Department of Neurobiology

Albers, Kathryn M.
Professor, Neurobiology
Address: W1454 BSTWR
   200 Lothrop Street
   Pittsburgh, PA 15213-2548
Telephone: 412-648-9669

Research Interests:

We are studying the mechanisms that underlie sensory neuron development, differentiation and function in the adult system. One area of interest is how neurotrophic growth factors control sensory neuron survival and regulate their functional properties. Survival and differentiation factors of particular interest are proteins in the neurotrophin (NGF, NT-3, BDNF, NT-4) and glial cell line-derived growth factor families (GDNF, artemin, neurturin and persephin). In these studies transgenic mouse lines (overexpresser and knockout models) and cultured neurons are used to identify how signaling pathways activated by growth factor binding alters survival, phenotypic expression, and physiological response properties of sensory neuron populations.

Another area of interest is how growth factor-mediated changes in signaling affects expression of ion channels involved in the perception and processing of pain signaling. A goal of this research is to identify novel transcriptional pathways activated following inflammatory or neuropathic injury in peripheral structures. One transcriptional regulator we identified as important for nerve growth and survival following injury is Sox11, a member of the Sry-type high mobility group (HMG) box family of transcription factors. Sox proteins are emerging as important transcriptional regulators best known for their key role in embryonic neuron development. The increased expression of Sox11 in adult neurons following injury suggests an important role in neuron plasticity and recovery as well. We are testing this role using RNAi treated cultured neurons combined with molecular level assays (microarray and luciferase assays, ChIPs) to identify transcriptional targets. By understanding how transcriptional signaling is regulated following nerve injury, we hope to improve our understanding of injury-associated changes in order to identify new therapeutic targets and better defined points of intervention.

Sample Publications:

TRPV1 and TRPA1 antagonists prevent the transition of acute to chronic inflammation and pain in chronic pancreatitis.
Schwartz ES, La JH, Scheff NN, Davis BM, Albers KM, Gebhart GF.
J Neurosci. 2013 Mar 27;33(13):5603-11.

Neurturin overexpression in skin enhances expression of TRPM8 in cutaneous sensory neurons and leads to behavioral sensitivity to cool and menthol.
Wang T, Jing X, DeBerry JJ, Schwartz ES, Molliver DC, Albers KM, Davis BM.
J Neurosci. 2013 Jan 30;33(5):2060-70.

TRAF family member-associated NF-kappa B activator (TANK) expression increases in injured sensory neurons and is transcriptionally regulated by Sox11.
Salerno KM, Jing X, Diges CM, Davis BM, Albers KM.
Neuroscience. 2013 Feb 12;231:28-37.

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