Molecular Biology, Neuroscience
University of Wisconsin-Madison
The major interests of my laboratory are the cellular and molecular regulatory mechanisms active in the mammalian nervous system. We also study events that are involved in early development in mammals, particularly in stem cells.
The interactions of small molecules, such as neurotransmitters with proteins i.e. their receptors expressed on the cell surface play an important role in communication between cells and govern development, behavior, physiology, in fact, all aspects of an organism’s life. One such neurotransmitter is serotonin (5-HT). It is known to play a significant role in depression, stress and sychosis. Among the many receptors that it interacts with, two of these i.e. the 5-HT1A and 5-HT2A receptors have been strongly implicated in stress and in schizophrenia.
Our studies have focused on the regulation of these two receptors in neuronal and non-neuronal cells and also its role in early developmental processes. During stress, corticosteroid levels are significantly affected and lead to decreased levels of the 5-HT1A receptor. Using a model neuronal cell line, generated in our laboratory, we can mimic some of the regulation seen in the mammalian brain. The 5-HT2A receptor, on the other hand, is an important target of many clinically prescribed antipsychotics. Using modified 5-HT2A receptors, which can be visually localized within cells, we have
made significant observations regarding the behavior of the receptor in the presence of serotonin and antipsychotics. These studies should now help us dissect the details of how these receptors are regulated during stressful and abnormal situations.