skip navigation National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD): Improving the lives of people who have communication disorders
One of the National Institutes of Health
Change text size:   S   M   L

Photo of Dr. Wenthold

Robert J. Wenthold, Ph.D.

Laboratory of Neurochemistry

Section on Neurotransmitter Receptor Biology
Laboratory of Neurochemistry

50 South Drive
Room 4140
Bethesda, MD 20892
Phone: (301) 496–6530
Fax: (301) 480–2324

Dr. Wenthold received a B.S. degree from Loras College and his Ph.D. from Indiana University where he worked with Henry Mahler on the biochemistry of synaptic proteins. After postdoctoral work at the NIH with Jorgen Fex, he became a faculty member in the Department of Neurophysiology at the University of Wisconsin. He joined NINCDS as a Senior Investigator in 1984 and moved to NIDCD when the institute was created in 1989. He became Chief of the Laboratory of Neurochemistry in 1996 and Scientific Director of NIDCD in 1998. Dr. Wenthold's laboratory studies the assembly, trafficking and synaptic expression of glutamate receptors.

Research Statement

The Section on Neurotransmitter Receptor Biology studies the molecular mechanisms underlying the regulation of glutamate receptors at the synapse. This complex family of proteins mediates most excitatory neurotransmission in the central nervous system and has been shown to play a direct role in some forms of synaptic plasticity that may be associated with learning and memory. Our current research is focused on three areas: (1) Assembly of receptor complexes. Ionotropic glutamate receptors are formed by the assembly of several subunits into a complex of 4 or 5 subunits. Multiple complexes of different subunit configurations are found within the same neuron, and these complexes can be targeted to different populations of synapses. We are interested in determining how these different complexes are produced and the factors that may alter their production. (2) Delivery of receptors to the synapse. We are interested in how receptors are selectively trafficked through the various cellular compartments to their appropriate synaptic location. This includes the identification of proteins that interact with the receptors during this delivery and the modifications to the receptor that may alter this delivery. (3) Stabilization of receptors at the synapse. Receptors are concentrated at the postsynaptic membrane probably through an interaction with proteins of the postsynaptic density. We are interested in the identity of these proteins and how these interactions are regulated. Removal of receptors from the synapse through internalization is likely to involve a disruption of the association with the anchoring protein. Our research involves primarily molecular techniques but relies heavily on morphological and physiological approaches. Immunogold electron microscopy, confocal microscopy, and cell culture complement our standard biochemical and cell biological experiments.

Lab Personnel

Rana Al-Hallaq, Ph.D. (Send e-mail)
Kai Chang, M.D. (Send e-mail)
Lisa Dunbar, Ph.D. (Send e-mail)
M'hamed Grati, Ph.D. (Send e-mail)
Martin Horak, Ph.D. (Send e-mail)
Ronald S. Petralia, Ph.D. (Send e-mail)
Kate Prybylowski, Ph.D. (Send e-mail)
Gail Seabold, Ph.D. (Send e-mail)
Catherine Craft Swanwick, Ph.D. (Send e-mail)
Ya-Xian Wang, M.D. (Send e-mail)
Zhaohong Yi, Ph.D. (Send e-mail)

Selected Publications


National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. Celebrating 20 years of research: 1988 to 2008