Tom Koperniak receives the 2009 American Foundation for Pharmaceutical Education (AFPE) doctoral fellowship
Tom Koperniak, a doctoral student in Pharmaceutical Sciences Department, working under Professor Ralph Loring, receives the 2009 AFPE doctoral fellowhip. Tom's thesis title is "The Role of Ric-3 and Other Chaperone Factors in Cell-Dependent Expression of Alpha-7 Nicotinic Acetylcholine Receptors"
Nicotinic acetylcholine receptors are membrane-bound ion channels that open upon the binding of an appropriate ligand. It has been shown that beta-amyloid filaments- a hallmark of Alzheimers disease- are capable of binding to and disrupting the activity of alpha-7 nicotinic receptors. Also, it has been suggested that alpha-7 receptors may be involved in the pathogenesis of schizophrenia. Therefore, understanding what is responsible for regulating the assembly and expression of alpha-7 receptors may be useful in the drive towards novel therapies. In addition, prolonged exposure to nicotinic acetylcholine receptor agonists results in the upregulation of many of nicotinic receptor subtypes. This event has been thought to be involved in the addictive properties of nicotine, and is an area my project is concerned with.Although alpha-7 nicotinic receptors are expressed in many kinds of cells, in some cases they do not properly assemble into functional receptors. The project that I am currently undertaking involves investigating the effects that various proteins have on the expression of alpha-7 nicotinic receptors. Previous observations have shown that rat GH4C1 cells have a much higher expression of functional alpha-7 receptors than human SH-EP1 cells. This is intriguing, since SH-EP1 cells have a healthy amount of Ric-3 mRNA. Therefore, Ric-3 is either defective in SH-EP1 cells or there is something else preventing expression. The focus of my project is to elucidate which cell-line dependent factors are responsible for the varying degree of receptor assembly and expression between cell lines.