Transient Receptor Potential (TRP) Ion Channels and their Protein Interactome

The TRP proteins are non-selective, calcium-permeable ion channels consisting of several family members named canonical (TRPC), melastatin (TRPM), vanilloid (TRPV), ankyrin (TRPA), NompC (TRPN), polycystin (TRPP) and mucolipin (TRPML). These ion channels have been implicated in a wide variety of sensory signal transduction processes, from pain sensation and temperature to taste and vision, just to name a few. We are specifically analyzing the protein interactome of TRPMLs, in order to gain more insights on their biological and physiological importance in cells, and the organism as a whole.

TRPML Ion Channels and Transmembrane (TMEM) Proteins in Endosomes/Lysosomes

Lysosomes are important cell organelles involved in the breakdown of membrane proteins and other molecules. These intracellular vesicles have been implicated in many neurodegenerative disorders such as Mucolipidosis type IV (MLIV) and age-related brain disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. The lysosomal membrane contains a diverse number of proteins. It is thus not surprising that dysfunctions in one or more of these proteins result in pathological conditions.

      The Cuajungco lab is interested in the role that specific lysosomal membrane proteins and ion channels play during normal and pathological states. We currently work on defining the pathological correlates in MLIV and investigating on potential therapeutics for specific brain diseases. Our investigations involve collaborations from various disciplines within CSUF and other institutions. We use cell culture models, and molecular cell biology techniques to accomplish our research goals involving the lysosomal TRPML channels, TMEM176A/176B, and TMEM163. We perform mutagenesis and then analyze the phenotype to uncover the effects on their function.

TRP Ion Channels, Metal Transporters, and Neurodegenerative Diseases

We are interested in the pathology of certain neurodegenerative disorders, as well as cerebral stroke. We are looking into the mechanistic link between the TRP channels or metal transporters (ZNTs and ZIPs) and brain diseases. Characterization of the proteins that influence the disease process will enable us to target and neutralize their neuropathological effects. We are currently focusing on TMEM163, a zinc-binding protein, in which our current research findings indicate that it is a zinc efflux transporter. We propose that TMEM163 be now classified as ZNT11 (SLC30A11) as a new member of the Cation Diffusion Facilitator (CDF) family of ZnT protein transporter.