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2013 Krebs Lecture

2013 Edwin G. Krebs Lectureship in Molecular Pharmacology

The Twenty-Sixth Annual Edwin G. Krebs Lecture in Molecular Pharmacology
Sponsored by an endowment from Sterling Winthrop, Inc.

The Molecular Choreography Underlying Signal Transmission at Chemical Synapses

by: Dr. Eric Gouaux
Senior Scientist
Vollum Institute, Oregon Health & Science University
Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Dr. Eric Gouaux is a Senior Scientist at the Vollum Institute of Oregon Health & Science University and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator. He completed his B.A. and Ph.D. degrees in Chemistry at Harvard University. He remained at Harvard for a year as a postdoctoral fellow, and then continued his postdoctoral studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In 1993, he was appointed assistant professor of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology at the University of Chicago. He joined the Department of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology at Columbia University in 1996 and was promoted to Professor in 2001. He was appointed Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute at Columbia in 2000, and he moved to his present position at the Vollum Institute in 2005.

Dr. Gouaux is a leader in studies of the molecular mechanisms for the function of receptors and transporters at chemical synapses. Neurotransmitters released from one neuron diffuse across the synaptic cleft to adjacent neurons where they bind to a receptor that is a ligand-gated ion channel. This binding event leads to the opening of a transmembrane pore, which in turn generates an electrical signal. Neurotransmitter transporters surrounding the synapse clear the transmitters from the synaptic cleft. Dr. Gouaux has determined the three-dimensional structure and mechanism of action of receptors for the neurotransmitters glutamate and ATP and the transporters for glutamate, glycine and the biogenic amines. His work has given deep insight into the mechanism of action of agonists and antagonists of glutamate receptors and the conformational changes that lead to activation of the pore. He has defined the mechanism of transport of glutamate, glycine and biogenic amines and its energetic coupling to the sodium gradient. This work has had a huge impact in molecular pharmacology through understanding of neurotransmitter receptor and transporter function at the atomic level.

Dr. Gouaux’s work has been recognized by numerous honors and awards, including the Distinguished Award in Basic Sciences from Columbia University and the Medical Research Discovery Award of Oregon Health & Science University. He was elected a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2003 and a member of the National Academy of Sciences in 2010.