Kirill Martemyanov, Ph.D.
Professor And Chair, Department Of Neuroscience
About Kirill Martemyanov
The main emphasis of the research in the laboratory is on the fundamental principles that regulate signaling via G protein coupled receptors (GPCR). GPCRs mediate a vast variety of critical biological processes ranging from proliferation and motility to cellular reception and excitability. GPCR signaling pathways are of particular importance for the nervous system function where they control many fundamental processes including excitability, differentiation, sensory perception, and synaptic transmission. Importantly, but not surprisingly, even a subtle imbalance in GPCR signaling often leads to the most profound nervous system disorders ranging from blindness and cognitive problems to grave neurological diseases.
Specifically, our laboratory is interested in understanding the intricate regulatory dynamics of G protein pathways in the following two neuronal systems.
Basal ganglia where G proteins mediate reward behavior and movement coordination underlying not only addictive effects of abused drugs such as opioids and cocaine but also dysfunctions observed in movement disorders such as Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, Tourette syndrome, and tardive dyskinesia. Retina where G protein signaling systems of primary sensory neurons, photoreceptors, and downstream ON-bipolar cells act in tandem to generate responses to light and synaptically encode them to enable our vision. Dysfunctions in these processes are known to be the leading causes of a range of ocular pathologies including macular degeneration and congenital night blindness. Much of our current efforts are focused on a family of key regulators of GPCR signaling pathways, the Regulator of G protein Signaling (RGS) proteins. RGS proteins constitute a large family of proteins that promote G protein inactivation by facilitating their GTP hydrolysis thus ensuring timely inactivation of the GPCR responses. Many members of the RGS family have been clinically linked to human disease conditions that have been recapitulated in the genetic mouse models. Serving as a central control point in GPCR signaling cascades, RGS proteins hold great promises as targets for the drug development. This brings the major emphasis of our research on elucidating molecular and cellular mechanisms of RGS proteins function in cellular signaling in addition to the efforts to uncover novel regulatory principles.
Research directions in the laboratory include discovery and characterization of novel G protein regulators, delineation of protein-protein interactions, feedback mechanisms, and logistics of signaling pathway organization. In our research, we use a range of multidisciplinary approaches involving identification of components of signaling complexes by proteomics, measurement of protein functional activity by in vitro enzyme kinetics, analysis of synthesis, trafficking and degradation of signaling proteins in cell culture and behavioral characterization of genetic mouse models with altered components of G protein signaling machinery.
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