Reza Vafabakhsh Assistant Professor of Molecular Biosciences

Research Interests

The brain is made of billions of neurons that are interconnected by synapses. Each synapse is made up of more than a thousand different proteins, that exist at a wide range of copy numbers, from just a few to thousands, and confined to a volume of micrometer in length scale. Structure-function studies provide insights into how proteins function individually; however, it has remained a major challenge to understand how synaptic biomolecules organize spatially and temporally into networks and give rise to emergence of new physiological properties and eventually adapt synaptic functions to specific inter-neuronal activities. A long-term goal of my lab is to develop methods for quantitative hierarchical characterization of synaptic players at different length scales, from a single protein to the synapse level, to describe this complexity and, maybe eventually, the molecular nature of information processing in the brain. Such knowledge is fundamental for understanding normal brain functions and neurological disorders. We will do so by using a highly interdisciplinary cell biology analyses along with cutting edge single molecule and high throughput approaches that draw from physics, cell biology and engineering.

Selected Publications

Mechanism of Assembly and Cooperativity of Homomeric and Heteromeric Metabotropic Glutamate Receptors. Levitz J, Habrian C, Bharill S, Fu Z, Vafabakhsh R, and Isacoff EY. Neuron. 2016 October 5;92(1):143-159.

Structural dynamics of potassium-channel gating revealed by single-molecule FRET. Wang S, Vafabakhsh R, Borschel WF, Ha T, and Nichols CG. Nature Structural & Molecular Biology. 2016 January;23(1):31-36.

Conformational dynamics of a class C G-protein-coupled receptorVafabakhsh R, Levitz J, and Isacoff EY. Nature. 2015 August 27;524(7566):497-501.

Distinct mechanisms regulating mechanical force-induced Ca2+ signals at the plasma membrane and the ER in human MSCs. Kim T-J, Joo C, Seong J, Vafabakhsh R, Botvinick EL, Berns MW, Palmer AE, Wang N, Ha T, Jakobsson E, Sun J, and Wang Y. eLife. 2015 February 10;4:e04876.

Designing a nine cysteine-less DNA packaging motor from bacteriophage T4 reveals new insights into ATPase structure and function. Kondabagil K, Dai L, Vafabakhsh R, Ha T, Draper B, and Rao VB. Virology. 2014 November;468-470:660-668.

View all publications by Reza Vafabakhsh in the National Library of Medicine (PubMed).