Gouaux lab researchers visualize serotonin transporter structure, create platform for antidepressant drug design

Researchers at OHSU’s Vollum Institute have revealed the molecular structure of the serotonin transporter (SERT), providing new insight into the mechanism of antidepressant action of two widely prescribed selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) commonly used to treat depression. In their paper, “X-ray structures and mechanism of the human serotonin transporter,” published Apr. 6, in the journal Nature, authors Jonathan Coleman, Ph.D., Eric Gouaux, Ph.D., and Evan Green, describe their use of X-ray crystallography to capture images of human SERT structures. They report how the antidepressants citalopram and paroxetine lock SERT in an outward-open conformation, directly blocking serotonin binding. Visualizing this structure provides a blueprint for future drug design to treat anxiety and depression.

Serotonin is a key neurotransmitter that regulates various processes throughout the body including sleep, appetite, memory, learning, and mood. Serotonin deficit has long been associated with anxiety and depression. SSRIs act on the SERT by blocking the reuptake process, allowing serotonin to remain outside the cell longer. Increasing levels of available serotonin has been shown to improve feelings of well-being and happiness, but, until now, the molecular mechanism by which SSRIs block the transporter was not fully understood.

“The heavy toll that devastating illnesses like anxiety and depression have on families and communities is, in many ways, incalculable. Revealing the precise structure of the serotonin transporter holds tremendous promise for the development of life-changing drug treatments for these diseases,” said Gouaux.

Gouaux is an internationally recognized crystallographer in the area of neurotransmitter receptor and transporter structure. A National Academy of Sciences member and Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator, Gouaux was recently named the Jennifer and Bernard Lacroute Term Chair in Neuroscience Research. The Lacroutes are sponsoring this term chair, “with the enthusiasm and hope that Dr. Eric Gouaux’s work will unravel the work of the neuron for scientists throughout the world.” The term runs through December 2019.

Read the full press release for more information.

This work was supported by Bernie and Jennifer LaCroute and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) (5R37MH070039). Coleman has support from a Banting postdoctoral fellowship from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

Community conversation series: Mosquitos, babies, and the Zika virus, Apr. 18

The Community Conversation series, hosted by the Northwest Association for Biomedical Research (NWABR), resumes later this month with an examination of the Zika Virus. Despite media attention, there are more questions than answers about the connection between Zika virus infection and abnormal development in babies. Join NWABR to learn what the experts know, and to understand special considerations in research with babies and pregnant women. The discussion will be facilitated by OHSU clinical scientist Dawn Nolt, M.D., M.P.H.


Monday, April 18, 5:45 – 7:30 p.m.
The Lucky Labrador Pub (all ages)
1700 N. Killingsworth St., Portland, OR 97217

$5 General admission. Includes discussion and first glass of wine/beer if 21+.

What are Community Conversations?
Each informal Conversation explores a topic in biomedical science and its relationship with ethics, medicine, research, and society, while connecting people to the biomedical research community. The goal of the series is to help people thoughtfully engage in and advance biomedical research. Everyone is welcome. No science background necessary.

In partnership with NWABR members Legacy Research Institute, Oregon Health & Sciences University and Portland State University and supporter Oregon Health Authority

NIH wants your images

Coronavirus spike, David Veesler, University of Washington

Coronavirus spike, David Veesler, University of Washington

Has your research ever resulted in an image so perfect, you wish everyone could see it? The NIH is currently hosting a call for images of NIH-funded research. Selected images will be posted in the official NIH Image Gallery on Flickr. The gallery is a resource for the media, educational institutions, and the public, and the images posted are free to use, with proper credit.  This is a great way to contribute resources to the extramural community while gaining exposure for your work!

You can submit your images now through May 16, 2016. Information about rules and criteria can be found at here. There is also a link on the NIH Public Information Office home page and questions may be sent to flickr@od.nih.gov.

Students and postdocs: We want your ugly data!

Do you have an unfortunate set of data? An image of an experiment gone terribly wrong? Perhaps a rather hideous figure? Turn in your ugly data for a chance to win a prize at Research Week!

On Monday, May 2, day one of Research Week 2016, attendees will vote for the ugliest data during the poster session. You no doubt have some repulsive data in your notebooks or on your computer, and every field is bound to specialize in its own unique style of ugly. So submit your data, and let’s have a laugh at our own mistakes.

