Faculty Profile: Ehlert, Frederick J.

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Faculty Information Lab Information (Packet Type, Course Title, & Department) Location
Ehlert, Frederick J.
Lab Contact:
Frederick J. Ehlert
Department: Pharmacology
Rm 305 Med Surge II

Research Description

My lab studies how drugs interact with G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs). These receptors number about 1000 and they mediate the effects of numerous natural signaling molecules in the body as well as xenobiotics. In addition they are the target for many drugs used in medicine including orthosteric agonists, antagonists and allosteric modulators. The latter turn on, turn off, and modulate receptor function, respectively. Candidate drugs are often evaluated in vitro using a variety of signaling assays in cells and tissues. The initial drug-receptor interaction is transduced through natural or artificial biochemical signaling pathways that ultimately culminate in a measurable output response. The ability of a drug to elicit an output response through different signaling pathways often varies depending the nature of the cells or tissues in which the receptor is expressed, even if the same signaling pathway is involved in eliciting the response. My lab has developed a method for analyzing the downstream output response of a receptor to determine how drugs interact with single receptors. In the absence of drugs and natural messengers in the body, single receptors usually spend most of their time in the off state. When bound with an agonist, receptors randomly switch on and off. Knowing how tightly a drug binds to the on (active) state, relative to the off (inactive) state, enables scientists to predict how well an agonist activates a receptor. In addition, a given receptor may have different active states that turn on different signaling pathways. Having a means of measuring how tightly a drug binds to different active states of a receptor enables scientists to determine the spectrum of therapeutic and toxic effects of a drug. An ideal drug is one that selects for active states that mediate therapeutic signaling pathways only and not pathways that cause side effects. Currently, most of the ongoing work in my lab involves validating our methods of analysis using computational methods. In addition, user-friendly applications are being developed to enable the scientific community to apply our methods of analysis.

Requirements to Participate

Prior coursework in cell biology.

Time Commitment per Week

3 - 4 hours per unit. 1 year Commitment.

Faculty Means of Evaluation

Professionalism and work output and quality.