Graduate Training in Neuroscience
University of Washington
Robert A. Steiner
Professor of Obstetrics & Gynecology and Physiology & Biophysics
NOT TAKING STUDENTS
Research in the Steiner lab is directed toward understanding the neuroendocrine mechanisms that govern reproduction. We are curious about the cellular and molecular events that trigger the onset of puberty, the circadian signals that are coupled to the preovulatory surge of gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) and the mechanisms that orchestrate sexual differentiation of the brain. The laboratory also has an interest in understanding the physiological mechanisms that integrate nutrition, body weight, and reproduction. The daily work of the lab is focused on dissecting the cellular and molecular pathways through which sex steroids and other hormones (such as leptin and insulin) regulate neuropeptide gene expression and defining the hypothalamic circuitry that controls the secretion of GnRH. We are currently engaged in investigations of kisspeptin (a product of the Kiss1 gene), as well as the receptors for these neuropeptides (e.g., GPR54 for kisspeptin). To explore these questions, we use various animal models, including the rat and mouse (wild-type as well as spontaneous and genetically engineered mutants)- and most recently the hamster, and we employ various techniques, such as in situ hybridization, neuroanatomical mapping, tract tracing, microarray analysis, radioimmunoassays, neurosurgical manipulations, cloning, and gene targeting to create conditional and tissue-specific knockouts. Our primary goal is to increase our understanding of the basic biology of reproduction- but we also hope that our efforts may yield some practical value- perhaps, to reveal the etiology (and treatment) of certain disorders of reproduction, such as hypogonadotropic hypogonadism and precocious puberty, or provide the scientific rationale for the development of newer and better strategies for hormonal contraception.