SPLTRAK Abstract Submission
From Signal Transduction to Sensory Disorders
Frank Zufall
Center for Integrative Physiology and Molecular Medicine (CIPMM), Saarland University, Homburg, Germany

This lecture will highlight some of our work that began decades ago with investigations of signal transduction mechanisms in various olfactory and chemosensory systems and now has evolved into a systems-oriented approach that is directed at understanding mechanisms of sensory disorders. One example of this strategy is our work on the role of the sodium channel gene SCN9A (Nav1.7) which has linked anosmia with analgesia. This work now shows that inhibition of neurotransmitter release at the first synapse in the olfactory and pain pathways is the principle mechanism of pain insensitivity and anosmia in both mice and humans with loss-of-functions in Nav1.7. Another example for this strategy is our work on the sensing of danger-associated metabolites and the execution of appropriate defense programs. These studies involve the interaction of microbiota-derived chemical signals with host cells in multiple epithelia including those of the vomeronasal organ, the main olfactory system, and the respiratory system. We will also highlight how our work with Gordon Shepherd shaped the trajectories of these studies and, in fact, our entire careers. Supported by Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) grants SFB 894 and SFB-Transregio 152.