Caron Interview

In the early 60s, Dr. Caron became interested in the sciences while attending Laval University in Quebec. In this decade, steroid metabolism was at the forefront of biomedical research. This field within biochemistry prompted Dr. Caron to attend the University of Miami where he received his Ph.D. Following his time at U Miami, Dr. Caron sought a postdoctoral fellowship and ended up with Dr. Bob Lefkowitz at Duke. It was during this time that Dr. Caron’s research really began to evolve.

The main focus of Dr. Lefkowitz’s lab has always primarily been GPCRs, the largest and most diverse group of membrane receptors in eukaryotes. GPCRs are distributed widely in the human body, with notable examples including rhodopsin (in the eye), taste receptors such as sweet and bitter, adrenergic receptors (i.e. beta-adrenergic receptors involved in the flight-or-fight response), and other transmitter/hormone receptors (including for dopamine and endogenous opioids). Dr. Caron spent most of his time with Dr. Lefkowitz attempting to purify these receptors and found success in 1986 with the beta-adrenergic receptor. At this time, the homology between different GPCR receptor subtypes was discovered to be extremely close. In other words, the mechanism of action of the beta-adrenergic receptor closely mirrors that of a dopamine receptor, for example.

Nowadays, the focus of the Caron lab is GPCR cell signaling with emphasis placed on neuropsychiatric disorders like schizophrenia and Parkinsons. These disorders are largely a result of neurotransmitter imbalances (amongst other things) such as dopamine with schizophrenia. Thus, by studying receptors such as the dopamine receptors and their subsequent effects (i.e. with known or newly developed drugs), it is our hope to further our understanding of GPCRs to combat such disorders. In fact, 40-50% of drugs on the market specifically target GPCRs. However, many other GPCR subtypes remain to be tested within the realm of this exciting field.

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