Here’s an example from Christie Pizzimenti, a graduate student in Behavioral Neuroscience:

When running a western goes terribly wrong and turns into a rendition of ‘Starry Night'

When running a western goes terribly wrong and turns into a rendition of ‘Starry Night’

To submit, put your data onto a single PowerPoint slide, add a caption explaining what’s so ugly about it, and send to Scott Jones by Friday, Apr. 22. We can’t wait to see what you come up with!

NCCIH seeks input on draft strategic plan

The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) has developed a draft strategic plan for FY 2016-2021 and is asking for feedback from researchers, health care providers, patient advocates and health advocacy organizations, and scientific or professional organizations. Of particular interest to NCCIH is input on the five strategic objectives and six high priorities listed in the draft. Organizations are strongly encouraged to submit a single response that reflects the views of the organization as a whole, so please coordinate through the Office of the Senior Vice President for Research by contacting research@ohsu.edu. Responses must be submitted to NCCIH no later than Apr. 15, 2016.

Research Week 2016 schedule now available!

ResearchWeekArt2106 FNL RGB

The detailed schedule for OHSU Research Week 2016 is now live! Be sure to check it out for important dates, times, and abstracts for oral and poster presentations, keynote lectures, and workshops.

For your convenience, the schedule is also available on Guidebook. This mobile application allows you to plan which sessions you want to attend, and provides maps to help you get there. Download the app here and then search for RW16. In addition to the mobile app, the guide is also available on any web or mobile browser.

Military Health Systems Research Symposium abstracts due Apr. 8! Funds available for meeting support

The Military Health Systems Research Symposium (MHSRS) is the most important Department of Defense scientific meeting of the year. Bringing together all the branches of the armed forces, this joint symposium provides a collaborative environment of exchange among military medical care providers with deployment experience, DoD scientists, industry, and academic scientists like you, OHSU researchers! This is a highly interdisciplinary meeting. Areas of interest include combat casualty care, military operational medicine, and clinical and rehabilitative medicine. The 2016 MHSRS includes new topic sessions on precision medicine and women’s health. Due to the popularity of 2015’s tract offerings, tract presentations will be offered in the areas of infectious disease, neurotrauma and traumatic brain injury, psychological health, and injury prevention.

If you’re interested in attending, the office of the Senior Vice President for Research can help. As with the 2015 meeting, this year the SVPR office will pay for meeting-related travel expenses for OHSU researchers whose abstracts are accepted for presentation (you have to actually be presenting to take advantage of this offer). We can also help review abstracts for military relevance and other important details prior to submission.

The deadline for abstract submissions has been extended to 5:00 p.m. Friday, Apr. 8, and you will be notified by the end of May whether your abstract was accepted. The 2016 MHSRS tentative dates are August 15-18, and the tentative location is Kissimmee, FL. Continue to check the main MHSRS website for updates. If your abstract is accepted and you want to take advantage of the travel support, we will ask you to fill out a very easy and short application (coming soon). Questions? Write funding@ohsu.edu.

Applying for foundation funding? Check the President’s List!

Just a friendly reminder that if you plan to submit a grant to a foundation or corporation on the OHSU President’s List, you are required to submit a Notice of Intent Form to the OHSU Foundation. The purpose of the President’s List is to ensure that OHSU maintains coordinated communication with these organizations. Additionally, some organizations are reserved for top institutional priorities as determined by senior OHSU leadership.

Things to keep in mind:

Questions? Contact the OHSU Foundation.

2016 Kathryn Robertson Memorial Lecture: Reducing gun violence through science and collaboration, Apr. 22

The 6th Annual Kathryn Robertson Memorial Lecture in Global Health will feature Mark Rosenberg, M.D., M.P.P., chief executive officer of The Task Force for Global Health in Decatur, Ga. The Task Force for Global Health works to address unmet health needs of people in low-income countries, focusing on controlling or eliminating neglected tropical and vaccine-preventable diseases.

Friday, Apr. 22
12 p.m.
Doernbecher Children’s Hospital
Vey Auditorium, 11th floor


Mark Rosenberg, M.D., M.P.P.

