Miriam E. Barnett is the Molecular Pharmacology Highlighted Trainee Author for the October 2020 issue. Ms. Barnett is a pre-doctoral scientist in the Department of Pharmacology and Physiology at the University of Rochester under the mentorship of Dr. Jean M. Bidlack. The Molecular Pharmacology article that earned her selection as a Highlighted Trainee Author is titled “Unique Pharmacological Properties of the Kappa Opioid Receptor Signaling Through Gαz as Shown with Bioluminescence Resonance Energy Transfer” and is available at https://doi.org/10.1124/mol.120.119404.
After earning a master of science degree in bioinformatics, Ms. Barnett became passionate about opioid receptor pharmacology. Her research has focused on mastering cutting-edge techniques to gain a deeper understanding of the complexity of opioid receptor signaling. Using both BRET sensors and 3H-labeled receptor binding assays, she was able to develop a sophisticated understanding of the nuances between different Gα subunits regarding potency, efficacy, ligand binding, and secondary messenger systems of various opioid ligands.
In the current study, Ms. Barnett examined the role of Gαz in kappa opioid receptor pharmacology. This paper shows that commonly known opioids exhibit a different pharmacological footprint when the opioid receptor is signaling through Gαz compared to other Gαi class members. The BRET technique allowed Ms. Barnett to better understand the intricacies of Gαz signaling, which are often overlooked in other commonly used assays.
The anticipated impact of Ms. Barnett’s research is that it will advance more targeted therapies. Ms. Barnett is currently working on how the unique properties of Gαz can be used to reduce the unwanted side effects of opioids.
When not in the lab, Ms. Barnett enjoys anything outdoors, especially riding her horse and gardening. She also fosters cats and likes helping them find their forever homes.