Department of Pharmacology, Physiology & Neuroscience

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   Jorge Contreras, Ph.D., BSc.


Department of Pharmacology, Physiology & Neuroscience



The overall goal of my research is to discover the molecular mechanisms by which connexin hemichannels play roles in
health and disease. Connexin proteins play fundamental roles in development and normal organ function by mediating
intercellular signaling. During my graduate career working with Drs. Juan Carlos Saez and Michael Bennett, I discovered
that connexin proteins, in addition to junctional channels (gap junctions), form functional hemichannels at the plasma
membrane that might play a pathophysiological role during ischemia. As a postdoctoral fellow with Dr. Miguel Holmgren at
NIH, I focused my investigation on the study of gating mechanisms in cyclic nucleotide gated (CNG) channels. I found that
unlike most voltage-gated potassium channels, the CNG channel gate is located at the selectivity filter, providing evidence
of divergent gating mechanisms in structurally similar channels. As an independent scientist, I returned to the field of
connexin proteins and developed a research program with the goal of identifying the molecular regulators of connexin
channel gating under physiological and pathological conditions. Recent findings funded by NIH include: 1) A general
mechanism by which extracellular Ca2+ controls opening and closing connexin hemichannels. 2) Insights on how connexin
mutations that produce pathologies affect gating of hemichannels. 3) Improved methodologies to study connexin


Ph.D., 2003, Catholic University of Chile, Chile
BSc., 1997, Catholic University of Chile, Chile

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