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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.
- 2018. Acid-sensing ion channels emerged over 600 Mya and are conserved throughout the deuterostomes. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 115: 8430-8435. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1806614115
- 2018. Acid-sensing ion channels emerged over 600 MYA and are conserved throughout the deuterostomes. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 8430-8435.