Graduate Program in Neuroscience

Robert Steiner

Steiner, Robert'Phone: 206-543-8712

Dept.: Professor of Obstetrics & Gynecology and Physiology & Biophysics
Neuroscience Focus Groups: Neuroendocrinology, Neurotransmitters, Modulators, Transporters and Receptors
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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 GnRH/LH surge, and the mechanisms that orchestrate sexual differentiation of the brain. We are also trying to understand how the regulation of metabolism and body weight are physiologically coupled to reproduction. The daily work of the lab is focused on dissecting the cellular and molecular pathways through which sex steroids (e.g., estradiol and testosterone) 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 investigating kisspeptin (a product of the Kiss1 gene), dynorphin, and neurokinin B as well as their cognate receptors, (i.e., Kiss1r, kappa opiate receptor, and NK3R), to learn how these neurotransmitters regulate GnRH and gonadotropin secretion. We are also exploring a possible role for Kiss1 neurons as a generator of menopausal hot flashes and examining the feasibility using kappa and NK3R analogues to mitigate the symptoms of hot flashes in women. To explore these questions, we use animal models, including the rat and mouse (wild-type as well as spontaneous and genetically engineered mutants), 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 knockouts. The lab also collaborates with Drs. Susan Reed, Charles Chavkin, and Richard Palmiter on the hot flash project. Our primary goal is to increase understanding of the biology of reproduction— but we also hope that our work will have some practical value— perhaps, to reveal the etiology of certain disorders of reproduction, such as hypogonadotropic hypogonadism and precocious puberty, provide the scientific rationale for the development of better hormonal contraceptives, and yield new treatment options to control the vasomotor symptoms of hot flashes.

Funding Source: National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD)/NIH