Professor Maurice Elphick
Location: Room 6.05, Fogg Building
Professor of Physiology and Neuroscience
Phone: +44 (0)20 7882 6664
The Neurobiology and Evolution of Signalling Molecules
One of the great challenges for science in the 21st century will be to determine how the DNA "language" of the genome gives rise to biological "machines" (humans and other animals) that are capable of extraordinarily complex behaviour. Pivotal in this endeavour will be the analysis of nervous systems, which co-ordinate whole-animal behaviour.
My particular interest is in the evolution and functions of chemical signalling systems that mediate communication between neurons and other cell types and which are targets for many of the drugs used to treat disorders of the nervous system.
Research in my lab is focused in three areas:
- Endocannabinoid signalling: this system was discovered as a target for the drug cannabis and is involved in regulation of numerous physiological processes. My lab is investigating the functional neuroarchitecture and evolution of the endocannabinoid signalling system. My lab was the first to predict that endocannabinoids mediate retrograde ("backwards") communication at synapses in the brain, and in 2003 we reported the identification of the first cannabinoid receptor gene to be discovered in an invertebrate.
- Neuropeptide signalling: my lab is investigating neuropeptide structure and function in echinoderms (e.g. starfish, sea urchins). These animals are of particular interest because they do not have a centralised nervous system (“brain”).
- Nitric oxide signalling: the discovery that the gas NO is a neural signalling molecule in humans and other animals was one of the most important discoveries in neurobiology in the 1990s; my lab has pioneered research on NO function in invertebrate nervous systems.
Personal website: www2.sbcs.qmul.ac.uk/staff/maurice_elphick