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Terrence Wagenknecht, Ph.D.
My laboratory's focus is on the structure and function of a class of intracellular calcium channels (ryanodine receptors) that are found in many mammalian cells, but are particularly important in excitable cells. High resolution cryo-electron microscopy and computer image processing techniques are being used to determine the three-dimensional architectures of ryanodine receptors and of larger complexes in which they are a major component.
Ryanodine receptors are associated with the sarcoplasmic/endoplasmic reticulum, where their function is to release calcium ions into the cytoplasm from these compartments in a highly regulated manner. Ryanodine receptors play a key role in excitation-contraction coupling, the process by which an action potential causes release of calcium from the sarcoplasmic reticulum, thereby inducing contraction. They are largest ion channels known, having a molecular mass of 2.3 million Daltons.
Among the project's goals are: elucidation of the structure of the channel in its closed and open states; investigation of the structural consequences of mutations that cause certain muscular and heart diseases; and the determination of the modes of the receptor's interactions with other macromolecular components involved in excitation-contraction coupling.