Molecular and
Cellular Physiology
Understanding cell signaling and behavior

The Department of Molecular and Cellular Physiology (MCP) seeks to understand how communication within and between cells supports physiological function and enables cells, tissues, and organisms to respond to changes in their environment. MCP research is fundamental discovery biology, aimed largely at processes that occur at the cell membrane. There is an emphasis on quantitative and structural approaches to uncover the mechanism of normal function as well as dysfunction that leads to human disease.

Key research areas include interactions between ligands and membrane receptors, cell-cell adhesion, sensory transduction, GPCR signal transduction, channel regulation, and synaptic neurotransmission. Studies are conducted at every level, ranging from atoms and molecules, to macromolecular assemblies, to cellular networks, to entire organisms, to translation into new therapeutic targets.

By uncovering molecular and cellular processes, MCP scientists have established new paradigms in the biology of signaling and communication, such as the relationship between the structure and function of GPCRs (the targets for about 40 percent of all prescription drugs), and the presynaptic molecular mechanisms underlying neuronal communication. Among our scientists are also pioneers in developing methods for advanced imaging, particularly for X-ray crystallography and optical microscopy. Commensurate with MCP’s impact in fundamental research, our faculty currently includes five members of the National Academy of Sciences and three Nobel laureates.


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