Head of Laboratory

Professor Walter Thomas

Location

Macgregor Building (#64), Level 5

Staff

  • Dr Brooke Purdue
  • Greg Quaife-Ryan

Students

  • Simon Foster, PhD student
  • Zhen Wang, PhD student
  • Danielle Edwards, Honours student

Research

The function of the human body is co-ordinated, at a molecular level, by proteins called receptors that respond to a multitude of cues, factors, hormones and transmitters. The largest family of receptors in our genome are the G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) mutations in these receptors and/or alterations in how they signal in our cells are linked to many diseases. Not surprisingly, these GPCRs are major drug targets and the focus of intense biomedical research.

Our primary goal is to understand the relationship between GPCRs and the cardiovascular system in health and disease. Diseases of the heart and blood vessels remain major killers in society and a significant financial burden on the health system.

Our research challenges existing notions of how these GPCRs work we have shown these receptors transition between multiple functional states and have a unique ability to crosstalk or hijack other receptor systems to control physiology. We have also observed that receptors traditionally associated with other functions (taste and smell) are expressed in the heart and we are very interested in delineating their function. We use state-of-the art molecular and cellular approaches to study these receptors and to understand their activation and deactivation in cells. As part of our research, we place great significance on recruiting, training and developing young scientists at honours, PhD and postdoctoral levels.

Select publications

  1. Chen D, Jancovski N, Bassi JK, Nguyen-Huu TP, Choong YT, Palma-Rigo K, Davern PJ, Gurley SB, Thomas WG, Head GA, Allen AM. Angiotensin type 1A receptors in C1 neurons of the rostral ventrolateral medulla modulate the pressor response to aversive stress. J Neurosci. (2012) 32(6): 2051-61.
  2. Jin T, Ding Q, Huang H, Xu D, Jiang Y, Zhou B, Li Z, Jiang X, He J, Liu W, Zhang Y, Pan Y, Wang Z, Thomas WG, Chen Y. PAQR10 and PAQR11 mediate Ras signaling in the Golgi apparatus. Cell Research. (2012) 2012 Apr; 22(4): 661-761.
  3. Smith NJ, Chan HW, Qian H, Bourne AM, Hannan KM, Warner FJ, Ritchie RH, Pearson RB, Hannan RD,Thomas WG. Determination of the exact molecular requirements for type 1 angiotensin receptor epidermal growth factor receptor transactivation and cardiomyocyte hypertrophy. Hypertension. (2011) 57(5): 973-980.
  4. Porrello ER, Pfleger KD, Seeber RM, Qian H, Oro C, Abogadie F, Delbridge LM, Thomas WG. Heteromerization of angiotensin receptors changes trafficking and arrestin recruitment profiles. Cell Signal. (2011) 23(11): 1767-1776.
  5. George AJ, Thomas WG*, Hannan RD. The renin-angiotensin system and cancer: old dog, new tricks. Nat Rev Cancer. 2010 10(11): 745-59. *corresponding
  6. Du AT, Onan D, Dinh DT, Lew MJ, Ziogas J, Aguilar MI, Pattenden LK, Thomas WG. Ligand-supported purification of the urotensin-II receptor. Mol Pharmacol. 2010 78(4): 639-47. Epub 2010 Jul 20.
  7. Chen D, Bassi JK, Walther T, Thomas WG, Allen AM. Expression of angiotensin type 1A receptors in C1 neurons restores the sympathoexcitation to angiotensin in the rostral ventrolateral medulla of angiotensin type 1A knockout mice. Hypertension. 2010 56(1): 143-50.
  8. Porrello ER, D'Amore A, Curl CL, Allen AM, Harrap SB, Thomas WG, Delbridge LM. Angiotensin II type 2 receptor antagonizes angiotensin II type 1 receptor-mediated cardiomyocyte autophagy. Hypertension. 2009 53(6): 1032-40.

Student projects

Honours

We are seeking students to investigate candidate genes that we identified by an RNAi screen as being involved in the capacity of the angiotensin receptor to hijack the EGF receptor in the process of cardiac cell growth. In addition, we have discovered that heart cells express receptors that allow us to taste and smell and so we have exciting projects investigating the function of these receptors in rodents and humans.

PhD

In addition to the topics of the Honours projects, we have projects investigating why GPCRs exist in multiple conformational states and the signaling partners they interact with.

Research support

NHF grant-in-aid G 12B 6532: Chemosensory receptors in heart W.G. Thomas, 2013-2014

NHMRC1024726: Mechanism of Epidermal Growth Factor Transactivation W.G. Thomas, RD Hannan, 2012 - 2014

NHMRC1025355: Manipulating store-operated Ca2+ entry to improve muscle function in dystrophy B.S. Launikonis, R. Murphy, W.G. Thomas, 2012-2014

NHMRC1004602: Role of extracellular surface residues in agonist activation of the alpha1 receptor R.J. Lewis, W.G. Thomas, 2011-2013