November 11, 2005

VUMC brain research on tap at neuroscience meet

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Randy Blakely, Ph.D.

VUMC brain research on tap at neuroscience meet

Randy Blakely, Ph.D., Allan D. Bass Professor of Pharmacology, will address an international crowd of brain researchers next week at the 35th annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience in Washington, D.C.

On Wednesday, Nov. 16, Blakely will give an invited Special Lecture entitled “Good riddance to neurotransmitters: structure, regulation and genetics of synaptic transporter proteins.”

The hour-long lecture will highlight the current understanding of neurotransmitter transporters — proteins that recycle the brain's communication chemicals — and their importance in psychiatric disorders.

Blakely will discuss his group's recent identification of antidepressant contact sites in serotonin transporters, molecular aspects of transporter regulation mediated by interacting proteins, transporter trafficking and PKG/p38 MAPK phosphorylation and how mutations in human transporter genes clarify roles for neurotransmitters in brain disorders.

Blakely and colleagues were the first to clone the transporters for serotonin and norepinephrine in the early 1990s. Recently, Blakely and James Sutcliffe, Ph.D., discovered that mutations in the serotonin transporter gene confer an elevated risk of autism.

At the Neuropharmacology satellite meeting preceding the annual conference, Blakely spoke to transporter specialists on his lab's studies regarding transporter contributions to autism, ADHD and autonomic disorders.

In addition to Blakely's lecture, Vanderbilt researchers will present more than 120 abstracts at the meeting in poster and slide show formats.

With more than 37,000 members, the Society for Neuroscience is the world's largest professional society of scientists and physicians who study the brain and nervous system.

An estimated 30,000 people are expected to attend the society's 2005 meeting, which runs from Nov. 12-16.