Biophysics of Channels and Transporters

Ion channels and transporters are perhaps the defining features of neurons as excitable cells. There is a distinguished history of biophysical studies of ion channels, receptors, and neurotransmitter transporters by investigators in the Neuroscience Graduate Program at OHSU. Several key membrane proteins in this general category were initially cloned at the Vollum Institute including dopamine receptors, several types of potassium channels as well as monoamine and glutamate transporters. Several labs in the NGP focus on the biophysics of synaptic transmission, extending from studies of the release of vesicles as measured by imaging methods, or by electrophysiological methods such as membrane capacitance changes. Other research areas in the NGP include kinetics studies of transmitters within and around the synaptic cleft as well as functional and structural studies of synaptic molecules including neurotransmitter transporters and postsynaptic receptors. For example, crystal structures of the two major classes of ligand-gated ion channels, glutamate-gated receptor/channels and Cys-loop receptors, have been determined in Eric Gouaux’s Institute. The laboratories and core facilities at Vollum provide the full range of modern imaging approaches to these questions including OHSU and super resolution microscopy. Systems in use include classical preparations such as the neuromuscular junction and multiphoton cells as well as the full range of in vitro and in vivo models now used in neuroscience research. chromaffin investigators are also studying ion channels in other tissues such as NGP-sensitive potassium channels that control insulin secretion from the pancreas.

For more information on NGP laboratories involved in this work, click on the links to these investigators.