Faculty Scholars


Robert Anholt, Ph.D.

Provost Distinguished Professor of Genetics and Biochemistry
Center for Human Genetics
Director of Faculty Excellence Initiatives
College of Science

Contact: 864-889-0521 | ranholt@clemson.edu

Who is Dr. Anholt?

A native of The Netherlands, Dr. Robert Rene Henri Anholt has built a career as a distinguished researcher and teacher in genetics. Anholt earned his Bachelor of Science in 1973from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, his Master of Science in biochemistry in 1975 from University College in London, and, in 1982, a Ph.D. in biology from the University of California, San Diego. He was a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Neuroscience at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, and, after serving on the faculty of Duke University, he joined North Carolina State University in 1993, where he established the Keck Center for Behavioral Biology and was appointed in2008 asWilliam Neal Reynolds Distinguished Professor.He joined Clemson University in 2018 as Provost’s Distinguished Professor and director of Faculty Excellence for theCollege of Science. Among Anholt’s awards and honors are the Martin Kamen award for most outstanding doctoral thesis from the University of California, San Diego, the Faculty Resource Development Award from N.C. State University and the Alexander Quarles Holladay Medal for Excellence at NC State University. From 2016–19, he was conferred an honorary professorate by China’sBeijing Forestry University. Anholt is a member of the Sigma Xi Scientific Research Honor Society, and a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He has 145 publications, and his work has been continuously supported by the National Institutes of Health, for which he served on numerous review panels.

For more information, see his department profile.

How Dr. Anholt’s research is transforming health care

Dr. Anholt has used Drosophila as a genetic model for alcohol use disorders. Disentangling the genetic and environmental contributions that shape alcohol-related phenotypes is complicated in human populations because neither the genetic background nor the environment can be controlled, results of excessive alcohol consumption are diverse and difficult to quantify precisely. With Drosophila the research team can control the rearing environment, genetic background, and alcohol exposure precisely, and quantitatively measure alcohol knockdown time. They have identified genetic networks that predispose to alcohol sensitivity and extrapolated our findings to human populations. They have also showed that polymorphisms in the human orthologue of the Drosophila malic enzyme gene are associated with variation in alcohol consumption. Malic enzyme represents a metabolic switch that shifts energy from the tricarboxylic acid cycle to fatty acid biosynthesis, giving rise to fatty liver syndrome in people.

The team has also used Drosophila to assess the genetic underpinnings of sensitivity to cocaine and methamphetamine consumption and developed a fly model for ocular hypertension by overexpressing a human glaucoma-associated protein, myocilin, in the Drosophila eye. Using this system and subsequent studies in human populations the team identified the unfolded protein response and endoplasmicreticulum stress as possible mediators of ocular hypertension-induced primary open angle glaucoma. Anholt’s team has also explored the genetic factors that contribute to variation in susceptibility to acute or chronic oxidative stress and exposure to toxic heavy metals. Evolutionary conservation of fundamental biological processes enables comparative genomic approaches for identification of orthologous human genes and networks as targets for neurotoxic effects of environmental toxins.

News and media related to Dr. Anholt’s research

Health Research Expertise Keywords

Comparative genomics, fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, cocaine addiction, glaucoma, genetic modifiers of human disease, toxicogenomics, behavioral genetics, neurogenetics