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Barry B Wolfe

Title

Professor

Department

Pharmacology
Research

Research

Neurotransmitter receptors are involved in transducing information in the central and peripheral nervous systems. My laboratory studies receptors and their associated proteins and biochemical signaling systems. We are especially interested in receptors that are utilized for fast transmission, such as the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor. Such receptors are composed of multiple subunits and the effects of each of these subunits on the function and pharmacology of the assembled receptor is incompletely understood.

The major project underway in the laboratory involves neuronal nicotinic receptors. These receptors are ligand-gated ion channels important in the brain in memory and learning as well as mediating most of the neurotransmission in the peripheral nervous system. Many subunits exist that can form these receptors and the properties of the resulting receptors depend on their subunit composition. Studies are underway to elucidate which combinations form in native tissues (brain and peripheral ganglia) and by what mechanisms they regulate following chronic exposure to nicotine (e.g. smoking). Several antibodies have been developed to study these receptors, their subunit combinations, and their regulation both in vivo and in vitro. Studies are underway trying to understand the neurophysiological importance of subunit type and order in this pentameric receptor. Using molecular approaches, receptors are being generated with each of the five subunits being in a defined position to try to understand the functional, pharmacological, and regulatory significance of each of the subunits.