Overview: The Earley laboratory is focused on elucidating the functional roles of transient receptor potential (TRP) ion channels in vascular physiology. TRP channels are a ubiquitously expressed superfamily of cation channels that are activated by a broad range of physical, chemical, and environmental stimuli, such as: temperature, changes in osmolarity, pressure, stretch, light, and fatty acids, and may constitute a fundamental way in which cells perceive and respond to changes in the extracellular environment. The molecular biology of the superfamily is complex. 29 TRP channel subunits are encoded by the mammalian genome and are grouped into six subfamilies based upon sequence homology: TRPC (canonical), TRPV (vanilloid), TRPM (melastatin), TRPA (ankyrin), TRPP (polycystin), and TRPL (mucoliptin). Functional ion channels are formed from the assembly of four TRP polypeptide subunits. All cells express several TRP genes, and heteromultimeric channels with novel biophysical properties can form from assembly of two or more different TRP subunits, further increasing the molecular diversity of the superfamily. The functional roles of these channels have been difficult to discern due to the lack of selective pharmacological inhibitors or activators for most TRP channels. However, recent studies using genetic methods, including knockout models, antisense technology, and RNA interference (RNAi) to down regulate TRP channel expression have begun to elucidate how TRP channels present in arterial smooth muscle cells influence vascular function. Current projects underway in our laboratory seek to understand how TRP channels influence the function of smooth muscle cells, endothelial cells, and astrocytes.
Dr. Earley is a member of: Molecular, Cellular, and Integrative Neuroscience (MCIN) and Cell and Molecular Biology (CMB) Graduate Programs