Robert Brenner photo
Robert Brenner

Robert Brenner, Associate Professor- Department of Physiology

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Education:B.S., University of Texas at Arlington, 1982
M.S., San Diego State University, 1992
Ph.D., University of Texas at Austin, 1997

Research Interest:

Areas Specialization
Calcium-activated potassium channels

Cells utilize voltage-activated channels that conduct sodium and calcium ions to transmit a variety intracellular signals, such as action potentials propogations along an axon towards a nerve terminal, or calcium influx that mediates neurotransmitter release or muscle contraction. Voltage-dependent potassium channels, by repolarizing the membrane, generally serve to deactivate sodium and calcium channels, thereby shaping the strength and duration of such signals. An extensive variety of potassium channels and their regulation underlies much of the rich diversity in electrical properties observed among cells types serving different physiological functions. My research interests are to understand how ion channels are regulated to contribute to the unique membrane and signaling properties of electrically excitable cells. Our experimental approach is to understand ion channel biophysical interactions in heterologous expression systems utilizing patch clamp recording techniques. The functional relevence of these interactions are ascertained by complementary studies with transgenic and gene knockout studies in mice. This integrative approach allows us the opportunity to understand ion channel modulation, not only at the molecular and cellular level, but also in the context of the sytem physiology and intact organism.

The focus of my studies have been the large conductance (BK-type) calcium-activated potassium channels. BK channels are gated to open by both micromolar calcium concentrations and voltage. This regulates many voltage-dependent processes that occur coincident with calcium increases, such as regulation of some action potentials, regulation of hormone and neurotransmitter release and regulation of vascular smooth muscle tone. BK channels are encoded by a single gene, however they are broadly expressed and have diverse biophysical properties in native cells. This makes these channels an ideal protein for elucidating how ion channel function is regulated to tune the unique electrical properties of individual excitable cells.


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