The Neuro Team
Philip Barker, PhD, Coordinator
Dr. Barker studies cell surface receptors and signaling pathways that
regulate life and death decisions in the normal nervous system and in cancer.
One focus of the Barker lab is on neurotrophins, secreted factors that play
crucial roles in the development and maintenance of the nervous system. A
cell surface protein, the p75 neurotrophin receptor, binds neurotrophins and
in doing so, activates a form of cellular suicide known as apoptosis.
Understanding how this suicide process is initiated and regulated will have
important therapeutic implications for treatment of neurodegenerative
conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
Another area of interest for Dr. Barker’s lab is a group of poorly characterized secreted proteins called LGI1, LGI2, LGI3 and LGI4. Dr. Barker’s team is studying a novel LGI1 cell surface receptor that appear to play crucial roles in nervous system development and in synaptic function.
Dr. Barker’s lab also studys a group of proteins termed the inhibitors of apoptosis (IAPs). The IAPs were initially characterized for their ability to block cell death but for most IAPs, the molecular mechanisms that regulate this function have remained obscure. Determining the cellular function of these proteins is important clinically, since IAPs are over-expressed in cancer and are widely believed to support cancer cell survival. Dr. Barker’s group is exploring IAP signaling mechanisms in cancer and in normal cells and tissues.
Dr. Barker’s laboratory combines cellular and molecular biological techniques with genetic approaches in a variety of model organisms. He actively collaborates with several MNI colleagues including Drs. Alyson Fournier and Tim Kennedy, examining signaling events involved in neuronal regeneration; Dr. Philippe Seguela, deciphering neurotrophin signaling events involved in neuropathic pain and Dr. Ted Fon, examining signaling events in Parkinson’s disease.