Membrane and Cellular Biophysics

About us

This project is headed by Dr Trevor Lewis, collaborating with AProf Andrew Moorhouse and E/Prof Peter Barry. Our group deals with the structure and function of ion channels that underlie the process of neurotransmission.

We are investigating the relationship between the molecular structure and the physiological function of neurotransmitter receptor channels and in particular those that respond to the two major inhibitory neurotransmitters, glycine and GABA. This is achieved using state-of-the-art patch-clamp techniques to directly record currents flowing through individual channels, in order to determine the channel properties. We also utilize site-directed mutagenesis to modify the molecular structure of those channels and to determine how the structure relates to the cellular and physiological function. This is supported by building homology models of the receptors, including the human glycine receptor, to inform and test our hypotheses on channel function. We are involved in a range of projects - we are currently investigating:

  1. The signal transduction mechanism of human glycine receptor channel that links the binding of the neurotransmitter to the opening of the channel.
  2. The structural and biophysical mechanisms that determine how ions permeate through the receptor-channels, once opened.
  3. How modulators mediate changes in ligand-gated ion channel function.

Team

Resources & Tools

  • Axopatch 200B and 1D amplifiers for whole-cell and single-channel patch-clamp recordings
  • Inverted fluorescence microscopes for targeted patch-clamp recordings
  • Piezo-electric translators for sub-millisecond applications of ligands
  • Mammalian tissue culture facilities
  • Molecular modelling software

Grants & Funding

NHMRC Project Grant GNT1023202. The contribution of subunit interfaces to receptor activation
in ligand gated ion channels. 2012-14. T.M. Lewis and P.H. Barry

NHMRC Project Grant GNT1065882. Switching on Brain Transporters to Switch off Brain Seizures.
2014-16. A. Moorhouse, M. Klugmann and J. Power

Students

Current students

  • Ashor Khoshaba (MSc)
  • Dennis Cheung (PhD)

Lab alumni (students)

  • Denise Tam (Honours, 2013)
  • Louise Walton (Honours, 2014)
  • Ariel Seaton (Visiting Research Scholar, 2011-13)
  • Aileen Lowe (Visiting Research Scholar, 2010-12)
  • Ronald Mak, BSc (Honours, 2010)
  • Scott Jones, BSc (Honours, 2009)
  • Mary Peng, BSc (Honours, 2006)
  • Silas Sugiharto, BSc (Honours, 2004)
  • David Lee, BSc (Honours, 2002)

Lab alumni (post-doctoral researchers)

  • Dr Monique Windley (2012-2014
  • Dr Jennie Cederholm (2007-2010)
  • Dr Jane Carland (2007-2010)