Neurotransmitter control to be taken with a grain of salt (literally)

Wednesday, August 21st, 2013

For decades, neuroscientists assumed that the on/off switch for brain receptors lay where the neurotransmitter binds. That may not be the case for the kainate receptor, says Derek Bowie, the Canada Research Chair in Receptor Pharmacology. Bowie and his lab in McGill’s Department of Pharmacology, in collaboration with Philip Biggin and his team at the University of Oxford, have discovered that a separate site that binds individual atoms of sodium controls kainate receptors. Kainate receptors, in turn have been implicated in epilepsy and neuropathic pain.

Because this sodium site only affects kainate receptors, it opens the door to customizing drug therapies without side effects.  “Now that we know how to stimulate kainate receptors,,” says Professor Bowie, “we should be able to design drugs to essentially switch them off.”

The findings are published in the journal Nature Structural & Molecular Biology. The research was made possible in part thanks to a grant from The Brain@McGill, a partnership between Oxford University, Neuroscience Center Zurich (ZNZ) and McGill aimed at enhancing research collaborations in neuroscience.



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