Thomas Baranski, MD, PhD

Associate Professor of Medicine

Washington University in St. Louis (WU)

Our laboratory studies signal transduction by G protein-coupled receptors, a superfamily of heptahelical transmembrane proteins. The receptors act as elegantly engineered switches, receiving signals involved in many physiologic processes – blood pressure regulation, glucose homeostasis, sight and smell – to turn on specific signaling cascades within cells. We use engineered yeast to apply the power of genetics to the study of signaling by human G protein-coupled receptors. Insights into how ligands activate receptors will aid in drug design and greatly impact medicine; more than half of currently prescribed pharmaceuticals target G protein-coupled receptors. A new project in the lab involves a model system of glucose toxicity in the simple model organism Drosophila melanogaster. We have performed screens in flies to identify genes that contribute to the effects of a high glucose diet on developing larvae.