The nervous system transmits information by passing chemical signals from one nerve cell to the others. This signal transmission relies on a variety of proteins to receive and transmit the chemical signals. My group studies the structure and function of neurotransmitter receptors and ion channels that regulate fundamental neuronal activities.
Hiro Furukawa’s lab studies receptor molecules involved in neurotransmission. Its members mainly focus on the structure and function of NMDA (N-methyl-d-aspartate) receptors — ion channels that mediate excitatory transmission. Dysfunctional NMDA receptors cause neurological disorders and diseases including Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, schizophrenia, depression, and stroke-related ischemic injuries. The Furukawa lab is working to solve the threedimensional structure of the very large NMDA receptor by dividing it into several domains. They seek to understand the pharmacological specificity of neurotransmitter ligands and allosteric modulators in different subtypes of NMDA receptors at the molecular level. Toward this end, they use cutting-edge techniques in X-ray crystallography to obtain crystal structures of the NMDA receptor domains and validate structure-based functional hypotheses by a combination of biophysical techniques including electrophysiology, fluorescence analysis, isothermal titration calorimetry, and analytical centrifugation. Crystal structures of NMDA receptors serve as a blueprint for creating and improving the design of therapeutic compounds with minimal side effects for treating neurological disorders and diseases. During the last several years, the team discovered and mapped several regulatory sites in specific classes of NMDA receptors, progress that now opens the way to the development of a new potential class of drugs to modulate the receptor activity.
Targeting ‘hidden pocket’ for treatment of stroke and seizure
January 18, 2019
Researchers have identified a hidden molecular “pocket” in a special neuron receptor, which could lead to better treatments for stroke and seizures.
Austin’s Purpose donates $10k to neuroscience research
January 18, 2019
Epilepsy research-supporting organization Austin’s Purpose makes a donation to continue key neuroscience research in Professor Hiro Furukawa’s lab.
How key brain receptor works in hostile conditions
May 9, 2018
A structural variation enables a key brain receptor to function in a hostile environment
Portrait of a Neuroscience Powerhouse
April 27, 2018
A relatively small neuroscience group at CSHL is having an outsized impact on a dynamic and highly competitive field
Can we understand memories at the molecular level?
March 13, 2017
Memories may seem intangible, but many scientists are working to figure out how they are physically stored in the brain. To achieve this, we’ll need.
New art supplies for visualizing tiny machines in the brain
March 1, 2017
An unusual, but beautiful sight can be found among the figures of a recent scientific paper about some of the tiny machines in our brain: watercolor.
Austin’s Purpose raises $10,000 for Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Neuroscience
January 4, 2017
Austin’s Purpose presented CSHL Hiro Furukawa with a donation to continue NMDA research.
Detailed images of NMDA receptor show how zinc and a potential drug affect its function
December 1, 2016
Drugs precisely targeting portions of the NMDA receptor may have applications in Alzheimer’s, depression and schizophrenia.
First structural views of the NMDA receptor in action will aid drug development
May 2, 2016
Structural biologists obtained snapshots of the activation of an important type of brain-cell receptor.
Scientific inspiration with third-year student Annabel Romero Hernandez
September 1, 2015
Graduate student Annabel Romero Hernandez spent 244 days portraying the world around her on a very small scale.
Romero-Hernandez, Annabel and Simorowski, Noriko and Karakas, Erkan and Furukawa, Hiro (2016) Molecular Basis for Subtype Specificity and High-Affinity Zinc Inhibition in the GluN1-GluN2A NMDA Receptor Amino-Terminal Domain. Neuron, 92(6) pp. 1324-1336.
Tajima, N. and Karakas, E. and Grant, T. and Simorowski, N. and Diaz-Avalos, R. and Grigorieff, N. and Furukawa, H. (2016) Activation of NMDA receptors and the mechanism of inhibition by ifenprodil. Nature, 534(7605) pp. 63-8.
Karakas, E. and Furukawa, H. (2014) Crystal structure of a heterotetrameric NMDA receptor ion channel. Science, 344(6187) pp. 992-7.
Jespersen, A. and Tajima, N. and Fernandez-Cuervo, G. and Garnier-Amblard, E. C. and Furukawa, H. (2014) Structural Insights into Competitive Antagonism in NMDA Receptors. Neuron, 81(2) pp. 366-78.
Karakas, E. and Simorowski, N. and Furukawa, H. (2011) Subunit arrangement and phenylethanolamine binding in GluN1/GluN2B NMDA receptors. Nature, 475(7355) pp. 249- U170.Additional materials of the author at
CSHL Institutional Repository