Professor, Dorris Neuroscience Center
Faculty, Graduate Program
Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Investigator
Director of Discovery Research, Genomics Institute for the Novartis Research Foundation
The sense of touch consists of the perception of discrete types of thermal, mechanical, and chemical stimuli. However, little is known about the molecular basis of touch perception. Our lab is characterizing the genes involved in the first step of touch sensation: those that encode the molecular sensors of touch stimuli. With the completion of the human genome project, we have powerful new methods to identify these elusive sensory molecules. We recently identified the first gene involved in our ability to sense cold temperatures. This gene, trpm8, encodes for a protein present at the plasma membrane of cold-sensing neurons that belongs to the Transient Receptor Potential (TRP) channel family. Interestingly, TRPM8 is also activated by menthol, a commonly-used cooling compound. We are continuing to identify additional sensory receptors, and working towards understanding the mechanism of activation of these channels. Another direction in the lab is to understand how these sensory neurons become specialized during development. We are using transgenic and genomic technologies to address these questions.
Ph.D., Biology, California Institute of Technology, 1995
B.S., Cellular & Development Biology, University of California, Los Angeles, 1990
Moqrich, A., Earley, T., Watson, J., Andahazy, M., Backus, C., Martin-Zanca, D., Wright, D.E., Reichardt, L. F., Patapoutian, A., (2004) Expressing TRKC from the TRKA locus causes a subset of DRG neurons to switch fate. Nature Neuroscience, 7 (8): 812-818.
Bandell, M., Story, G.M., Hwang, S.W., Viswanath, V., Eid, S.R., Petrus, M.J., Earley, T.J., Patapoutian A. (2004) Noxious Cold Ion Channel TRPA1 Is Activated by Pungent Compounds and Bradykinin. Neuron, 41:849-57.
Patapoutian, A., Peier, A.M., Story, G.M., and Viswanath, V. (2003) ThermoTRP channels and beyond: Mechanisms of temperature sensation. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 4: 529-539.
Viswanath, V., Story, G.M., Peier, A.M., Petrus, M.J., Lee, V.L., Hwang, S.W., Patapoutian, A. and Jegla, T., (2003) Opposite thermosensor in fruitfly and mouse. Nature, 423: 822-823.