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Certain cells in the nervous system (neurons) must rapidly convert surrounding chemical information into electrical signals. This is generally mediated by ligand-gated ion channels, proteins in the cell membrane that in response to chemical stimuli open an intrinsic channel, allowing the selective passage of electrolytes across the cell membrane.
Through this rapid chemo-electric signaling, ligand-gated ion channels – or receptors – make indispensable contributions to animal development and physiology and constitute important pharmacological targets. We use electrophysiological experiments, chemical biology, and molecular phylogenetics to dissect receptor function and evolution.
A major question we are pursuing is the evolution of excitatory neurotransmitter receptors in the nervous system. The chemical basis for the selective recognition of certain neurotransmitters by their receptors is not perfectly understood. We use cutting edge chemical biology together with comparative and evolutionary analyses to approach this question.
Tim studied at The University of Queensland, Australia, receiving his PhD from the Queensland Brain Institute in 2011 for work that established how the antiparasitic drug ivermectin targets neurotransmitter receptors in worms. From 2011 to 2013 he studied receptor modulation by anesthetics and receptor evolution with Bodo Laube at the Technical University of Darmstadt. From 2014-2018 he worked on the function and evolution of receptors with Stephan Pless at the University of Copenhagen. He joined Sars in January 2019.