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Prof. Dr. Martin Göpfert
- Professor for Cellular Neurobiology
- 2008 Full Professor for Cellular Neurobiology, University of Göttingen
- 2008 Associate Professor for Molecular Biology and Biophysics of Sensory Systems, University of Cologne
- 2003-2008 Independent group leader, Volkswagen Foundation Group ‘Active auditory mechanics in insects’, Dept. Animal Physiology, University of Cologne
- 2002-2003 Royal Society University Research Fellow, School of Biological Sciences, University of Bristol
- 1998-2002 DAAD and Leopoldina Research Fellow, Dept. Neurobiology, University of Zürich and School of Biological Sciences, University of Bristol
- 1998 Degree in Biology, University of Erlangen-Nürnberg
Major Research Interests
Our group studies fundamental processes in hearing. By combining mechanical measurements with genetics, molecular biology, immunohistochemistry, electrophysiology, calcium imaging, and biophysical modelling, we are trying to decipher how molecular processes shape the performance of an ear. Our preferred model system is the hearing organ of the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster, the auditory sensory cells of which share conserved molecular modules with the hair cells in our ears.
Our work has uncovered striking parallels between fly and vertebrate hearing, including the functional equivalence of the auditory transduction and adaptation machineries, the motility of auditory sensory cells, transducer-based force generation, and the expression of homologous genes. Our work also provided first insights into the diverse roles of –and interactions between- transient receptor potential (TRP) ion channels in hearing, and a model of TRP-function in the fly’s auditory system has been devised. Using a novel electrostatic actuation method, we were able to identify hair cell-like signatures of transducer gating and adaptation in the fly’s auditory mechanics and could show that a simple transduction model as proposed to describe hair cell mechanics comprehensively explains the macroscopic behaviour of an ear. Based on these findings, we are currently devising a computational model that allows for the high-throughput characterization of genetic hearing defects. Candidate genes for hearing, in turn, are narrowed down by expression profiling using whole-genome microarrays. By testing how these genes contribute to auditory function and performance, we aim for a comprehensive molecules-to-system description of the functional workings of an ear.