Rosenberg joined The Task Force for Global Health in 1999 and currently serves as president and CEO, as well as the director of the Task Force’s Center for Global Health Collaboration. Previously, Rosenberg spent 20 years with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, including early work in smallpox eradication, enteric diseases, and HIV/AIDS. Rosenberg was instrumental in establishing CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, and became the first permanent director in 1994, serving as director for the center and assistant surgeon general until 1999.

The annual Kathryn Robertson Memorial Lecture in Global Health was established in 2010 in honor of Kathryn Robertson, the daughter of OHSU President Joseph Robertson, Jr., M.D., M.B.A. and Margaret A. Hewitt, M.D. Kathryn passed away Feb. 7, 2010, at age 25. She was an advocate for global understanding and multicultural education.

The lecture is free and open to the public.

Speakers announced for Jungers research symposium, May 2

Kelsey Martin, M.D. Ph.D.; Benjamin Wolozin, M.D, Ph.D; and J. Paul Taylor, M.D, Ph.D., will present at the 2016 Jungers Center for Neurosciences Research Symposium as part of OHSU Research Week, May 2-6.

2016 Jungers Symposium
“RNA granules: From synaptic plasticity to neurodegeneration”
Monday, May 2
1:30 to 4:30 p.m.
OHSU Auditorium
Reception to follow

KelseyMartinKelsey Martin, M.D. Ph.D.
Professor of biological chemistry, psychiatry, and behavioral sciences, executive vice dean, and associate vice chancellor at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA
“Spatial regulatoin of gene expression during synaptic plasticity”

Martin was an English major as an undergraduate at Harvard, then served in the Peace Corps in the Democratic Republic of the Congo before returning to do graduate work at Yale. She was a postdoctoral fellow with Nobel laureate Eric Kandel at Columbia, where she began her work to understand the molecular basis of memories. Her work as a graduate student on ribonucleo-particle transport in influenza virus led her to the question of synapse-specific plasticity in the Kandel lab, then to a career examining neuronal signaling between synapses and gene expression in the nucleus, and on to RNA binding proteins. Martin has been on the faculty of UCLA since 1999 and now serves as the executive vice dean of the David Geffen School of Medicine.

BenjaminWolozin (002)Benjamin Wolozin, M.D., Ph.D.
Professor of pharmacology and neurology, and head of the laboratory of neurodegeneration at Boston University School of Medicine
“Stress ganules and neurodegeneration: A molecular network underlying neurodegeneration”

Wolozin was an undergraduate at Wesleyan before earning his medical and graduate degrees from Albert Einstein College of Medicine. After postdoctoral fellowships at Mt. Sinai and NIMH, he served as a faculty member at the Loyola University Medical Center before moving to Boston University in 2004. Wolozin is interested in how cellular stress response that regulates autophagy, protein translation, and mitochondrial function contributes to Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. In recent work he has examined the pathophysiology of stress granules (RNA-protein complexes) in Alzheimer’s disease and tauopathies, which he will discuss in his 2016 Jungers Symposium talk.

J.PaulTaylorJ. Paul Taylor, M.D., Ph.D.
Chair of cell and molecular biology at St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, and Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator
“Perturbed RNA granule dynamics in ALS and related diseases”

Taylor did his graduate training at Jefferson Medical College followed by a neurology residency at Penn and a neurogenetics fellowship at NINDS, where he worked with Kenneth Fischbeck and began his continuing interest in toxic, aggregation-prone proteins and neurological disease. He is currently chair of the Cell and Molecular Biology Department at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, and an HHMI investigator. His work focuses on RNA-protein granules whose functional impairment has been implicated in multiple neurodegenerative diseases including ALS and frontotemporal dementia. In his work, he uses Drosophila to model disease, and is interested in development of small molecule therapeutics. Taylor has examined how disease-causing mutations affect RNA granule formation and the development of fibrillary inclusions of RNA-binding proteins.

Visit the OHSU Research Week website for a complete schedule of events.

Welcome to the Research News Blog

Welcome to the Research News Blog

OHSU Research News is your portal to information about all things research at Oregon Health & Science University. Visit often for updates on events, discoveries, and important funding information.

Participation Guidelines

Remember: information you share here is public; it isn't medical advice. Need advice or treatment? Contact your healthcare provider directly. Read our Terms of Use and this disclaimer for details.