Biophysics, Pharmacology, and Structure of Ion Channels
Our laboratory is interested in Cys-loop receptors. The latter are ionic channels activated by neurotransmitters such as acetylcholine, serotonin, glycine, gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), histamine, or glutamate. Cys-loop receptors play a key role in our day-to-day functions, from body motions to cognitive processes, as they mediate and regulate fast transmission of chemo-electric signals throughout the nervous system. Being physiologically important, impairment of Cys-loop receptor activity leads to neurological disorders such as epilepsy, irritable bowel syndrome, addiction to nicotine, exaggerated startle responses, and other disorders.
More specifically, we focus on molecular aspects of Cys-loop receptors at high resolution, as follows:
1. Biophysical aspects that include mechanisms of channel gating, mechanisms of ionic permeation and ionic selectivity, and mechanisms underlying coupling of the neurotransmitter-binding site to channel activity.
2. Pharmacological aspects that include mechanisms of ligand recognition and rational drug design.
The research in our laboratory employs the following techniques: recombinant DNA technology, protein engineering, protein purification, protein crystallization, ligand-binding assays, electrophysiological recordings of ionic currents, and computer-assisted structural modeling.