Research in the England Lab focuses on the development and use of small molecules to manipulate and monitor the activities of biologically important ligand-receptor systems. Execution of these research projects typically involves a combination of synthetic chemistry, computational chemistry, structural biology, and appropriate biochemical and biological assays. Two systems currently being studied are glutamate-gated ion channels and hormone-activated nuclear receptors.
The neurotransmitter glutamate drives specific changes in the functioning of synaptic glutamate-gated ion channels. These changes modulate the strength of synaptic transmission, encode information, and allow for adaptive behaviors. We are developing and using small molecules to track the functional states of glutamate-gated ion channels at neuronal synapses.
Natural hormones and other small lipophilic molecules drive specific changes in the structure and activity of nuclear receptors. In response to hormone binding, nuclear receptors form protein complexes that control gene transcription events underlying development, homeostasis, and many diseases. We are designing small molecules to manipulate gene transcription by precisely controlling the activity of nuclear receptors.