Jennifer and Bernard Lacroute Term Chair in Neuroscience Research
Vollum Institute, Oregon Health & Science University
Eric Gouaux grew up in western Montana, graduated from a small rural high school, and received bachelor’s and Ph.D. degrees in chemistry from Harvard University and his postdoctoral studies at MIT. Eric then commenced his independent studies of neurotransmitter receptors and transporters localized to the chemical synapses of the brain, beginning this work at the University of Chicago and Columbia University before moving to Portland, Oregon and his present position at the Vollum Institute.
Whereas we know a great deal about the molecular underpinnings of many crucial processes in nature, we know much less about the macromolecules—neurotransmitter receptors and transporters—that underlie fundamental aspects of brain function. Moreover, while great strides have been made in the treatment of infectious diseases, cardiac and pulmonary conditions, and even cancer, many molecule-based treatments for neurological diseases and disorders remain in their infancy due to a dearth in our understanding of the interplay between molecular structure and function for crucial macromolecules of the nervous system. To address this problem, Eric Gouaux and colleagues have defined atomic resolution structures of acid sensing ion channels and ATP-gated P2X receptors, glutamate-gated AMPA and NMDA receptors, and the chloride-selective, glutamate-gated Cys-loop receptor. Together with his coworkers, Eric Gouaux revealed the molecular architectures of the plasma-membrane localized neurotransmitter transporters for glutamate, on the one hand, and for the biogenic amines, GABA and glycine, on the other hand. Taken together, Eric Gouaux has defined the molecular cartography of the neurotransmitter receptors and transporters that mediate synaptic transmission at chemical synapses and, in so doing, have has revealed the molecular principles underlying fundamental mechanisms of signaling in the brain. This work has laid out, in a manner accessible to all, molecular blueprints for use in the development of new therapeutic agents.