The group of Molecular Neurobiology, directed by Thomas Grutter, is interested in structure-function relationships of ligand-gated ion channels. The binding of the neurotransmitter in its active site induces a conformational change of the protein, triggering the fast opening of the ion channel. We are interested in a new class of ligand-gated ion channels : the purinergic P2X receptors. Although X-ray structures are now available, our understanding of the activation mechanism at the atomic level remains incomplete.
Our research projects are the following ones :
The group of Bioorganic Chemistry, directed by Alexandre Specht, develops chemical tools for the photo-regulation of biological activities and the detection of single molecules.
Two strategies can be envisaged for the photo-regulation of biological activities :
The application of photo-isomerization reactions for the control of ligand-gated ion channels
Or the employment of photolytical reactions for the spatio temporal control of biological effectors release (uncaging). In this context, the group of Bioorganic Chemistry develops original probes for ligand-gated ion channels studies and two-photon sensitive orthogonal photoremovable protecting group. The application of a photolytical reactions for the photo-regulation of biological activities is a concept for which the uses of two-photon excitations enables highly localized excitation of chromophores in living tissue such that small sub-cellular regions can be pinpointed for photo-activation. We are currently working on the uses of orthogonal two-photon activations for the light controlled release of several neurotransmitters, gene expression inducers and we are applying this concept in material sciences too.