The primary products of the genome are large number of expressed proteins dubbed the proteome, which codifies molecular organization in cells and is a major domain of ongoing scientific inquiry.  Our research centers on identifying and characterizing proteome interaction networks for the dopamine and nicotinic acetylcholine receptors in brain and immune cells. Ongoing projects include:


Delineating the role of the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor in synaptic growth and nerve regeneration

Cholinergic neurotransmission plays an important role in brain and spinal cord development through the regulation of synaptic plasticity and regeneration. Various nicotinic receptors (nAChRs) are expressed early in the human nervous system and signal to shape neural connectivity and synaptic wiring. We are interested in the mechanism by which the α7 nACh regulates synaptogensis through its early expression in embryonic neurons of the cortex and hippocampus. This receptor function is important because studies suggest that genetic modification to the α7 nACh can contribute to important developmental brain disorders including schizophrenia and autism.  Our work reveals that α7-mediated calcium and G protein signaling is in important in neural development through an ability to directly regulate cytoskeleton at the growth cone. Outstanding questions remain on the role of the α7 receptor in shaping synapse formation in specific regions of the developing brain.  

α7 and G protein‐regulated inducer of neurite outgrowth 1 (Gprin1) associate in the growth cone. (a) Hippocampal neurons from P0 pups were cultured for 3 DIV. Neurons were probed with fBgtx (green) and anti‐Gprin1 Abs (red) (top images). A heat map measure of the co‐signal (bottom image) shows the distribution and co‐localization of the two proteins in the growing axon and GC. Co‐localization was highest in the soma, growth cone (GC), and branch points (BP) (arrows). (b) Localization of the fBgtx and Gprin1 signals in the GC. CZ: central zone. (c) Protein detection of α7 and Gprin1 within GC fraction (GCF) obtained from P0 pups as described in Materials and methods. Growth‐associated protein 43 (GAP‐43) is used as a marker for the GCF. Cell fraction (CF). (d) An anti‐α7 and anti‐Gprin1 Ab was used to immunoprecipitate (IP) α7 and Gprin1 proteins from the GCF. Western blot detection confirms interaction of the two proteins. Protein identity was also determined by in‐gel digest mass spectrometry (Table S2). IgG was used as an Ab control. From Nordman and Kabbani, 2013


Spatial and temporal aspects of calcium signaling during growth

Calcium serves as dynamic regulator of biological signaling events within cells owing to its ability to differentially activate various secondary messenger pathways. Spatial and temporal cytosolic calcium level fluctuations encode information that drives cytoskeletal motility.  It is still unclear however how such information in conveyed by the nature of the calcium transient signal. Using real-time calcium and cytoskeletal imaging in growing neural cells we are examining interactions between cytosolic calcium and actin and tubulin growth. In particular, we explore how the calcium activating properties of the α7 nACh regulates cytoskeletal growth through calcium entry and store release in calcium microdomains.  

Synaptic α7 nAChRs Couple to Intracellular Stores. Agonist stimulation of presynaptic α7 nAChRs (with ACh or nicotine) promotes membrane depolarization (ΔV) through ionotropic activity (α7i; green). The α7i state is open briefly however, enabling sufficient membrane depolarization via Na+ influx to activate local VGCCs and Ca2+ influx leading to RyR-mediated CICR from the ER in the presynaptic terminal. The transition (τ) of the α7 nAChR into a high affinity ligand-bound desensitized state (α7m; red) supports a metabotropic response marked by G protein activation of PLC, IP3 production, and IICR. The totality of the α7 nAChR calcium transient in the presynaptic terminal is the sum of CICR and IICR, which can modulate neurotransmitter release and synaptic plasticity. From Kabbani and Nichols, 2018.


Identification and characterization of receptor interactomes 

A long standing interest has been the delineation of receptor interactomes that underlie receptor signaling, function, and can enable the generation of new hypotheses for drug development .While a number of approaches have been optimized for the isolation, purification, and proteomic characterization of receptor–protein interaction networks (interactomes) in cells, the capture of receptor interactomes and their dynamic properties in vivo remains a challenge. We are developing experimental and computational tools aimed at the study of receptor interactomes in neural, endocrine, and immune cells. 

Proteomic detection of α7 receptor and G-protein complexes in the brain. A, IP using anti-Gαs/Gαq/Gαi/Gαo/Gβ or anti-α7 antibodies to isolate α7/G protein complexes from 250 μg of mouse hippocampus (1), prefrontal cortex (2), and striatum (3) membrane fractions. Blots were immunoblotted with mAb 306 or anti-Gαq/β antibodies. The blots are representative of 3 separate experiments. B and C, α-Bgtx-binding proteins (BgtxC) were isolated from 1500 μg of a membrane protein fraction of the adult mouse brain. BgtxC was eluted with 1 or 0.5 M carbamylcholine (Carb). B, Western blot detection of α7 within the BgtxC using mAb306. Experiments in α7−/− tissue were used as a negative control. C, BgtxC was divided into 3 molecular weight fractions for proteomic analysis: F1, 190-90 kDa; F2, 89-45 kDa; F3, 44-15 kDa. D, G proteins identified within F2 and F3 fractions. Protein score (Score); molecular weight (MW); and GenBankTM accession number (GI). Total: 10% of the total membrane fraction loaded as a positive control. From King et al., 2015