The Department of Biomedicine

BBB seminar: Catherine W. Morgans

The TRPM1 cation channel: A link between vision and skin cancer

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Catherine W. Morgans
Department of Physiology and Pharmacology, Oregon Health & Science University, Portland, OR, USA

Research in my lab is aimed at elucidating the molecular events underlying synaptic transmission in the retina. Specifically, our research focuses on specialized synapses connecting photoreceptor cells to bipolar cells, which represent the first stage of image processing in the visual system. Retinal photoreceptors are the light detecting neurons of the visual system. They release the neurotransmitter glutamate, and modulate the rate of release in response to changes in light intensity; this in turn elicits a response in the bipolar cells. My lab is studying proteins essential to this process. These include the TRPM1 cation channel, which is essential for the normal bipolar cell response to glutamate. Recently, we have been investigating a link between skin melanoma and the visual neoplastic syndrome melanoma-associated retinopathy (MAR). We have found that serum from melanoma patients with MAR symptoms contains autoantibodies to TRPM1. The antibodies target an intracellular epitope of TRPM1, yet they are able to enter live bipolar cells to bind to the channel and block its function. We are currently exploring whether TRPM1 autoantibodies are a prognostic indicator for metastatic melanoma.

Chairperson: Meg Veruki, Department of Biomedicine