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Prof Talvinder Sihra
Room 334
Medawar Building
Gower Street
Prof Talvinder Sihra profile picture
  • Professor of Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Neuro, Physiology & Pharmacology
  • Div of Biosciences
  • Faculty of Life Sciences

Talvinder S. Sihra is a Professor of Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience. He obtained his BSc in Biochemistry and Physiology at the University of Sheffield (1982) and his PhD in Biochemistry at the Department of Biochemistry, University of Dundee (1985). He was Postdoctoral Associate at the Rockefeller University in New York, with Professor Paul Greengard. In 1990, he returned to the University of Dundee with a MRC Fellowship. In 1993, he moved to the Department of Pharmacology, Royal Free Hospital School of Medicine, as a Wellcome Trust Lecturer and in 1997, he relocated to the Pharmacology Department at UCL. His laboratory is based in the Medawar Building and now in the Department of Neuroscience, Physiology and Pharmacology, for which he is Head of Teaching. He has held positions as Neuroscience Group secretary and elected council member of the Biochemical Society. He is a former Editor for the British Journal of Pharmacology, and former External Examiner for BSc Pharmacology at King’s College London, and MRes Biochemical Research at Imperial College. He is currently the External Examiner for BSc Pharmacology at University College Dublin and external peer reviewer at King's College London.

Research Themes
Research Summary

The basic interests of the laboratory centre around the mechanisms by which neurotransmitter release is regulated at central nervous system (CNS) synapses.

1) Presynaptic receptors, through ionotropic and metabotropic mechanisms, represent a fundamental means for regulating neurotransmitter release. One of our interests is to identify and characterize presynaptic receptors that modulate the release of the neurotransmitters glutamate and GABA. The model system we use for these studies is the isolated nerve terminal preparation (synaptosomes). Nerve terminal depolarization leads to Ca2+-influx and exocytosis, followed by endocytosis and recycling of transmitter containing small synaptic vesicles (SSVs). To delineate the loci at which presynaptic receptor activation impinge, we use membrane potential-sensitive dyes to assay nerve terminal excitability and depolarization, fura-2 to monitor Ca2+-influx and on-line enzymatic assays or HPLC to determine the release of glutamate and GABA by the exocytosis of small synaptic vesicles (SSVs).

Post-translational modification of the proteins involved in the cascade of events leading to neurotransmitter release offers a powerful means of mediating presynaptic plasticity. Thus, one way that presynaptic receptor activation can potentially modulate the properties of proteins involved in neurotransmitter release is through the stimulation of second messenger cascades that lead to protein phosphorylation or dephosphorylation. Using synaptosomes labelled with 32P-orthophosphate, we can ascertain presynaptic receptor-mediated activation of specific protein and lipid kinases and phosphatases employing identified intraterminal substrates for these enzymes. Currently, we are characterising the nerve terminal modulatory roles of mitogen-activated protein kinases and lipid kinases leading to the production of polyphosphoinositides.

2) The second major focus of the laboratory is to determine the role of specific protein kinases or phosphotases in the cascade of events leading to SSV exocytosis and endocytosis. For these studies, we have taken the approach of altering enzyme expression in neuronal cell lines and primary cell cultures that are amenable to molecular biological procedures. Currently, we are evaluating the effects of altered expression of the major Ca2+-dependent protein phosphatase, protein phosphatase 2B (calcineurin, CN) and its associated proteins. We wish to characterize of the role of CN in: (a) controlling voltage-dependent Ca2+-influx and, (b) the exocytotic/endocytotic cycling of SSVs and control thereof by the CN substrates, synapsin I and dynamin. We examine VDCC activity using whole-cell patch-clamping and Ca2+-influx, either spectrophometrically or by Ca2+-imaging of single cells, using Ca2+-sensitive fluorophors. Effects of phosphorylation/dephosphorylation on SSV-associated proteins are elucidated using styryl SV-probes (e.g. FM1-43, FM2-10) to image endocytosis/exocytosis.

Teaching Summary


PHAR3011 - Synaptic Pharmacology (L & T) |

PHAR3001/3002 - Neuropharmacology (L & P) |

PHOL3006 - Cellular Basis of Brain Function (L) |

PHAR2002/2005 - General and Systematic Pharmacology/Introductory Pharmacology (L & T) |

PHAR2003/2006 - Experimental Pharmacology/Practical Pharmacology (P) |

NEUR1005 - Foundations of Neurobiology (L) |

PHOL1001 - Mammalian Physiology (T) |

MSc Neuroscience (L & T) |

Phase 1 Preclinical MBBS (L, T & P) |


Head of Teaching (Department of Neuroscience, Physiology & Pharmacology)

BSc/MSci Pharmacology Programme Tutor |

Co-Director MSc Experimental Pharmacology & Therapeutics |

Chair of the NPP Teaching Committee |

Chair of BSc Physiology and Pharmacology Examination Board |

Module Organiser and Tutor for 3rd Year PHAR3011 - Synaptic Pharmacology module |

Module Organiser & Tutor for 4th Year Pharmacology (PHARM030/PHARM901), 3rd Year Pharmacology Laboratory (PHAR3010) and Library (PHAR3009) Projects |

Module Course Organiser and Tutor for 2nd Year PHAR2002 - General and Systematic Pharmacology, PHAR2007 - Intermediate Pharmacology & PHAR2005 - Introductory Pharmacology  |

Academic Background
1985   Doctor of Philosophy University of Dundee
1982   Bachelor of Science Sheffield University
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