We are interested in the molecular mechanisms of sensory transduction in the brain. One of the goals of our work is to understand somatosensation: the process through which the body (Skin, cornea, etc) experience the external environment. This can be broken down into three major components: mechanosensation (touch or sensing of pressure), thermosensation (sense of heat or cold), and nociception (sense of pain).
In order to do this, neurons are the body surface must collect information from the environment and translate that information to an electrical signal that can be understood by the brain. This process is accomplished in large part by a family of proteins know as ion channels. We are currently focused on a family of ion channels know as the acid-sensing ion channels (ASICs). These proteins detect changes in extracellular pH and in response to more acidic conditions open a sodium selective channel which contributes to increased excitability in sensory neurons.
We are focused on interrelated aspects of ASIC channel function including their structural dynamics, regulation by accessory subunits, and regulation by changes in the composition of the plasmid membrane.