Kari Johnson, PhD

Kari A. Johnson, PhD

Name: Kari A. Johnson, PhD

USU Department of Primary Appointment: 
Pharmacology & Molecular Therapeutics
Faculty Rank: 
Assistant Professor
Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, Bethesda, MD

Research Interests:
Synaptic plasticity, action control, G protein-coupled receptors, alcohol use disorders

Office Phone: 
(301) 295-3907


B.A., Biology, Religious Studies, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA
Ph.D., Pharmacology, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN
Postdoctoral Training, Laboratory for Integrative Neuroscience, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, National Institutes of Health, Rockville, MD


Research in the Johnson Laboratory focuses on physiological adaptations in basal ganglia circuits that occur following chronic alcohol exposure in mice, and how these adaptations relate to cognitive impairments caused by alcohol. We are particularly interested in roles of G protein-coupled receptors in modulating neurotransmission at relevant synapses and how these receptors modify behavior under both normal and pathological conditions.


  • Kupferschmidt DA, Augustin SM, Johnson KA, Lovinger DM (2019) Active zone proteins RIM1αβ are required for normal corticostriatal plasticity and action control. Journal of Neuroscience. Feb 20;39(8):1457-1470.
  • Mateo Y, Johnson KA, Covey DP, Atwood BK, Wang HL, Zhang S, Gildish I, Cachope R, Bellocchio L, Guzmán M, Morales M, Cheer JF, Lovinger DM (2017) Endocannabinoid actions on cortical terminals orchestrate local modulation of dopamine release in the nucleus accumbens. Neuron. 96(5):1112-1126.
  • Johnson KA, Mateo Y, Lovinger DM (2017) Metabotropic glutamate receptor 2 modulates thalamically-driven glutamate and dopamine release in the dorsal striatum. Neuropharmacology. 117:114-123.
  • Johnson KA, Lovinger DM (2016) Presynaptic G protein-coupled receptors: Gatekeepers of addiction? Frontiers in Cellular Neuroscience. Nov 11;10:264.
  • Yin S, Noetzel MJ, Johnson KA, Zamarano R, Gregory KJ, Conn PJ, Niswender CM (2014) Selective actions of novel allosteric modulators reveal functional heteromers of metabotropic glutamate receptors in the CNS. Journal of Neuroscience. 34(1):79-94.
  • Johnson KA*, Jones CK*, Tantawy MN, Bubser M, Marvanova M, Ansari MS, Baldwin RM, Conn PJ, Niswender CM (2013) The metabotropic glutamate receptor agonist (S)-3,4-DCPG reverses motor deficits in prolonged but not acute models of Parkinson’s disease. Neuropharmacology. 66:187-95. *These authors contributed equally to this work.
  • Johnson KA, Niswender CM, Conn PJ, Xiang Z (2011) Activation of group II metabotropic glutamate receptors induces long-term depression of excitatory synaptic transmission in the substantia nigra pars reticulata. Neuroscience Letters. 504(2):102-6.
  • Johnson KA, Conn PJ (2011) Metabotropic glutamate receptor-dopamine interactions in the basal ganglia motor circuit. Glutamate-dopamine interactions in the basal ganglia. Ed. Susan Jones. Boca Raton: CRC Press. pp. 1-29.
  • Johnson KA, Conn PJ, Niswender CM (2009) Glutamate receptors as therapeutic targets for Parkinson’s disease. CNS and Neurological Disorders – Drug Targets. 8(6):475-91.
  • Niswender CM*, Johnson KA*, Weaver CD, Jones CK, Xiang Z, Luo Q, Rodriguez AL, Marlo JE, de Paulis T, Thompson AD, Days EL, Nalywajko T, Austin CA, Williams MB, Ayala JE, Williams R, Lindsley CW, Conn PJ (2008) Discovery, characterization, and antiparkinsonian effect of novel positive allosteric modulators of metabotropic glutamate receptor 4. Molecular Pharmacology. 74(5):1345-58. *These authors contributed equally to this work.