A headshot photo of Visvanathan Ramamurthy.

Visvanathan Ramamurthy, PhD

Professor, Chair of Biochemistry and Molecular Medicine

Contact Information

Phone
304-293-8411
Address
PO Box 9193
3123 HSC-N
1 Medical Center Drive
Morgantown, WV 26506

Affiliations

  • Department of Ophthalmology
  • Department of Neuroscience
  • Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute

Graduate Training

  • PhD, Wesleyan University

Research Interests

Protein folding, modification in neurodegenerative diseases and ciliopathies

Protein Folding: We want to identify the significance of Heat shock protein 90 (HSP90) mediated protein folding in photoreceptor neurons. Our interest in HSP90 stems from the recent use of HSP90 inhibitors for treatments of neurodegenerative diseases and cancer. In cancer trials, patients complain of night vision loss, alluding to the need for HSP90 for normal vision. To uncover the link between the need for HSP90 and vision, we generated an animal model lacking HSP90 using CRISPR-Cas9.

Protein Assembly and Interactome: Proteins function as an extensive network to evoke a particular function. Our goal is to map in vivo the protein networks in the photoreceptor neurons and how these networks change during disease.

Protein post-translational modification and function: Modifications of proteins enhance their diversity and impart unique functionality. Interestingly, several diseases are linked to defective protein modifications. Recently, we have focused on protein glutamylation, as this modification is reversible, potentially playing a dynamic role in the cell. Using a combination of mass-spectrometry, animal models, etc., we are testing the importance of this modification in photoreceptor neurons.

Protein Trafficking: Our human eye contains around 120 million photoreceptor cells (rods/cones). Each of these cells moves proteins at an astonishingly rapid rate (1000 molecules per second in each cell), yet we know little about this process. Following are some interesting questions we are trying to answer:

How do proteins move at this rapid pace? What are the molecular motors that drive this movement?

How does post-translational lipid modification help to retain proteins in different compartments? 

Tubulinopathies: Protein diversity can also be achieved by encoding proteins with minor changes to fit the task. A classic example is the expression of multiple tubulin isoforms that make up the microtubules. Mutations in several tubulin isoforms lead to defective brain development, pointing to the unique need for these isoforms in neurons. We have confirmed this with one of our animal models; we hypothesize that defective Cerebrospinal Fluid (CSF) movement in the brain leads to this phenotype. Besides, mutations in tubulin lead to sensory defects, including vision and hearing. Our goal is to understand the mechanism behind the tublinopathies that leads to hearing loss and defective brain development

Our approach: We use a combination of animal and cell culture models generated by CRISPR-Cas9. Our comprehensive experimental strategy includes electrophysiology, morphology (by High-resolution imaging/Electron microscopy), biochemical, biophysical, and molecular approaches.

Grants and Research

For more information: National Institutes of Health 

NIH P20 Visvanathan Ramamurthy (PI) 03/2022-01/2027

   Visual Sciences Center of Biomedical Research Excellence    $11,140,375

        Visual impairment is a terrifying prospect. Our long-term goal is to eliminate or reduce this health burden by understanding the biological mechanisms that underlie vision in health and disease. With this goal in mind, we propose to create a Center of Excellence in visual sciences at West Virginia University to strengthen the scientific community focused on understanding processes essential to optimal visual health.

NIH RO1 Visvanathan Ramamurthy  (PI)  04/2017-03/2022 

   Importance of Small GTPases in Photoreceptor Function.  $1,414,964 
 
        This project is aimed at identifying the need for small GTPases in light-sensing photoreceptor cells with the hope of identifying novel therapies for patients with Joubert and/or other syndromic diseases that can cause blindness.
 
NIH RO1 Visvanathan Ramamurthy  (PI)  04/2020-03/2025 
 
   Biosynthesis and trafficking of phosphodiesterase in the retinal photoreceptors. $1,903,765
 
        The focus of the proposed study is to decipher the mechanism behind the synthesis and maturation of phosphodiesterase (PDE6), an enzyme essential for our vision. We hope to use the knowledge gained from this study to design novel therapies for PDE6 related blindness.
 
NIH RO1 Peter Stoilov (PI) and Visvanathan Ramamurthy (PI) 12/2015-03/2024 
 
   Photoreceptor neuron specific alternative splicing messenger RNA. $1,507,332

        This project will investigate how RNA binding proteins boost protein expression in photoreceptor cells to enable vision, an unexplored aspect of the photoreceptor cell biology. Our work will allow us to better understand how photoreceptors function and how blinding disease develops. We expect that the results of this study will open new ways to treat blinding diseases

Recent Publications

[2020]

[2019]

[2018]

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