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Department of Pharmacology

Department of Pharmacology
 

Mark Dell'Acqua, PhD

Professor and Vice Chairman


Contact Information:

University of Colorado Denver
Department of Pharmacology
Mail Stop 8303, RC1-North
12800 East 19th Ave
Aurora CO 80045

Phone: (303) 724-3616
Fax: (303) 724-3663
E-mail: mark.dellacqua@ucdenver.edu
curriculum vitae

Affiliated Programs

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Over the last decade it has become apparent that cellular signal transduction from receptors through second messengers to downstream kinases and phosphatases is regulated both spatially and temporally within cells through the assembly of multi-protein complexes. Central to the organization of these signaling complexes are multivalent scaffold proteins that recruit receptors, effectors, protein kinases and phosphatases, and target substrates at specific subcellular locations to promote very specific and efficient signal transduction events in different specialized cell types.

 

My laboratory’s specific research in the area of neuropharmacology focuses on understanding how cAMP and calcium second messenger signaling pathways are organized at the postsynaptic specializations of excitatory neuronal synapses. In particular, we are interested in A-kinase anchoring protein (AKAP) scaffold complexes that anchor the cAMP-dependent protein kinase PKA and the calcium-calmodulin stimulated protein phosphatase 2B-calcineurin near postsynaptic AMPA and NMDA-type ionotropic glutamate receptors and L-type voltage-gated calcium channels. We are studying the roles of these locally anchored kinase/phosphatase signal transduction complexes in regulation of glutamate receptor and L-channel activity, trafficking, and signaling to the transcription factors in the nucleus to control synaptic structure and function. 

 

We are exploring these fundamental mechanisms of ion channel and transcription factor regulation during long-term potentiation (LTP) and depression (LTD) hippocampal synaptic plasticity that underlie normal spatial and declarative learning and memory. In addition, we are interested in understanding how these forms of plasticity are altered in neurodevelopmental, mental health, and neurological disorders such as Down syndrome, Alzheimer’s, epilepsy, schizophrenia, autism, PTSD, and traumatic brain injury that are all associated with impaired cognitive function. We are exploring the mechanisms of synaptic regulation in a variety of systems including cultured primary neurons, acute brain slices, and knock-out and knock-in mice that delete postsynaptic AKAP anchoring sites for PKA and calcineurin. 

 

We are using a variety of experimental approaches to analyze AKAP-regulated signal transduction in these in vitro and in vivo systems including neurobehavioral testing, neuropharmacology, structural biology and biochemistry, electrophysiology, and fluorescence microscopy. In particular, we employ a number of cutting-edge confocal, FRAP, FRET, and super-resolution fluorescence imaging methods to visualize signal transduction at neuronal synapses. See our recent publications in Neuron, Nat. Struc. Mol. Biol. and J. Neurosci. for more information on these experimental methods and our latest research findings.

Current Lab Members
 Results From Personnel : Selected site and subsites
First NameLast NameMiddle InitialDegreePosition
PhilipDittmerJ.PhDPostdoctoral Fellow
RonaldFreundK.PhDInstructor
GregoryGlazner MSSenior Professional Research Assistant
JessicaGorskiA.PhDResearch Associate
JonathanMurphyG.BSGraduate Student
JenniferSandersonL.PhDPostdoctoral Fellow
EmilySullivan Gibson BSSenior Professional Research Assistant
KevinWoolfreyM.PhDPostdoctoral Fellow

Former Trainees 

 Results From Personnel : Selected site and subsites
First NameLast NameMiddle InitialDegreePosition
JessicaGorskiA.PhDGraduate Student
EricHorneA.PhDGraduate Student
JillNeimanM.BSGraduate Student
MatthewPinkD.BSGraduate Student
HollyRobertsonR.PhDGraduate Student
KarenSmithE.PhDPostdoctoral Fellow

 

Postdoctoral Research Position Available at University of Colorado

​Two NIH-funded postdoctoral research positions are available in the Department of Pharmacology and Program in Neuroscience within the University of Colorado School of Medicine at the Anschutz Medical Campus.  The research is in the field of molecular and cellular neuroscience with an emphasis on mechanisms regulation of neuronal voltage-gated calcium channels by protein phosphorylation.  These studies are focused on scaffolding proteins that target PKA and calcineurin to L-type calcium channels to control channel activity and excitation-transcription coupling during synaptic plasticity.  A wide range of fluorescence imaging, biochemical, molecular genetic and electrophysiological techniques are being utilized to characterize channel regulation, calcium signaling, and gene transcription in vitro in cultured cells and brain slices and in vivo in transgenic mice.

Candidates should have a Ph.D. in Molecular Biology, Cell Biology, Biochemistry, Pharmacology, Physiology, Neuroscience or a closely related field.  Previous experience with whole-cell electrophysiological recording or fluorescence imaging methods is required. Additional experience with molecular biological methods and working with transgenic mice is desirable but not essential. Qualified individuals can apply by email to: Mark.DellAcqua@ucdenver.edu Please send a cover letter, curriculum vitae, and names and contact information for three references.

The University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus is centrally located just east of Denver in Aurora, CO. Cultural and entertainment attractions in Denver include one of the largest performing arts centers in the country, a number of museums, and major league sports teams in baseball, basketball, hockey and football. Denver is located at the foot of the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains giving access to a myriad of outdoor recreation opportunities including hiking, climbing, cycling and skiing. The Denver metropolitan area has a population of over 2 million people with an active and growing economy represented by the presence of numerous information technology, communications, aerospace and biotechnology companies. E0E/AA.