Neurotransmitters act by gating ion channels to rapidly alter the electrical activities of neurons or by signaling through G protein-coupled receptors to induce longer lasting alterations in neural function. My laboratory studies molecular mechanisms that turn up or down the strength of each of these types of neurotransmission. By altering how neurons communicate these mechanisms allow organisms alter their behaviors based on conditions they have experienced or based on their developmental stage.
Our Laboratory Research has resulted in a number of important recent findings. We discovered a family of proteins that we named “Regulators of G Protein Signaling”, or RGS proteins, that inhibit neurotransmitter signaling through heterotrimeric G proteins. By acting directly on G protein alpha subunits to convert them from their active GTP-bound state to their inactive GDP-bound state, RGS proteins terminate signaling. We found that different RGS proteins target different G proteins in vivo, and have studied the biological functions, subunit compositions, and membrane targeting of several RGS proteins.