The candidate's overall research goal is to obtain rigorous mechanistic insight into the structure and dynamics of G Protein-Coupled Receptors (GPCRs) involved in drug abuse, thus contributing a level of molecular detail that is often difficult to obtain experimentally, yet it has direct implications on the rational discovery of improved therapeutics. Following her interest in integrating cutting-edge computational methods with state-of-the-art, powerful experimental approaches to generate testable hypotheses of receptor-receptor interactions leading to an understanding of the role of oligomerization in receptor function, the candidate is seeking an additional period of protected time to receive training in fluorescence-based experimental techniques and behavioral studies from a number of expert, long-term collaborators. Supported by strong institutional commitment, the candidate's specific long-term research objectives are: 1) To further contribute to the dynamic mechanisms of opioid receptors, 2) To develop tools aimed at advancing current understanding of the spatio-temporal organization of GPCRs in living cells, and its relation to function, and 3) To take full advantage of the recent high-resolution structural information available for GPCRs involved in drug abuse and use enhanced molecular dynamics (MD) simulations combined with virtual screening methods, functional studies, and structure-guided chemical synthesis, to discover novel, non-classical opioid ligands that, by targeting specific receptor conformations or oligomeric states, can either be developed into more effective therapeutics or serve as chemical probes to study receptor dynamics and function. Protected time under the auspices of a K02 renewal application is necessary because a) the candidate has no formal training in experimental biophysical techniques or behavioral studies, and b) some of the state-of-the-art biophysical techniques the candidate is interested in integrating with her computational studies are currently at the early stage of their development, and may require some extra time to establish themselves as means to achieve breakthrough mechanistic insight into the spatio-temporal organization of GPCRs in the cell membrane, and ultimately, its relation to function. The opportunity to participate in this early development has the advantage to take current understanding of the experiments to a much deeper level through focused training from experts in the field who happen to be long-term collaborators of the candidate. In summary, while pursuing her research plan, and incidentally providing mentorship for a number of postdoctoral and undergraduate students, the candidate will develop new skills and learn new methods that will advance her work and its potential to improve understanding of the structural bases of the functions of GPCRs, thus laying the foundation for establishing the potential value of targeting GPCR oligomers for the treatment of various nervous system disorders, including addiction and other mental illnesses. This is a very challenging undertaking, justified by the prospects of impacting significantly biomedical research through the discovery of improved drugs with lesser side effects.

Public Health Relevance

This K02 renewal application is to support the continued career development and training of a female computational biophysicist whose research program focuses on advancing current understanding of the role of oligomerization in G protein-coupled receptor function.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
Research Scientist Development Award - Research (K02)
Project #
Application #
Study Section
Biophysics of Neural Systems Study Section (BPNS)
Program Officer
Rapaka, Rao
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai
Schools of Medicine
New York
United States
Zip Code
Ferré, Sergi; Casadó, Vicent; Devi, Lakshmi A et al. (2014) G protein-coupled receptor oligomerization revisited: functional and pharmacological perspectives. Pharmacol Rev 66:413-34
Johnston, Jennifer M; Filizola, Marta (2014) Beyond standard molecular dynamics: investigating the molecular mechanisms of G protein-coupled receptors with enhanced molecular dynamics methods. Adv Exp Med Biol 796:95-125
Johnston, Jennifer M; Filizola, Marta (2014) Differential stability of the crystallographic interfaces of mu- and kappa-opioid receptors. PLoS One 9:e90694
Shang, Yi; LeRouzic, Valerie; Schneider, Sebastian et al. (2014) Mechanistic insights into the allosteric modulation of opioid receptors by sodium ions. Biochemistry 53:5140-9
Scarabelli, Guido; Provasi, Davide; Negri, Ana et al. (2013) Bioactive conformations of two seminal delta opioid receptor penta-peptides inferred from free-energy profiles. Biopolymers :
Gomes, Ivone; Fujita, Wakako; Gupta, Achla et al. (2013) Identification of a *-ýý opioid receptor heteromer-biased agonist with antinociceptive activity. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 110:12072-7
Mondal, Sayan; Johnston, Jennifer M; Wang, Hao et al. (2013) Membrane driven spatial organization of GPCRs. Sci Rep 3:2909
Filizola, Marta; Devi, Lakshmi A (2013) Grand opening of structure-guided design for novel opioids. Trends Pharmacol Sci 34:6-12
Negri, Ana; Rives, Marie-Laure; Caspers, Michael J et al. (2013) Discovery of a novel selective kappa-opioid receptor agonist using crystal structure-based virtual screening. J Chem Inf Model 53:521-6
Fribourg, Miguel; Moreno, Jose L; Holloway, Terrell et al. (2011) Decoding the signaling of a GPCR heteromeric complex reveals a unifying mechanism of action of antipsychotic drugs. Cell 147:1011-23

Showing the most recent 10 out of 20 publications