Department of Biochemistry
Professor and Chairman
Genomics and proteomics; Ion channel kinetics and structure; Membrane Transport (Ion Transport); Protein Function and Structure; Proteins and metalloenzymes
Research in my laboratory is directed at understanding basic questions concerning structure-function relationships in ion channels. We are especially interested in using a variety of naturally-occurring toxins as probes of both ion transport and gating processes in these transmembrane macromolecules. To better understand the nature of these toxin binding sites, we have cloned and expressed synthetic genes which encode polypeptide modulators of voltage-sensitive sodium and calcium channels and also of a peptidic blocker of the gastric-chloride channel. By creating designed mutant forms of these toxins, and characterizing their functional properties and 3-dimensional structures, we hope to construct a picture of the channel region involved in binding. Complementary mutagenesis of channel products helps to define the structure of the channel itself, and this information is not accessible via other experimental approaches. Definition of toxin regions essential for this interaction will also allow us to design useful pharmacological agents directed at the target channel.