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

About the PNAS Member Editor
Name Amara, Susan G.
Location National Institutes of Health
Primary Field Physiology and Pharmacology
Secondary Field Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
 Election Citation
Amara's work has provided molecular insight into the mechanisms that transport and inactivate neurotransmitters, the molecules that pass signals between the nerve cells in our brains. Her pioneering studies of glutamate transporters have revealed that they function as both carriers and ion channels. This work is important for medicine because the transporter proteins for neurotransmitters are the primary targets for amphetamines and antidepressants.
 Research Interests
Research in our laboratory focuses on neurotransmitter transporters, the plasma membrane proteins that limit the actions of neurotransmitters following their release from neurons. These carrier proteins catalyze the inward movement of neurotransmitter molecules and have a profound impact on the extent of receptor activation that occurs during neuronal signaling. We have also shown that these transporters can possess a substrate-dependent ion channel-like activity, a property that allows them to regulate neuronal excitability and serve as sensors of extracellular neurotransmitter concentrations. Neurotransmitter transporters are also well-established targets for addictive drugs, including cocaine and amphetamines, for the class of therapeutic antidepressants known as reuptake inhibitors, and for methylphenidate, which is used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorders. Our major efforts use molecular genetic, electrophysiological and cell biological approaches to explore the relationships between neurotransmitter transporter structure, substrate transport, drug action and ion permeation.

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