A Lot of Nerve

Ed Chapman’s Tenacious Approach to the “Most Important” Problems in Biology
April 18, 2023
VOL 25 NO 1

Chapman concentrates on research questions that are big, bad, and basic. Many of them concern the release of neurotransmitters at the synapse — the tiny gap between two neurons.

Working mainly at the level of molecules, cells, and artificial models of cellular structures, Ed Chapman, a professor in the Department of Neuroscience at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, developed a unique approach to unraveling the ground-level secrets of the nervous system. Thirty years ago, he began to work out how a specific protein, in the presence of calcium ions, releases a neurotransmitter into the synapse by triggering the opening of a structure called the fusion pore. What he discovered is that the number of proteins in a fusion pore governs how it opens. The result was characteristic of Chapman’s approach. It focused on the speed of a process. And it was basement-level basic: neurotransmitter releases occur countless times a minute in a person, and they are critical to kicking a football, typing a word, remembering your aunt’s name and smelling the roses.

Read the full story on med.wisc.edu