Headshot photo of Catherine W. Morgans, Ph.D.

Catherine W. Morgans, Ph.D.

  • Professor of Chemical Physiology and Biochemistry, School of Medicine
  • Graduate Program in Biomedical Sciences, School of Medicine


Research in the Morgans lab is aimed at elucidating the molecular events underlying synaptic transmission in the retina. Specifically, Dr. Morgans' 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. The Morgans lab as is studying proteins essential to this process. These include the retina-specific calcium channel, Cav1.4, which regulates glutamate release from photoreceptors; and the mGluR6 glutamate receptor and TRPM1 cation channel, which are both required for the bipolar cell response to glutamate. The genes encoding these proteins are known sites of mutations causing congenital visual disease in humans. The Morgans lab uses mice genetically modified to disrupt the function of these and other retinal proteins to gain insight into discrete steps in photoreceptor to bipolar cell transmission in both healthy and disease states. The lab employs a multidisciplinary approach, combining immunohistochemical, biochemical and electrophysiological techniques to pursue a comprehensive understanding of the structural organization and physiology of the photoreceptor to bipolar cell synapse.



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