User:Helen C. Lai

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What lies beyond?
What lies beyond?



  • UC San Francisco, Ph.D. in the Laboratory of Dr. Lily Jan
  • Postdoc in the Johnson Lab

Research Interests

Ion Channels
For my graduate work, I determined structural constraints for the hyperpolarized state of the six-transmembrane voltage-gated potassium (Kv) channel, KAT1, from Arabidopsis thaliana. I conducted a conditional lethal/second-site suppressor screen that identified mutations in close proximity as determined by the rescue of functional channels in a yeast growth assay. A structural model of Kv channel packing emerged from these constraints that withstands experimental verification. This model together with existing data lends mechanistic insight into the structure and mechanism of voltage-gated ion channels.

Developmental Neuroscience
I am currently trying to determine the transcriptional regulatory code and downstream targets of Atoh1, a basic helix-loop-helix (bHLH) transcription factor involved in differentiation and cell type specification of neurons in the spinal cord and cerebellum.


  • Lai H.C., Johnson J.E. Neurogenesis or neuronal specification: Phosphorylation strikes again! 2008. Neuron. 58(1):3-5. (Preview) PMID 18400155
  • Panteleeva I., Boutillier S., See V., Spiller D.G., Rouaux C., Almouzni G., Bailly D., Maison C., Lai H.C., Loeffler J.P., Boutillier A.L. HP1alpha guides neuronal fate by timing E2F-targeted genes silencing during terminal differentiation. 2007. EMBO J. 26(15): 3616-28. PMID 17627279
  • Grabe M.*, Lai H.C.*, Jain M., Jan Y.N., Jan L.Y. Structure prediction for the down state of a potassium channel voltage sensor. 2007. Nature. 445(7127): 550-553. * Equal contribution. PMID 17187053
  • Lai H.C., Jan L.Y. The distribution and targeting of neuronal voltage-gated ion channels. 2006. Nature Reviews Neuroscience. 7(7): 548-562. PMID 16791144
  • Lai H.C., Grabe M., Jan Y.N., Jan L.Y. The S4 voltage sensor packs against the pore domain in the KAT1 voltage-gated potassium channel. 2005. Neuron. 47(3):395-406. PMID 16055063
  • Serber Z., Lai H.C., Yang A., Ou H.D., Sigal M.S., Kelly A.E., Darimont B.D., Duijf P.H., Van Bokhoven H., McKeon F., Dötsch V. A C-terminal inhibitory domain controls the activity of p63 by an intramolecular mechanism. 2002. Mol. Cell Biol. 22(24):8601-11. PMID 12446779
  • Ou H.D., Lai H.C., Serber Z., Dötsch V. Efficient identification of amino acid types for fast protein backbone assignments. 2001. J. Biomol. NMR. 21(3):269-73. PMID 11775743

Contact info

Helen C. Lai
Department of Neuroscience
UT Southwestern Medical Center
5323 Harry Hines Blvd., NA 4-146
Dallas, TX 75390-9111

Lab 214-648-1874
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