Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

About the PNAS Member Editor
Name Birnbaumer, Lutz
Location Pontifical Catholic University of Argentina
Primary Field Physiology and Pharmacology
 Election Citation
Birnbaumer's contributions are seminal to the understanding of hormone action and membrane signal transduction. Foremost are the co-discoveries of GTP-dependent signal transduction, which is used by over 100 distinct receptors (with Martin Rodbell in 1971), and G protein-regulated ion channels, which exposed an important aspect of modulation of cellular excitability.
 Research Interests
I have investigated the biochemical basis of events that surround the binding of hormones and neurotransmitters to receptors on their target cells and the responses they elicit within the first seconds to minutes. Early on, as a fellow in Martin Rodbell's laboratory, I found that the hormones that stimulate the enzyme adenylyl cyclase interacted with receptors that required GTP to function. Subsequent work from many laboratories, including my own, showed this "GTP-dependent" step to be due to regulation of a separate group of proteins, now called G proteins. Signaling through G proteins regulates cellular functions as diverse as odor, taste and light perception, liver, fat, and kidney function, muscle contraction, and nerve cell activity. Present work in my laboratory deals with regulation of calcium entry into cells. As I write, we have proof for the primary structure of a novel class of "store-operated" calcium channels required for regulation, among others, of exocrine secretion, smooth muscle contraction, and lymphocyte differentiation.

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