Research objectives in the Molecular Pharmacology Research Center focus on the G-protein coupled receptor superfamily. G-protein coupled receptors regulate a wide range of critical physiologic functions (e.g. food intake, glucose homeostasis, perception of pain) and have therefore emerged as one of the leading targets for drug discovery.
Specific efforts in the Molecular Pharmacology Research Center focus on understanding structure-function relationships, mechanisms of intracellular signal transduction and physiologic functions of G-protein coupled receptors (GPCRs).
Research Focus and Highlights
Current investigations are aimed at (i) exploring how genetic variation in human GPCRs (i.e. single nucleotide polymorphisms) influence the development of obesity/diabetes (ii) investigating the potential of virally delivered recombinant proteins as novel therapeutics (e.g. for the treatment of movement disorders), and (iii) identifying novel compounds which mediate or block GPCR activity (i.e. drug screening/ chemical deorphaning). To accomplish these objectives, the laboratory utilizes cell-based assays, and animal models (e.g. genetically altered mice). The group is currently studying the orphan receptor, GPR88 as well as selected orexigenic and anorexigenic GPCRs (e.g. melanocortin, ghrelin, glucagon-like peptide 1, opioid).
In parallel to our studies on mammalian GPCRs, we utilize Drosophila as a model organism to pursue gene discovery and assessment of corresponding protein function. Ongoing efforts include identification of candidate modulators of feeding behavior as well as proteins which regulate neuronal/muscular physiology. Drosophila genes with conserved mammalian homologs are prioritized for study, in vitro (e.g. gene silencing in adipocyte or neuronal cell lines) and in vivo (e.g. transgenic rescue).
Research Administrator: Dionne Bradford