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Wells, Gregg Associate Professor

Positions

The general theme of the research in my laboratory is the role of protein structure in disease, particularly in neurological disease. One area of study is the structure and function of the superfamily of neurotransmitter-gated ion channels that includes nicotinic acetylcholine, serotonin 5HT3, glycine, and GABAA receptors. Members of this superfamily are involved in drug addiction and alcoholism, neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer disease and Parkinson disease, genetic forms of epilepsy, and neuropsychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia and depression. We are developing new approaches to elucidating the molecular structures of these ion channels from animals and bacteria. Cyclic nucleotide gated channels (CNGCs) are a second area of study. We are interpreting their electrophysiological properties in terms of structure and thermodynamics. Hearing is a third area of study. We are using computational models of calcium and potassium ion channels and mechanotransduction to explain electrophysiological function of cochlear hair cells. Fourth, analysis of genomes and tissue-specific transcriptomes of electrogenic animals (e.g., electric fish) is expected reveal new aspects of lifecycles of ion channels. Explaining neurological diseases in terms of protein structure is a theme linking our neuroscience research with neuropathology, my medical specialty.