Anna Lee, PhD

Associate Professor, Department of Pharmacology

Anna Lee

Contact Info

Office Phone 612-626-2859

Office Address:
3-136 Nils Hasselmo Hall
312 Church St SE
Minneapolis, MN 55455

Lab Address:
3-260 Nils Hasselmo Hall
312 Church St SE
Minneapolis, MN 55455

PhD, University of Toronto


Dr. Lee received her B.S. degree in Pharmacology from the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada, and her Ph.D. in Pharmacology from the University of Toronto. She then moved to the US for a post-doctoral fellowship with Dr. Robert Messing at UCSF. Dr. Lee was a Research Assistant Professor at the University of Texas, Austin, prior to moving to her current position in the Department of Pharmacology at the University of Minnesota.


Alcohol, nicotine, addiction, behavioral neuropharmacology

Professional Associations

Society for Neuroscience

Research Society on Alcoholism

Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco


Research Summary/Interests

The goal of my research is to elucidate the molecular basis of behavior. I am interested in the mechanisms that mediate alcohol and nicotine addiction separately, and those that are involved in alcohol and nicotine co-addiction. Alcohol and nicotine are two commonly used drugs, and addiction to both drugs is very prevalent. Alcohol and nicotine addiction have overlapping molecular mechanisms, and identifying these mechanisms will enable us to understand why these drugs are co-abused and to identify new molecular targets for treatment. We use a wide range of molecular and behavioral tools including transgenic mouse models, viral genetic manipulations, pharmacological tools and behavioral assays in mouse models of drug addiction.

One major area of focus in the lab are the nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs), and how different nicotinic receptor subtypes mediate aspects of co-addiction. These receptors are widely expressed ligand-gated ion channels that are primarily found on pre-synaptic terminals and on neuronal cell bodies, and thus are poised to modulate neurotransmission and regulate neural circuits. As such, nAChRs are implicated in alcohol and nicotine addiction, anxiety, depression and learning/memory. Our goal is to identify how different nAChR subtypes, and how regulation of nAChRs can affect neuronal activity, circuit function and behavior.

We currently have several projects that focus on nAChRs in addiction: 1) Cholinergic regulation of alcohol aversion. A major project in our lab is to determine how the nAChRs mediate alcohol reward, aversion and consumption. Our recent work has uncovered a novel role for the nAChRs in alcohol aversion, and our goal is to identify the neuronal circuit and nAChR subtype that is involved. 2) Sex dependent regulation of nAChR gene expression. We recently discovered novel regulation of the alpha6 and beta3 nAChR subtypes by protein kinase C epsilon and sex hormones, resulting in oppositional expression of addiction-related behaviors in mice. Our goal is to determine how molecular regulation of these nAChR genes differs between sexes. 3) Altered abuse liability of electronic cigarette liquids. We are actively investigating whether the abuse liability of electronic cigarette liquid refills differs from nicotine alone, and whether this is modulated by flavors.