Distinguished Professor of Biology
The Olivera Lab
Neurobiology of Disease
B.S. 1961, University of the Philippines; Ph.D. 1966, California Institute of Technology; Postdoctoral Fellow, 1966-1968, Department of Biochemistry, Stanford University School of Medicine
Ion channels, membrane receptors and sensory transduction
Dr. Olivera and colleagues are interested in the ion channels and receptors, which mediate signaling in the nervous system. They have isolated neurotoxins from the venoms of the predatory cone snails, Conus that target specific molecular isoforms of ion channels and receptors, and are characterizing the targets of some of these peptide toxins. Present work is focused on both ligand-gated and voltage-activated ion channels. Dr. Olivera's laboratory has characterized a set of unique toxins, the omega-conotoxins, which irreversibly bind (and block) these calcium channels; an ω-conotoxin discovered in the Olivera lab is now an approved drug for pain. The venom for a single Conus species contains more than 80 active peptides, which fall into over 15 classes. The long-range goal is to use these toxins as an entree for studying key molecules in the CNS. The fact that these toxins can be synthesized and radiolabeled will permit characterization of the key CNS molecules that are the targets of these peptides.