Workshop 4

Molecular mechanisms of neural signaling

: Svein Dahl

WS4_refvolThe rapid development of molecular biology over the last 20 years has provided new insight into the molecular mechanisms of signal transduction in the nervous system. The receptors, transporter proteins and intracellular proteins involved in signaling mechanisms have been cloned, and their secondary structures (amino acid sequences) determined. Molecular imaging techniques have demonstrated the dynamics of intracellular signaling mechanisms in amazing detail. Three dimensional crystal structures of some of these proteins have also been determined, and explained their functional mechanisms at the molecular level.

Many of the molecules involved in neural signaling are membrane proteins, which have proven difficult to produce, purify and crystallize. Molecular modeling of such proteins, often based on known crystal structures of other proteins, has gained wide-spread application as a valuable tool to simulate their three-dimensional structures, molecular dynamics, ligand interactions and functional mechanisms. Neurotransmitter transporter proteins, ligand-gated ion channels and G-protein coupled receptors, all proteins imbedded in pre- or postsynaptic nerve cells, are important molecular targets for existing and yet-to-be discovered therapeutic drugs.

This workshop will demonstrate the results of modeling molecules involved in neural signaling, and simulations of their molecular mechanisms.

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