The Yau Laboratory focuses on the study of sensory transduction – specifically, visual and olfactory transductions, which are the processes by which the senses of vision and olfaction (smell) are initiated.
Investigators are examining topics that include:
- The cellular and molecular details that underlie rod and cone phototransduction, with a focus on cones, which have a similar phototransduction mechanism but different quantitative details
- The connectivity and physiology of these cells in several mammalian species— including mice and primates—as well as the phototransduction mechanism in newly discovered photoreceptors
- The steps in the olfactory transduction process
Dr. Yau and his laboratory study visual and olfactory sensory transduction, which have interesting similarities but also striking differences.
Visual transduction in retinal photoreceptors (the rods and cones) is known to involve a cGMP signaling pathway.
Recording from single, dissociated photoreceptors isolated from genetically modified mice and frogs is one assay they use to address specific questions about the details of phototransduction.
Unlike vision, which involves only a few visual pigments in rods and cones, olfaction apparently involves of the order of a thousand distinct odorant receptor proteins.
A key, still largely unknown question about olfactory transduction is how a given odorant receptor protein recognizes a specific set of chemicals (odorants).
Yau Lab investigators are addressing this question by stimulating cloned odorant receptor proteins various odorants, using calcium imaging as an assay.
- Do MT, Yau KW. "Adaptation to steady light by intrinsically photosensitive retinal ganglion cells." Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2013 Apr 30;110(18):7470-5. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1304039110. Epub 2013 Apr 15.
- Pearson RA, Barber AC, Rizzi M, Hippert C, Xue T, West, EL, Duran Y, Smith AJ, Chuang JZ, Azam SA, Luhmann UFO, Benucci A, Sung CH, Bainbridge JW, Carandini M, Yau K-W, Sowden JC, and Ali R. "Restoration of vision following transplantation of photoreceptors." Nature, in press.
- Xue T, Do MTH, Riccio A, Jiang Z, Hsieh J, Wang HC, Merbs SL, Welsbie DS, Yoshioka T, Weissgerber P, Stolz S, Flockerzi V, Freichel M, Simon MI, Clapham DE, and Yau K-W. Melanopsin signaling in mammalian iris and retina. Nature 2011;479:67-73.
- Luo DG, Yue WW, Ala-Laurila P, Yau K-W. "Activation of visual pigments by light and heat." Science 2011;332(6035):1307-12. Cheng N, Tsunenari T, and Yau K-W. "Intrinsic light sensitivity of retinal horizontal cells of teleosts." Nature 2009;460, 899-903.