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Y (Grace) Sun, PhD

Professor, Interdisciplinary Neuroscience Program, Dept of Nutritional Sciences, Dept of Pathology


Department of Biochemistry
One Hospital Drive, M122H
Columbia, MO 65212


The Central Nervous System (CNS) is comprised of complex cellular networks consisting of neurons and glial cells. Intricate biochemical pathways are known to mediate communications among these cells. Neurons and glial cells are active in their response to numerous extracellular signals, including neurotransmitters and growth factors, which are transmitted through activation of cell specific receptors and signaling pathways. Abnormal functioning of these signaling pathways can impart on a number of neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease, alcoholism and stroke. An important goal for Dr. Sun's laboratory is to investigate the signaling pathways mediated by G-protein-coupled receptors (GPCR), particularly, those associated with hydrolysis of poly-phosphoinositides together with the and release of inositol trisphosphates (IP3) and diacylglycerols, which are second messengers responsible for mobilization of intracellular calcium and activation of protein kinase C (PKC). Current studies in this laboratory are focused on relating these pathways to activation of phospholipases A2 (PLA2), a group of enzymes important in mediating the release of arachidonic acid and biosynthesis of prostaglandins. One of the goals is to understand mechanisms leading to activation of PLA2 and cyclooxygenase (COX) in glial cells and the significance of these pathways on Alzheimer’s disease pathology. Since increases in pro-inflammatory cytokines and oxidative stress are important pathological landmarks of this disease, their studies also include examining the cytokine signaling pathways and the effects of these agents on the induction of gene expression in astrocytes and microglial cells. Cell culture models will be used to investigate possible anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant effects of a variety of botanical compounds. Research in her laboratory also uses animal models to examine whether nutritional supplement of these compounds may elicit neuroprotective effects. Their studies employ basic biochemical as well as modern molecular techniques including in situ hybridization technique for quantitation and localization of mRNA species in different regions of the brain. They believe that our effort to better understand the molecular mechanisms underlying signal transduction pathways will contribute to new therapeutic strategies for combating neuronal damage due to stroke, alcoholism and Alzheimer’s disease.


More information about Dr. Sun and her lab can be found here.

Research Areas of Interest

Aging & life span
Cell biology
Cellular signaling
Confocal fluorescence microscopy
DNA/RNA hybridization
Immunocytochemistry EM/LM
In situ hybridization
In vitro transcription
Molecular biology
Protein biology
Protein phosphorylation
Receptor biology
Signal transduction
Transfection systems