Molecular Physiology and Biophysics Section

Ion Channels Proteins as Molecular Sensors

The overarching goal of our program is to elucidate how ion channel proteins sense critical biological stimuli, including membrane voltage, temperature, chemical ligands and mechanical forces. Each of these sensing mechanisms are intrinsic to ion channel proteins that play essential roles throughout biology and that are particularly important within the nervous system where their activity underlies every sensation, perception, thought and movement. The laboratory uses biochemical, molecular biological, electrophysiological and structural approaches to investigate the structure and functional mechanisms of voltage-activated ion channels, TRP channels, P2X receptor channels and mechanosensitive ion channels.

Kenton J. Swartz, Ph.D.


Kenton J. Swartz, Ph.D.

Dr. Swartz received his B.S. in Chemistry and Biology from Eastern Mennonite College in 1986. He received his Ph.D. in Neurobiology from Harvard University in 1993 where he worked with Bruce Bean studying the regulation of voltage-gated calcium channels by G-proteins and protein kinases. He did postdoctoral training with Roderick MacKinnon at Harvard Medical School, where he began isolating and studying toxins that interact with voltage-activated potassium channels.

Dr. Swartz joined NINDS as an Investigator in 1997 to establish a laboratory studying the structure and operational mechanisms of ion channel proteins. He was promoted to Senior Investigator in 2003, received the NIH Directors Award for Scientific Achievement in 2008 and the Kenneth S. Cole Award from the Biophysical Society in 2017. His laboratory is currently using biochemical, molecular biological, biophysical and structural techniques to investigate the structure and functional mechanisms of voltage-activated ion channels, TRP channels and P2X receptor channels.