Jorge E. Contreras, Ph.D.
4144 Tupper Hall
Intercellular communication is required for appropriate coordination of cellular metabolism and signal transduction. A unique family of channel-forming membrane proteins, called connexin and pannexin channels, are critical for properly integrating signals between cells in every organ of the body. To date, 21 connexin and 3 pannexin genes have been identified in the human genome. Understanding the biophysical features of these channels as well as the mechanisms that regulate their function has important implications for human health. Human connexin gene mutations are directly linked to a variety of pathologies, including deafness, blindness, skin diseases and several neurological disorders. Furthermore, non-inherited diseases, such as cardiac ischemia, brain trauma and epilepsy also alter pannexin and connexin expression and function, resulting in inflammation, tissue dysfunction and cell death. The long-term goal of my research program is to define molecular and cellular determinants that regulate connexin and pannexin channel function in physiological and pathophysiological contexts. To accomplish this goal, my laboratory uses an innovative combination of techniques including molecular biology, biochemistry, electrophysiology, imaging, behavior and transgenic mouse models.