Differential modulation of T-type calcium channels by metabotropic glutamate receptors

Proteins called calcium channels regulate when and how much calcium gets into nerve cells. In humans, calcium channels control a variety of normal physiological responses including muscle and heart contraction, hormone secretion, and the way neurons transmit, receive and store information in the brain. When too much calcium enters cells through calcium channels, a number of disorders can result, including congenital migraine, angina, epilepsy, hypertension and stroke. Michael Hildebrand is studying the interactions between the most recently identified family of calcium channels (T-type channels) and a membrane receptor called the mGluR receptor. This receptor is activated by the neurotransmitter glutamate and triggers internal chemical signals within neurons. T-type channels and mGluR receptors are highly expressed in the same cell types in various brain areas and both proteins are shown to be involved together in various physiological processes. Michael’s research will specifically contribute to better understanding of how mGluR receptors are able to selectively turn on and off specific members of the T-type calcium channel family. Results will lead to further understanding of brain development, normal brain functions such as learning and memory, and abnormal functions such as epilepsy.