Li Niu


  • Li Niu

    CHEMISTRY

    Abnormal expression or excessive activity of AMPA receptors, a subtype of glutamate ion channels, has been implicated in neurological diseases such as epilepsy, stroke and ALS. AMPA receptors have four subunits that can assemble, by various combinations, to form native channels. The goal of Dr. Niu’s laboratory is to develop subunit-selective inhibitors that would allow probing AMPA receptor function, one subunit at a time, and to better control abnormal expression and excessive activity of AMPA receptors in neurological diseases. AMPA receptor antagonists that are currently available generally inhibit AMPA receptor subunits indiscriminately, and many have nonspecific actions on other proteins and receptors. To develop AMPA receptor subunit- and channel-selective antagonists, we are using a combination of two approaches: (i) SELEX to evolve RNA aptamers from a RNA library; and (ii) develop a set of functional assays, including a laser-pulse photolysis technique to characterize aptamers with the functional receptor forms in the microsecond-to- millisecond time domain. In the field of AMPA receptor inhibitor/drug development, RNA aptamers represent a new class of regulatory molecules with a high research and therapeutic potential.