David Julius, PhD


The Molecular Biology of Nociception and Pain

We are interested in the molecular biology of sensory transduction and neurotransmitter action in the mammalian nervous system. A main goal is to understand the molecular basis of somatosensation - the process whereby we experience touch and temperature - with an emphasis on identifying molecules that detect noxious (pain-producing) stimuli. We are also interested in understanding how somatosensation is altered in response to tissue or nerve injury.

Our approach has been to identify molecular targets for natural plant products that mimic the psychophysical effects of commonly encountered somatosensory stimuli, such as heat, cold, or chemical irritants. This has led us to uncover ion channels belonging to the TRP channel family that serve as receptors for capsaicin (from chili peppers), menthol (from mint) or isothiocyanates and thiosulfinates (from wasabi and garlic), all of which activate nerve fibers of the somatosensory system to elicit sensations of hot, cold, and/or irritancy, respectively. We explore the functional, structural, and physiological properties of these sensory TRP channel in vitro and in vivo using biophysical, genetic, and pharmacologic approaches. We also use a variety of gene discovery methods to identify new players in the cellular signaling pathways that detect, transduce, and modulate somatosensory stimuli, including those that contribute to acute and chronic pain. 

Lab Members

Erhu Cao, PhD
Postdoctoral Fellow

Julio Cordero, PhD
Postdoctoral Fellow

Jeremiah Osteen, PhD
Postdoctoral Fellow

Candice Paulsen, PhD
Postdoctoral Fellow

Joshua Emrick
Graduate Student

Chuchu Zhang
Neuroscience Graduate Student

Jeannie Poblete
Lab Manager

Lab Website