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UCSF - Department of Physiology - People - Core Faculty - David Julius

Core Faculty

David Julius, Ph.D.

Morris Herzstein Chair in Molecular Biology & Medicine

Research Description

My group is interested in understanding how signals are received and transmitted by the nervous system. In one aspect of our research, we have exploited the power of natural products to elucidate molecular mechanisms of touch and pain sensation. For example, we have asked how capsaicin, the main pungent ingredient in "hot" chili peppers, elicits burning pain, and how menthol, the cooling agent in mint leaves, evokes an icy cool sensation. Using these agents as pharmacological probes, we have identified ion channels on sensory nerve fibers that are activated by heat or cold, providing molecular insight into the process of thermosensation. With the aid of genetic, electrophysiological, and behavioral methods, we are asking how these ion channels contribute to the detection of heat or cold, and how their activity is modulated in response to tumor growth, infection, or other forms of injury that produce inflammation and pain hypersensitivity.

In addition to our work on somatosensation and pain, we also study the structure and function of specific neurotransmitter receptors, such as those activated by serotonin or extracellular nucleotides, and use genetic methods to identify roles for these receptors in physiological and behavioral processes, such as feeding, anxiety, pain, thrombosis, and cell growth and motility.

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Selected Publications

Jordt, S. et al. (2004) Mustard oils and cannabinoids excite sensory nerve fibres through the TRP channel ANKTM1, Nature 427:260-265.

Chuang, H., Neuhausser, W.M. and Julius, D. (2004) The super-cooling agent icilin reveals a mechanism of coincidence detection by a temperature-sensitive TRP channel. Neuron 43: 859-869.

Bautista et al. (2006) TRPA1 mediates the inflammatory action of environmental irritants and pro-algesic agents. Cell 124: 1269-1282.

Tsuruda, P.R., Julius, D., and Minor, D.L. (2006) Coiled-coils direct assembly of a cold-activated TRP channel. Neuron 51: 201-212

Siemens J. et al. (2006) Spider toxins activate the capsaicin receptor to produce inflammatory pain. Nature 444: 208-212

Haynes, S.E. et al. (2006) The P2Y12 receptor regulates microglial activation by extracellular nucleotides. Nature Neurosci. 9: 1512-1519.

Hinman A. et al. (2006) TRP channel activation by reversible covalent modification. Proc Natl Acad Sci 103: 19564-19568.

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Contact Information

Email: julius@cmp.ucsf.edu
Phone: 415-476-0431
Mailing Address:
UCSF Mail code 2140
Genentech Hall Room N-276
600 16th Street
San Francisco, CA 94158-2517

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