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Department of Chemical Physiology and Biochemistry
Oregon Health and Science University

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We are a multidisciplinary lab performing cutting edge research in retinal neuroscience. Dr. Morgans' Research is aimed at elucidating the molecular events underlying synaptic transmission in the retina focusing on specialized synapses connecting photoreceptor cells to bipolar cells, which represent the first stage of image processing in the visual system. Retinal photoreceptors are the light detecting neurons of the visual system. They release the neurotransmitter, glutamate, and modulate the rate of release in response to changes in light intensity; this in turn elicits a response in the bipolar cells. The Morgans lab is studying proteins essential to this process. These include the retina-specific calcium channel, Cav1.4, which regulates glutamate release from photoreceptors; and the mGluR6 glutamate receptor and TRPM1 cation channel, which are both required for the bipolar cell response to glutamate. The genes encoding these proteins are known sites of mutations causing congenital visual disease in humans. We use mice genetically modified to disrupt the function of these and other retinal proteins to gain insight into discrete steps in photoreceptor to bipolar cell transmission in both healthy and disease states. The lab employs immunohistochemical, biochemical and electrophysiological techniques to pursue a comprehensive understanding of the structural organization and physiology of the photoreceptor to bipolar cell synapse.

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Catherine Morgans, Phd


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