Laboratory of
Ion Channel Regulation
Research Interests

Our research interests focus on the role of potassium channels in physiological processes. Potassium channels are membrane-spanning proteins that selectively conduct potassium ions across the cell membrane along its electrochemical gradient. Potassium channels are found in virtually any living cell from bacteria to humans where they play multiple functions. In fact life would not be possible the way we intend it, without potassium channels.

Even though it is well known that the potassium channels are critical for life, the big challenge is to determine how these channels participate in biological processes, such as development, ageing, learning and memory. To successfully answer these fundamental questions though, it is important to develop integrated animal model systems in which different aspects of channel function, from its impact on animal's physiology, to its role on the signaling of the single cell can be bridged together. To this end we will use the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans whose unprecedented genetics makes it an unprecedented system to address these issues. Three advantages in particular are unique to C. elegans (1) all major families of potassium channel genes are represented in C. elegans; (2) C. elegans affords powerful genetics and (3) newly developed electrophysiological techniques enable to record action potentials and currents in single C. elegans cells in vitro and in vivo. In summary these tools make C elegans an ideal model where genes, behaviors, electrophysiological and physiological processes are bridged together to overcome the limitation of higher organisms without losing the ability to work in true physiological context.

By combining biochemistry, biophysics, genetics, behavioral analysis and electrophysiology, we will study the following questions: 1. Interaction of potassium channel α subunit and β subunit; 2. Mechanism of potassium channel expression and trafficking; 3. Physiological role of potassium channel in muscle aging.

  

Cai, Shi-Qing, Ph.D.

Investigator
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