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Hongkyun Kim, PhD

Associate Professor

Dr. Kim received his Ph.D. from the Department of Cellular and Molecular Biology, Roswell Park Cancer Institute, SUNY at Buffalo in 1999. He completed post-doctoral training at the Ernest Gallo Clinic & Research Center, UCSF, where he initiated C. elegans genetic studies. He was appointed to associate investigator, an independent researcher position, in 2006. He joined the faculty of the Chicago Medical School as an assistant professor in the summer of 2008.


Every pusillanimous creature that crawls on the earth or slinks through slimy seas has a brain –from The Wizard of Oz.

Our interest aims at identifying genes essential for movement control in C. elegans (tiny worm).  In particular, we use genetic and genomic approaches to understand the pathogenesis mechanisms of neurological and neuromuscular diseases.

  1. Muscular Dystrophy
    Muscular dystrophy is a group of heterogeneous diseases characterized by progressive muscle weakness and wasting.  Currently there is no cure for these debilitating diseases.  Many forms of muscular dystrophy result from genetic defects in components of the dystrophin complex, a macromolecular protein complex that resides at the muscle membrane. C. elegans also possesses this protein complex. Using C. elegans genetics, we are trying to identify novel genes whose products localize or organize the dystrophin complex. Once we identify such genes, we characterize them using an integrative approach (genetics, molecular biology, physiology and imaging). These genes are likely to be responsible for the pathogenesis of muscular dystrophy. This C. elegans genetic study will provide us a unique opportunity to identify novel genes responsible for muscular dystrophy, to understand the molecular function of the identified genes, and to help to explore new therapeutics. Based on our findings in C. elegans, we have expanded our study to mouse model systems.
  2. Ion Channel Localization
    BK channels are calcium-activated potassium channels that are important for controlling the excitability of neuron and muscle cells. As calcium increases are spatially and temporally controlled within cells, the localization of BK channels has significant consequences in a variety of calcium-regulated events, including synaptic transmission. We have recently found that the molecular mechanism underlying the localization of BK channels differs in muscle and neuron. In muscles, BK channel localization depends on the integrity of the dystrophin complex. In neurons, however, BK channel localization requires a different set of proteins. Using C. elegans genetics, we are trying identify and determine the molecular components responsible for BK channel localization.
  3. Alcohol and excitability
    We also have an interest in how ethanol alters membrane excitability in C. elegans muscle and neural cells.  Alcohol has the excitatory and inhibitory action in excitable cells.  We found that in a genetic study several mutants exhibit a pronounced excitatory behavior when alcohol was presented. We hypothesize that the excitatory effect of ethanol is exposed because the inhibitory effect of ethanol on this behavior is unmasked by a mutation.  We are trying to identify molecules that mediate the excitatory effect as well as the inhibitory effect by applying C. elegan genetics and imaging analysis.







Oh, K.H., Haney, J., Wang, X, Chuang, C.F., Richmond, J., and Kim, H (2017) ERG-28 controls BK channel trafficking in the ER to regulate synaptic function and alcohol response in C. elegans. eLife, 6:e24733.

Li, H, Kim, H, Furst, J., Raicu, D. (2016) A run-length encoding approach for path similarity analysis of C. elegans search behavior. Computational and Mathematical Methods in Medicine, 2016:3516089

Kim, H., and Oh, K. (2016) Protein network interacting with BK channel. 128:127-61.

Moy, K., Li ,W., Tran, H.P., Simonis, V., Story, E., Brandon, C., Furst, J., Raicu, D., and Kim, H. (2015) Computational Methods for Tracking, Quantitative Assessment, and Visualization of C. elegans Locomotory Behavior. PLoS One 10(12):e0145870.

Truong,T., Karlinski Z.A.,, O’Hara C., Cabe, M., Kim, H., and Bakowska, J.C. (2015) Oxidative Stress in Caenorhabditis elegans: Protective Effects of Spartin. PLoS One 26;10(6):e0130455.

Oh, K, HJ., Abraham, L., Gegg, C., Silvestri, C., Huang, Y. C., Alkema, M., Furst, J., Raicu, D., and Kim, H. (2015). Presynaptic BK channel localization is dependent on the hierarchical organization of alpha-catulin and dystrobrevin and fine-tuned by CaV2 calcium channels. BMC Neuroscience 16:26.

Oh, K, HJ., Kim, H. (2013). IGF signaling in muscle degenerative diseases. Aging. 5(12):865-6.

Oh, K, HJ., Kim, H. (2013). Reduced IGF signaling prevents muscle cell death in a Caenorhabditis elegans model of muscular dystrophy. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U S A. 110(47):19024-9.

