Dr. Vasanthi Jayaraman
The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston
McGovern Medical School
Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Communication between nerve cells serves as the basis of all brain activity, and one of the fundamental steps involved in signal transmission between the nerve cells, is the conversion of a "chemical" signal liberated at the end of one nerve cell, into an "electrical" signal at the second nerve cell. This step is mediated by a class of membrane bound proteins known as ligand gated ion channels.
Our laboratory is interested in gaining an understanding of how these proteins carry forward their function by being able to watch the movements of these proteins as they perform their function. This is achieved by using various cutting edge spectroscopic methods such as time resolved vibrational spectroscopy and single molecule fluorescence spectroscopy that allow the characterization of the dynamic state structure of the proteins. The structural changes thus determined are correlated to the functional consequences as measured by electrophysiological measurements. These investigations provide a detailed understanding of the agonist controlled function of the ligand gated ion channels and hence aid in the rational design of drugs targeting this group of important proteins that are involved in diverse neuropathologies, such as epilepsy and ischemia.