James Truman is an insect biologist known for his work on the hormonal control of behavior. The research accomplishments of his group include revealing the structure and action of hormones that cause ecdysis behavior, establishing how steroid hormones allow larval neurons to be recycled through metamorphosis for reuse in the adult, and revealing the molecular and endocrine factors underlying the evolution of metamorphosis. Truman was born and grew up in Akron, Ohio. He graduated with a BS in Biology from the University of Notre Dame in 1967 and received a Ph.D. in Biology from Harvard University in 1970. He was a Junior Fellow of the Harvard Society of Fellows until 1973, when he joined the Zoology faculty at the University of Washington. He retired in 2007 to become a Group Leader at the new Janelia Research Campus of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. He returned to the University of Washington to their Friday Harbor Laboratories in 2016. He is the recipient of the 1972 Newcomb Cleveland Research Prize of the A.A.A.S., a NIH Jacobs K. Javits Award, a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship, and the V. B. Wigglesworth Medal of the Royal Entomological Society. He is a Foreign Fellow of Churchill College, Cambridge University, and a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences.

Research Interests

James Truman's research has used moths and fruit flies to study how hormones influence nervous system development and function. One area focused on the ecdysis behavior used by molting insects to shed their old exoskeleton and expand their new one. Work from his and other labs showed that the coincidence of behavioral and developmental conditions initiates a temporal program of neuropeptide release within the CNS and into the blood. The different peptides evoke specific behavioral components of the ecdysis sequence and insure that the behaviors are coordinated with ongoing physiology. A second area examines how the developmental hormones, ecdysone and juvenile hormone, direct the transformation of the larval nervous system into that of the adult. These studies have revealed how hormones coordinate neuronal remodeling, neurogenesis and programmed cell death. The neurogenesis studies revealed a modular, functional organization of the ventral nerve cord of the fruit fly. Each module includes a neuronal stem cell and its progeny. The modules are organized in a hierarchical fashion, forming the computational machinery controlling walking and flight. Homologous modules are present in other insects and provide an avenue to understand the evolution of behavioral diversity in the insects. The last research area concerns the endocrine mechanisms that have facilitated the evolution of insect metamorphosis.

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Primary Section

Section 61: Animal, Nutritional, and Applied Microbial Sciences

Secondary Section

Section 22: Cellular and Developmental Biology