Associate Professor. Department of Physiology. Health Science Center. University of Tennessee. USA
I am an electrophysiologist and biochemist whose current research interests pertain to the structure and function of ion channels involved in somatosensation and neurological disorders. My graduate training was in biophysics. Under the supervision of Dr. Eduardo Perozo, I worked to provide a physical framework for understanding the molecular basis of inactivation in K+ channels using patch clamp, electron paramagnetic resonance spectroscopy (EPR), and X-ray crystallography. During my postdoctoral research under the supervision of Dr. David Julius, I studied the mechanisms by which transient receptor potential (TRP) ion channels enhanced neuronal activity in the peripheral nervous system (PNS). My combined background and expertise in electrophysiology, biochemistry, structural biology, and sensory physiology make me uniquely qualified to tackle fundamental questions and develop multi-disciplinary approaches to decipher the structure-function relationships of sensory receptors at the molecular level. My laboratory’s current research focuses on investigating the mechanisms by which bioactive lipids modulate the function of sensory receptors. My laboratory combines different in vivo and in vitro approaches to determine how fatty acids and phosphoinositide lipids modulate the function of TRP and mechanosensitive ion channels. We have published four articles in which we have demonstrated that mammalian ion channel function is modulated by fatty acids and bioactive lipids ex vivo and in vivo (Caires et al., Cell Reports; 2017; Romero et al., Nature Communications, 2020; Romero et al., Nature Communications, 2019; Caires et al., Journal of Neuroscience 2021). In the current proposal, we have moved forward with our research to demonstrate that sensory receptors expressed in the PNS can be modulated in vivo by a dietary fatty acid.
I have experience in several techniques, including molecular biology, electrophysiology (sensory neurons, stem cells derived neurons, HEK293 and CHO cells, and Xenopus oocytes), protein biochemistry, animal behavior (mice and worms), and pharmacology of mammalian sensory systems, together with sensory neuron cultures, and calcium imaging. These techniques constitute the foundation of this research plan. I have trained several postdoctoral fellows that have taken positions in industry and academia. Regarding my service, I am currently involved in several Biophysical Society committees, including the Professional Opportunities for Women Committee (CPOW) in Biophysics.