Pei Tang, PhD Professor, Anesthesiology
We are interested in the action of low-affinity drugs, such as general anesthetics and alcohols, on the neurotransmitter-gated receptor channels. The current research focuses on the structures and dynamics of the transmembrane domains of neuronal nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChR), particularly the α4 and β2 subunits. We have developed various expression systems for the over-production of membrane proteins in such a large quantity and high purity that they can be studied by high-resolution and solid-state nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy in detergent micelles and oriented bilayers. Parallel to our experimental approaches, we are also developing theoretical models to generalize the underlying mechanisms of low-affinity drug interaction with membrane proteins, using computational tools ranging from ab initio calculations to large-scale molecular dynamics simulations and homology modeling. The long-term goal is to elucidate the structure-function and dynamics-function relationship of drug action at or near atomic resolution.