Daniel E. O'Brien , Ph.D.
B.S. Biochemistry, University of Notre Dame, 2009
Ph.D. Neuroscience, Washington University in St. Louis, 2014
Biosketch and Research Interests
Dan O’Brien completed his doctoral work under the tutelage of Dr. Robert W. Gereau, IV at Washington University in St. Louis, wherein Dan studied the isoform-specific roles of extracellular signal-regulated kinase 1 and 2 (ERK1 and ERK2) in peripheral sensory neurons. Using rodent models of inflammatory pain, this work tested the hypothesis that sensory neuron ERK2 plays a predominant role in the development of inflammation-induced chronic pain. Data from these pain assays indicated that, by and large, sensory neuron ERK2 did play a predominant role in development of inflammatory pain. Interestingly, postnatal loss of both ERK isoforms in sensory neurons led to baseline deficits in pain sensation; however, upon further investigation using immunohistochemistry, this phenotype likely could be attributed to extensive loss of sensory neurons. Through these studies in the pain field, Dan recognized a need for better pharmacological studies in pain and neuroscience as a whole, which led him to seek a fellowship at the Vanderbilt Center for Neuroscience Drug Discovery with Dr. P. Jeffrey Conn. In September 2014, Dan joined the Conn lab to learn about neuropharmacology at both the in vitro and in vivo level.
In the Conn lab, Dan’s two research projects focus on understanding metabotropic glutamate receptor 2 (mGlu2) at the molecular level and muscarinic acetylcholine receptor 4 (M4) at the neural circuit level. Using novel mGlu2 allosteric modulators, Dan is investigating their receptor binding and pharmacological properties in vitro in order to better understand how these allosteric modulators work and hopefully aid in the development of improved allosteric modulators for therapeutic use. In parallel, Dan is studying whether M4 positive allosteric modulation can be a suitable pharmacological treatment for neuropsychiatric disorders focusing on M4 function in striatal circuits. Through this two parallel, but complementary, projects, Dan aims to better understand neuropharmacology in order to aid in his furture career pursuits.
For a full list of Dan’s publications, please follow this link http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/sites/myncbi/1pwgTrlJoBp5K/bibliograpahy/47728575/public/?sort=date&direction=descending