Department of Molecular Cellular and Developmental Biology, Neuroscience Research Institute, University of California, Santa Barbara, CA.
Sensory and Motor Systems
Title of the talk:
Decoding the polymodal roles of TRP channels and opsins in sensory signaling.
One of the most fascinating goals in biology is to understand the biological basis of animal behavior. To address this question, Craig Montell is focusing on a relatively simple animal, the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, which exhibits many of the same behaviors as humans and other mammals. The external environment is a major factor that controls what animals decide to do, and Montell will describe how he is using TRP channels to decipher how flies sense the world around them and impact on a wide array of behaviors. Montell discovered the original TRP channel, through his work on fly phototransduction, which is initiated by light activation of rhodopsin. Rhodopsin was discovered in the 1870s and thought to function exclusively in photoreceptor cells. However, the Montell laboratory recently made the surprising discovery that opsins lead to activation of TRP channels outside of photoreceptor cells, and initiate signaling cascades that participate in thermotaxis, chemotaxis and other behaviors. Many diseases result from defects in TRP channels, including the childhood neurodegenerative disease, MLIV, which results from mutations in TRPML1. Based on insights from a fly model for this disease, Montell will describe a concept for a therapy for this disease that is showing promise in a mouse model for MLIV.