Biophysical Journal Editor’s Corner

Biophysical Journal and Open Access

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Know the Editors

Each month we feature a Biophysical Journal (BJ) editor and highlight a BJ section.

Michael Pusch, CNR, Institute of Biophysics, Italy
Associate Editor of Channels & Transporters Section





Q: Why did you take on the role of Associate Editor?

I had been an Editorial Board member (EBM) of BJ from 2008 to 2012 and I was approached by Les Loew, the new Editor-in-Chief of BJ, to take over from Eduardo Perozo as the Associate Editor for the Channels and Transporters section. It was not an easy decision because as AE I would have certainly a larger responsibility than in my previous position as EBM. I finally agreed to accept the role because I knew that I could count on a highly competent staff at BJ and on advice from the Editor-in-Chief and from the other Associate Editors. Most importantly, I can count on the expertise of the EBMs of the section. In retrospect, fortunately, my initial evaluation was correct. In addition, being Associate Editor has the big advantage of being exposed to new and exciting research from the general field of my interest. I hope to continue the tradition of attracting the best biophysically-oriented work on transporters and channels to the Biophysical Journal.

Q: As Associate Editor of the Channels and Transporters Section, what type of papers is BJ looking for in that area?

BJ has a long tradition of publishing first-class work on channels and transporters, focusing mostly on electrophysiological methods. In recent years, the methodologies used to study transporters and channels and the kinds of questions that are addressed in the biophysical studies have changed dramatically. Developments in protein expression and purification have allowed more widespread application of biochemical and spectroscopic methods to membrane proteins such as transporters and channels. As a consequence, the X-ray structure of many classes of transporters and channels has been determined, allowing detailed computational studies and structure-activity analysis. Additionally, the development of many optical methods has expanded the repertoire of methods with which these proteins can be studied. I would like BJ to continue keeping track of the most novel and innovative approaches in studying all quantitative aspects regarding transporters and channels. However, these include not only studies of mechanisms underlying individual transport proteins, but also more physiological studies such as neuro-physiological investigations, questions related to Ca2+ signaling, or cell-biological studies involving transport proteins and ion channels. The most important criterion for suitability for the Channels and Transporters section of BJ is a quantitative approach and a mechanistic insight into biological processes involving membrane transport.

Q: What is your area of research?

My main interest is to understand the molecular mechanisms underlying the functioning of ion channels and transporters with particular emphasis on CLC chloride channels and transporters. I started to work on these as a postdoc in the laboratory of Thomas Jentsch who had just cloned the first members of the family. In these early times a lot was to be discovered about this novel class of chloride channels. Since 1997 I am principal investigator at the Institute of Biophysics of the Italian National Research Council, continuing to work on CLC chloride channels, but also on voltage gated KCNQ-type potassium channels and voltage-gated sodium channels. I am using mostly electrophysiological methods (patch clamp, voltage clamp) combined with site-directed mutagenesis and heterologous expression. More recently, Alessio Accardi (my former PhD student) and Chris Miller discovered that some CLCs are actually not passive chloride channels but secondary active chloride/proton antiporters. This discovery opened up new and exciting questions about the mechanisms of transport, gating, and coupling of CLC channels and transporters. A common theme of my research regards the involvement of channels and transporters in human genetic diseases. Such diseases not only highlight the physiological relevance of the proteins but they also provide hints on the mechanisms of their transport function.

February 2013 Table of Contents