Neuropeptide Research

Neuropeptides are protein-like signalling molecules
that regulate many important physiological processes and behaviours

 

Neuropeptides regulate a wide range of physiological functions, including reproduction, water balance, cardiovascular function, energy homeostasis, circadian rhythm, pain, learning and memory, and complex social behaviours.

An increasing number of bioactive peptides from animals, plants, and bacteria have been characterised, with the overwhelming realisation that these molecules often display better therapeutic performance than their human counterparts.

We work at the interface of Chemistry and Biology, with a strong passion for translational research. Our interests lie in Neuropeptide Research and the exploration of Nature's biodiversity to develop advanced molecular tools, diagnostics and therapeutics. We use chemistry, molecular biology, and pharmacology to study the interactions of these highly potent and selective molecules with human physiology for medical innovations in gastrointestinal disorders, neuropathic pain, autism, cancer, and neurodegenerative diseases.

Our approach

Peptides are key mediators in many biological functions and understanding of their interaction with target proteins is fundamental to unravel the underlying mechanism of fundamental biological processes and diseases. Over the years, an increasing number of bioactive peptides from animals, plants, and bacteria have been characterised, with the overwhelming realisation that these molecules often show better therapeutic performance than their human counterparts, particularly in terms of in vivo stability.

Our main research efforts situated in the field of Neuropeptide Research focus on the exploration and translation of these vast and untapped natural libraries towards the development of useful research tools and therapeutics. Solid-phase peptide synthesis, the main tool to access these compounds, is a powerful technology for the assembly and chemical modification of these highly chiral and structurally complex peptides.

Group leader

Dr Markus Muttenthaler

Associate Professor Markus Muttenthaler

Group Leader, Neuropeptide research

  +61 7 334 62985
  m.muttenthaler@imb.uq.edu.au
  UQ Researcher Profile
  Google Scholar
  www.neuropeptidelab.com 
   www.linkedin.com/in/muttenthaler

 

Research focus

Oxytocin and Vasopressin Research

The oxytocin and vasopressin signalling system regulates many fundamental physiological processes such as reproduction, water balance, cardiovascular responses and complex social behaviour. It is also a high-profile target for autism, schizophrenia, stress, depression, anxiety, cancer and pain. Our group is particularly interested in creating a complete molecular toolbox to study this signalling system as well as in discovering novel therapeutic leads for autism, pain, gastrointestinal disorders and breast cancer.

Neuropeptides and Memory

Memory is probably the single most important brain process that defines our personality and gives us the sense of individuality. Emotional events often cause the generation of strong memories that exist for many years, yet the underlying mechanisms are still poorly understood. Neuropeptides are key players in regulating emotions and have been associated with long-term memory formation. Our group is involved in the development of advanced molecular probes to understand how neuropeptides can influence long-term memory formation.

Gastrointestinal Disorders

The gastrointestinal epithelium is a major physical barrier that protects us from diverse, and potentially immunogenic or toxic content. A damaged epithelium results in increased permeability to such content, thus leading to inflammation, uncontrolled immune response, and diseases, such as irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease that affect 10-15% of the population. Our group is involved in the identification and validation of novel drug targets and therapeutic strategies that can protect or repair this important barrier in order to prevent or treat such disorders.

Venoms to Drugs

Venoms comprise a highly complex cocktail of bioactive peptides evolved to paralyse prey and defend against predators. Homology of prey/predator receptors to human receptors render these venom peptides also active on human receptors and they have become a rich source for neurological tools and therapeutics. Our group is involved in the discovery, synthesis and structure-activity relationship studies of these venom peptides with the goal to develop novel probes for neuroscientists as well as therapeutic drug leads.


Typical 3D NMR structures of disulfide-rich venom peptides

Engagement and impact

Dr Muttenthaler is internationally recognised for his expertise in neuropeptide research, venom peptide drug discovery, and his pioneering methods in medicinal and peptide chemistry. His work focuses on developing tools to facilitate fundamental research as well as drug discovery. He recently received the prestigious Miklós Bodanszky Award for his outstanding contributions for peptide-based drug research.

 

Research areas


Ageing

  • Dementia and Memory Research
  • Prostate Cancer
  • Pain
     


Common diseases

  • Gastrointestinal Disorders
  • Breast Cancer
  • Autism
  • Pain


Into the future

  • Blood-brain barrier shuttles
  • Emotional memories
  • Gut-brain axis
     

Information about
 

Our team

Group Leader

Researchers

  • Dr Nayara Braga Emidio

    Higher degree by research (PhD) student & Postdoctoral Research Fellow
    Institute for Molecular Bioscience

Students

Research excellence

$1.3 billion+ commercial investment attracted to IMB research
1454 international collaborators
 
385 original publications in 2020
 
$28M in research funding last calendar year
 
20%+ of patent families at UQ are derived from IMB research
100% of donations go to the cause
 

Help us shape the future
 

 Donate        Study with us

Stories

Pages

Connect with us

           ​