon in particular has led to ongoing efforts to develop inhibitors of this enzyme as treatments for pain, anxiety, and alcohol addiction.