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Research areas :

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 :

  • Receptors engineering for light controlled activation of P2X receptors
  • Structural studies of the molecular mechanisms of P2X receptors (allosteric transitions)

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.