Metzler, R., Meleshkevitch, E.A., Fox, J., Kim, H., and Boudko, D.Y. (2013) A SLC6 transporter of the novel B0,- system aids in absorption and detection of nutrient amino acids in Caenorhabditis elegansJ. Exp Biol., 216(Pt 15):2843-57.

Oh, H. J., Abraham, L. S., van Hengel, J., Stove, C., Proszynski, T.J., Gevaert, C., DiMario, J.X., Sanes, J. R., van Roy F, and Kim, H. (2012) The interaction of of alpha-catulin with dystrobrevin contributes to the integrity of the dystrophin complex in muscle. J. Biol. Chem., 287:21717-21728.

Sancar F., Touroutine D., Gao S., Oh H. J., Gendrel M., Bessereau J.-L., Kim H., Zhen M., and  Richmond J. E. (2011). The dystrophin-associated protein complex maintains muscle excitability by regulating BK channel localization. J. Biol. Chem., 286:33501-33510.

Abraham, L. S., Oh, H. J., Sancar, F., Richmond, J. E., and Kim, H. (2010).  An alpha-catulin homologue controls neuromuscular function through localization of the dystrophin complex and BK channels in Caenorhabditis elegansPLoS Genetics6(8): e1001077.

*Kim, H., Pierce-Shimomura, J. T., Oh, H. J., Johnson, B. E., Goodman, M. B., and *McIntire, S. M. (2009). The dystrophin complex controls BK channel localization and muscle activity in Caenorhabditis elegansPLoS Genetics, 5(12): e1000780. *Co-corresponding author

Kim, H., Rogers, M. J., Richmond, J. E., and McIntire, S. M. (2004). SNF-6 is an acetylcholine transporter interacting with the dystrophin complex in Caenorhabditis elegansNature430, 891-896.

Davies, A. G., Shimomura-Pierce, J. T., Kim, H., VanHoven, M. K, Thiele, T. R. Bonci, A., Bargmann, C. I. and McIntire, S. M. (2003). A central role of BK channel in behavioral responses to ethanol in C. elegansCell, 115, 655-666.

Articles (1995-1999)

Kim, H., and Baumann, H. (1999). Dual signaling role of protein tyrosine phosphatase SHP-2 in regulating expression of acute phase plasma proteins by IL-6 type cytokine receptors in hepatic cells. Mol. Cell. Biol. 19, 5326-5338.

Lai, C.F., Ripperger, J., Wang, Y., Kim, H., Hawley R. B., Baumann H. (1999). The STAT3-independent signaling pathway by glycoprotein 130 in hepatic cells. J. Biol. Chem. 274, 7793-802.

Lim, S.-K., Kim, H., Lim, S. K., bin Ali, A., Lim, Y. K., Wang, Y., Chong, S. M., Costantini, F., and Baumman, H. (1998). Increased susceptibility in Hp knockout mice during acute hemolysis. Blood 92, 1870-1877.

Kim, H., Hawley, T., Hawley, R., and Baumann, H. (1998). Protein tyrosine phosphatase (SHP-2) moderates signaling by gp130 but is not required for the induction of acute-phase plasma protein genes in hepatic cells. Mol. Cell. Biol. 18,1525-1533.

Kim, H., and Baumann, H. (1997). Transmembrane domain of gp130 contributes to intracellular signal transduction in hepatic cells. J. Biol. Chem. 272, 30741-30747.

Kim, H., and Baumann, H. (1997). The carboxyl-terminal region of STAT3 controls gene induction by the mouse haptoglobin promoter. J. Biol. Chem. 272,14571-14579.

Baumann, H., Morella K. K., White, D. W., Dembski, M., Bailon, P. S., Kim, H., Lai, C. F., and Tartaglia, L. A. (1996). The full-length leptin receptor has signaling capabilities of interleukin 6-type cytokine receptors. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. in U. S. A. 93,8374-8378.

Kim, H., Lee, H., S., Chang, K., T., Ko, T., H., Baek, K., J., and Kwon, N., S. (1995). Chloromethyl ketones block induction of nitric oxide synthase in murine macrophages by preventing activation of nuclear factor-kappa B. J. Immunol. 154, 4741-4748.


We are often looking for new undergraduate, graduate and medical students. We have several research projects fit to the various levels of research experience. Inquiries into research opportunities are welcome.

Current members

Kelly Oh (Research Assistant Professor)
Linu S. Abraham (Post-doctoral Fellow)
Will Press (Summer Intern)
Jon Flaksman (Summer Intern)

Former members

Michael Yoon (Lab Assistant)
Shabana Yusufishaq (Summer Intern)
Eliot Vildaver (Intern)