The Akk lab is interested in how ligand-gated ion channel work. The lab focuses on the GABA-A and the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor. The majority of these receptors are located in the postsynaptic cell membrane where they respond to presynaptically released transmitter molecules with a conformational change which results in the flow of ions through the cell membrane. The mechanisms by which agonists and antagonists interact with the ligand-gated ion channels, and how these events lead to conformational changes are critical to our understanding of synaptic transmission and its regulation.
Most of the work is carried out on recombinant receptors transiently or stably expressed in a heterologous expression system, such as human embryonic kidney cells or Xenopus oocytes. The lab utilizes an array of electrophysiological approaches: cell-attached and excised single-channel patch clamp, whole-cell and outside-out macroscopic recordings, and two-electrode voltage clamp. It also employs voltage-clamp fluorometry for simultaneous measurements of function and structural changes.