UW News

May 20, 2010

Leader in adrenergic receptor research to give 23rd annual Krebs Lecture May 25

Dr. Brian K. Kobilka of the Stanford University School of Medicine will present the 23rd annual Edwin G. Krebs lecture in Molecular Pharmacology.

His topic is “Structural Insights into the Dynamic Process of G Protein Coupled Receptor Activation.” The lecture will take place at 4 p.m., Tuesday, May 25, in T-625 of the Health Sciences Center, and is free and open to all. A reception will follow.

Kobilka is a leader in studies of the beta-adrenergic receptor signaling pathway. This pathway regulates many different physiological functions in the body, including exciting or inhibiting muscle cells in the heart and blood vessels; modulating electrical signaling in the brain and nerves; and regulating aspects of metabolism through hormone action. The pathway also plays a role in several clinical disorders, including high blood pressure, shock, migraines, asthma, some forms of premature labor, and life-threatening allergic reactions. Common medications like beta-blockers and certain kinds of asthma inhalers, like albuterol, act on this pathway.

When he was a research fellow with Dr. Robert Lefkowitz at Duke University, Kobilka cloned the gene for the beta-adrenergic receptor and determined its primary structure. This was a major advance for molecular pharmacology, as it gave the first view of the structure of a G protein-coupled receptor for hormones and neurotransmitters. In his laboratory at Stanford, Kobilka has studied the cell biology of the beta-adrenergic receptor, including its biosynthesis, desensitization, and internalization.

Kobilka has analyzed the physiological and disruptive effects of deletion of the genes for beta-adrenergic and alpha-adrenergic receptors in mice. He made a major effort to develop novel methods to express, purify, and stabilize beta-adrenergic receptors in order to determine their structure by X-ray crystallography, and he achieved a dramatic breakthrough in these studies with determination of the three-dimensional structure of the beta-adrenergic receptor at high resolution in 2007.

His structures reveal new details of ligand binding and receptor function at atomic resolution and provide a molecular template for future analysis of this crucial family of signaling proteins.

Kobilka is a professor of medicine and molecular & cellular physiology at Stanford. He earned his M.D. degree at Yale University School of Medicine and served as an intern at Barnes Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. After moving to Duke University School of Medicine as a research fellow, he was appointed assistant professor of medicine there in 1988. He moved to Stanford as assistant professor of medicine and molecular & cellular physiology in 1990. He was promoted to his present position in 2000.

Kobilka has served as a member of the editorial boards of Molecular Pharmacology and the Journal of Biological Chemistry and as associate editor of Molecular Pharmacology. His research has been recognized with numerous awards including the John Jacob Abel Award and the Julius Axelrod Award of the American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics.

The lectureship was created in the UW Department of Pharmacology in 1987 to honor former chair Dr. Edwin G. Krebs. He shared the 1992 Nobel Prize in Medicine or Physiology with UW’s Dr. Edmond Fischer for their work in the 1950s on a switch that controls many biochemical activities inside living cells. Krebs died in December 2009 at the age of 91.