Ernest Wright, DSc, FRS

Professor, Mellinkoff Professor of Medicine, Department of Physiology, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA

Dr Wright’s research interest is the physiology of epithelial cells, especially those in the small intestine and kidney.  The major goal of this program is to understand how ion gradients drive the accumulation of sugars, amino acids, dipeptides, osmolytes and neurotransmitters in cells. His approach is to express cloned Na+ and H+ driven transporters in heterologous expressions systems and to monitor transport using biophysical techniques. Structure/function relations are explored using mutants and chimeras, and regulation is studied by activating protein kinases. Dr. Wright is also actively involved in the study of   variants in these genes in both the normal population (polymorphisms) and patients with genetic diseases, e.g. Glucose-Galactose- Malabsorption that is caused by defects in the intestinal Na+/glucose cotransporter (SGLT). Patients with the disease are screened for mutations and then he seeks to unravel why the mutation causes defective sugar absorption. So far, he has identified missense, nonsense and splice-site mutations, and in the case of the missense mutations it appears that trafficking of the protein to the plasma membrane is impaired. More recently, Dr. Wright is elucidating the importance of SGLTs in the human physiology of glucose homeostasis and metabolism using Positron Emission Tomography (PET).