Basic Science Research - Duke Eye Center
Basic Science Research


Vadim Arshavsky, PhD

Scientific Director

The biology of vertebrate photoreceptor cells  

We are interested in molecular mechanisms underlying signal transduction and maintaining subcellular compartmentalization in vertebrate photoreceptor cells. Photoreceptors are sensory neurons responsible for the detection and primary processing of information entering the eye in the form of photons of light. Photoreceptors capture photons, generate a second messenger signal, translate this signal into a change in electrical activity and, finally, transmit this information to the secondary neurons in the retina through synaptic release. Because the overall function of these cells is so well defined and because they are uniquely suitable for study using modern multi-disciplinary approaches, from biochemistry to genetics, they are an almost unmatched model system for addressing fundamental issues in molecular and cellular neuroscience, as well as in cell signaling in general.
Currently, we pursue four major experimental directions. One is to understand molecular mechanisms responsible for the extremely high temporal resolution of our vision. Our focus is the interplay between the activation of G protein signaling by light and its rapid inactivation by specialized regulatory proteins. Another is to explore the biological role and cellular mechanisms of the recently discovered phenomenon of massive light-driven translocations of several major signaling proteins into and out of the light-sensitive compartment of the photoreceptor cell. Next, we are exploring the patterns of intracellular targeting of key membrane proteins to individual functional domains of the photoreceptor. Finally, we are engaged in proteomics studies, including both generation of large protein databases representing individual subcellular compartments of the photoreceptors and revealing novel patterns of protein-protein interactions.
Vadim Arshavsky, PhD
Professor of Ophthalmology and Pharmacology
Duke Eye Center
AERI, Room 5012, 2351 Erwin Road
Durham NC 27710
Phone: (919) 668-5391
Fax: (919) 684-3826
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