Owen Hamill, PhD Associate Professor

HamillOwen 2017Department of Neuroscience, Cell Biology, & Anatomy
Room 2.202 Basic Science Building Route: 1069 | Tel: 409-772-5464 | Fax: (409) 772-3381 | ohamill@utmb.edu

Education and Training

PhD, University New South Wales, Sydney, Australia
Post-Doctoral, University of New South Wales, Sydney Australia
Post-Doctoral, Max Planck Institute Gattingen, West Germany
BS, Monash University, Melbourne, Australia

Research Interests

The mammalian brain is a mechanosensitive (MS) organ that responds to different mechanical forces ranging from intrinsic forces implicated in brain morphogenesis to extrinsic forces that can cause concussion and traumatic brain injury. However, little is known of the mechanosensors that transduce these forces. We have used cell-attached patch clamp recording to measure single MS channel currents and their effects on spike activity in identified mouse brain neurons. We find that both neocortical and hippocampal pyramidal neurons express MS cation channels, and most significantly, single channel currents can trigger spiking in these neurons. In a continuing effort, we are using ISH and IHC techniques to identify the MS molecules expressed in the brain under normal and pathological conditions.

We are also interested in the concept that the mechanical forces that develop within a proliferating tumor actually plays a role in modulating cancer progression. In particular, we have identified a specific MS membrane ion channel in human prostate tumor cells that transduces intrinsic mechanical forces into Ca2+ influx and in this way regulates prostate tumor cell migration and invasion. Furthermore, the gating mode of the channel displays plasticity with motile and nonmotile tumor cells showing different gating modes. Most significantly external mechanical forces can switch gating from a "nonmotile" to a "motile" gating mode. Our current research efforts are focused on identifying the specific molecular mechanisms that underlie this mechanosensory switch in channel gating.

Selected Publications

Hamill, O.P. and Martinac, B.A  Molecular Basis of Mechanotransduction in Living Cells. Physiol. Revs. 81: 685-740, 2001. 

Maroto, R. and Hamill, O.P. MscCa regulation of tumor cell migration and metastastis. Current Topics in  Membrane Transport. 485-509, 2007.

Maroto R., Kurosky, A. and Hamill, O.P. Mechanosensitive channels in human prostate tumor cells. Channels. 6: 290-307, 2012

Soria B., Navas, S., Hmadcha, A.and Hamill, O.P. Single Mechanosensitive and Ca2+-Sensitive Channel Currents Recorded from Mouse and Human Embryonic Stem Cells. J. Memb Biology. 2012: 246; 215-230, 2013.

Hamill, O.P., Patch Clamp technique. Encyclopedia of life Sciences. John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Chichester. pp.1-14, 2014.

Nikolaev, Y.A., Dosen, P.J., Laver, D.R., van Helde, D.F. and Hamill, O.P. Single mechanically-gated cation channel currents can trigger action potentials in neocortical and hippocampal pyramidal neurons. Brain Res. 1608, 1-13, 2015.

Nikolaev, Y.A., Dosen, P.J., Laver, D.R., van Helden, D.F. and Hamill, O.P. Biophysical factors that promote mechanically-induced action potentials in neocortical and hippocampal pyramidal neurons. Biophysical Society 60th Annual Meeting, Los Angeles 2016.

Wang, J., La, J.H. and Hamill, O.P. PIEZO1 Is Selectively Expressed in Small Diameter Mouse DRG Neurons Distinct From Neurons Strongly Expressing TRPV1. Frontiers in Molecular. Neurosci. 12, 178, 2019.

Wang, J. and Hamill, O.P.  Piezo2, a pressure sensitive channel is expressed in select neurons of the mouse brain: a putative mechanism for synchronizing neural networks by transducing intracranial pressure pulses.  BioRxiv preprint doi: https://doi.org/10.1101/2020.03.24.006452

Link to PubMed Publications