Neural Circuits, Neural Communication and Behaviour

Dale Lab, Neuroscience Research at the University of Warwick


Cx26 really is a receptor for CO2:
Brotherton, D.H., Savva, C., Ragan, T., Linthwaite, V., Cann, M., Dale, N. and Cameron, A.D. (2020) Conformational changes and channel gating induced by CO2 binding to Connexin26. bioRxiv 2020.08.11.243964

Effects of CO2 on Cx26 gap junctions:
Nijjar S., Maddison D., Meigh L., de Wolf E., Rodgers T., Cann M. and Dale N. (2020) Opposing modulation of Cx26 gap junctions and hemichannels by CO2 J Physiol

Cx26 contributes to control of breathing:
van de Wiel, J., Meigh, L., Bhandare, A., Cook, J., Nijjar, S., Huckstepp, R.T. and Dale, N. (2020) Connexin26 mediates CO2-dependent regulation of breathing via glial cells of the medulla oblongata. Communications Biology 3, 521

Tanycytes activate feeding:
Bolborea, M., Pollatzek, E., Benford, H., Sotelo-Hitschfeld, T. and Dale, N. (2020) Hypothalamic tanycytes generate acute hyperphagia through activation of the arcuate neuronal network. Proc Natl Acad Sci, 201919887, doi:10.1073/pnas.1919887117

Evolution of CO2 sensitivity in Cx26:
Dospinescu, V.M., Nijjar, S., Spanos, F., Cook, J., de Wolf, E., Biscotti, M.A., Gerdol, M. and Dale, N. (2019) Structural determinants of CO2-sensitivity in the β connexin family suggested by evolutionary analysis. Communications Biology 2, 331


The overall theme of our group is how neurons communicate with each other to achieve the desired neural function. Our work splits into two major areas: Neurophysiology and Technology development.


Neurophysiological studies

Our interests presently concentrate around the investigation of chemical signalling in the brain. One common theme is purinergic signalling by ATP and adenosine and its roles in several different functional contexts such as: centrally mediated chemosensitive reflexes involved in the control of breathing and arousal; signalling by hypothalamic tanycytes in the context of the control of body weight and food intake; homeostatic control of sleep; endogenous neuroprotective mechanisms in the brain; and during early development. Our work goes from structural biology of proteins through to study of function in physiological systems. We use a combination of electrophysiological, imaging and biosensing methods to study these problems.

Some of our work on CO2 sensing and hypothalamic tanycytes has featured in popular articles in Physiology News.

Technology development

We have an active program to provide novel analytical tools for neuroscience research. In particular we are developing microelectrode biosensors specific for a number of transmitters to enable better exploration of chemical signalling in the nervous system. We have concentrated on microelectrode biosensors for the purines and have formed the Warwick Biosensors Group to further this aim. We have also developed biosensors for other analytes (such as glutamate, lactate, D-serine, acetylcholine) and have developed a range of highly selective biosensors for clinical diagnostic purposes.

Banner illustration: puncta of Cx26 (red) on the surface of astrocytes (green) at the ventral surface of the medulla oblongata.