News Release

July 27, 2005

Contact: Carolyn Pennington, 860-679-4864

UConn Researchers Uncover Potential Functions of a Unique Protein That May Be Linked to Heart Disease and Strokes

FARMINGTON, CONN. – Researchers at the University of Connecticut Health Center have uncovered the potential function of a unique protein, called TRPM7, that may play a pivotal role in heart disease and strokes. The study is published in the August issue of The Journal of General Physiology.

“TRPM7 is different because it is both an ion channel and a protein kinase,” according to Dr. Lixia Yue, assistant professor in the Pat and Jim Calhoun Cardiology Center and lead author of the study. “But the physiological function of TRPM7, for the most part, has not been clear.”

A recent study showed that TRPM7 is responsible for neuronal cell death caused by anoxia, a lack of oxygen to the tissues of the body. But the question remained, what mechanism caused the activation of TRPM7? Yue and her fellow researchers found that low pH levels, typically found during an attack of the heart or brain due to a lack of oxygen, greatly increased TRPM7 activity.

“Finding out that low pH activates this channel will help us to figure out the real physiological function of this very unique channel protein,” said Yue. “By solving some of the mystery surrounding TRPM7, new drug treatments may be developed that will target the potentially damaging effects to the heart and brain.”

These findings have helped lay the groundwork for the current research into TRPM7. Health Center scientists are now studying how TRPM7 contributes to cardiac fibrogenesis, a pathological process that is involved in a variety of heart diseases, including hypertrophy, heart failure and sudden cardiac death.

Bruce Liang, M. D., Professor of Vascular Biology and Cardiovascular Medicine and Chairman of the Calhoun Cardiology Center said, “Dr. Yue’s research has captured the attention of the scientific community across the country and will be watched closely in the future for each new development.”

UConn Health includes the schools of medicine and dental medicine, the UConn Medical Group, University Dentists, and John Dempsey Hospital. Home to Bioscience Connecticut, UConn Health pursues a mission of providing outstanding health care education in an environment of exemplary patient care, research and public service. More information about UConn Health is available at

Note: News professionals are invited to visit the UConn Health Today news page ( for regularly updated news and feature stories, photos and media stories. News releases are archived at UConn Health news and information is also available on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.