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Indiana University Bloomington

Alex Straiker

Dr. Alex Straiker

Associate Scientist


straiker [at]

office: MSBII 110 | (206)850-2400

lab: Cannabinoid Physiology Lab


Physiology of cannabinoid receptors in neurons, cannabinoids in synaptic transmission, cannabinoids in ocular health

Educational Background

  • 2001 Ph.D., UC San Diego
  • 1997 B.S., University of Washington
  • 1988 BA, University of Washington

Area of Study

  • Neuroscience

Research Statement

The central goal of my research has been to characterize cannabinoid signaling in the brain. Exogenous cannabinoids are important drugs of abuse and have a role in human history dating back thousands of years. Only recently have we begun to learn how cannabinoids actually work in
the body. Cannabinoid CB1 receptors are nearly ubiquitous in the CNS, by some counts the most numerous G protein-coupled receptors in the brain. They are involved in many important brain functions including (un-)learning and memory, epilepsy, motor control, vision, and probably
much more. Much has been learned recently about the mechanisms by which cannabinoids act at the cellular level, but despite the detail, the picture is far from complete. By all accounts, CB1 receptors are part of a complex web of transporters, enzymes for production and breakdown of endocannabinoids, and signaling molecules, each subject to modulation. The precise workings of endocannabinoid signaling, and even the identity of the endocannabinoid at a given synapse, generally remain an open question. My primary approach is to use electrophysiology in combination with molecular biology, anatomy, endocannabinoid measurement, and microarray analysis to investigate specific mechanisms of cannabinoid signaling and their roles in health and disease.

Representative Publications

1. Atwood B, Lee D, Straiker A, Widlanski TS, Mackie K. CP47,497-C8 and JWH073, commonly found in 'Spice' herbal blends, are potent and efficacious CB1 cannabinoid receptor agonists. In Press. European Journal of Pharmacology.

2. Straiker A, Wager-Miller J, Mackie K. Differential signaling in human cannabinoid CB1 receptors and their splice variants in autaptic hippocampal neurons. In press. British Journal of Pharmacology.

3. Straiker A, Wager-Miller J, Mackie K. CB1 receptor desensitization in a neuronal culture model of endogenous cannabinoid signaling. In Press. British Journal of Pharmacology.

4. Straiker A, Hutchens M, Hu S, Wager-Miller J, Mackie K. COX-2 and FAAH can inducibly control DSE recovery time course in murine autaptic hippocampal neurons. In Press. British Journal of Pharmacology.

5. Atwood B, Lopez J, Wager-Miller J, Mackie K, Straiker A. Expression of G protein-coupled receptors and related proteins in HEK293, AtT20, BV2, and N18 cell lines as revealed by microarray analysis. BMC Genomics. 2011: 12(1):14.

6. Hu S S-J, Arnold A, Hutchens J, Radicke J, Mackie K, Straiker A. Architecture of cannabinoid signaling in mouse retina. Journal of Comparative Neurology. 2010: 518(18):3848-3866.

7. Atwood B, Morgan D, Huffman J, Straiker A, Mackie K. JWH018, a common constituent of 'Spice' herbal blends, is a potent and efficacious CB1 cannabinoid receptor agonist. British Journal of Pharmacology. 2010: 160(3):585-93.

8. Straiker A, Hu SSJ, Arnold A, Wager-Miller J, Mackie K. Monoacylglycerol lipase terminates DSE in autaptic hippocampal neurons. Molecular Pharmacology. 2009: 76(6):1220-1227.

9. Kellogg R, Mackie K, Straiker A. Cannabinoid CB1 Receptor-Dependent Long Term Depression in Autaptic Excitatory Neurons. Journal of Neurophysiology. 2009: 102(2):1160-71.

10. Straiker A, Mackie K. Cannabinoid signaling in inhibitory autaptic hippocampal neurons. Neuroscience. 2009: 163(1):190-201.

11. Moussaieff A., Rimmerman N, Bregman T, Straiker A, Felder C, Shoam S, Kashman Y, Huang S, Lee H, Shohami E, Mackie K, Caterina M, Fride E, Walker JM, Mechoulam R. Incensole acetate, a component of frankincense, elicits psychoactivity by activating TRPV3 channels.
FASEB Journal, 2008:22(8):3024-34.

12. Straiker A. Cannabinoids and their receptors. Encyclopedia of Life Sciences, A30, 2007.

13. Straiker A, Mackie K. Metabotropic suppression of excitation in autaptic hippocampal neurons. Journal of Physiology, 2007:578(3):773-785.

14. Straiker A, Mackie K. Cannabinoids, electrophysiology, and retrograde messengers: challenges for the next 5 years. AAPS J. 2006:8(2):E272-6.

15. Witting A, Chen L, Cudaback E, Straiker A, Walter L, Rickman B, Moller T, Brosnan C, Stella N. Experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis disrupts endocannabinoid-mediated neuroprotection.
PNAS 2006: 103(16):6362-6367.

16. Straiker AJ, Mackie K. Depolarization-induced suppression of excitation in murine autaptic hippocampal neurons. Journal of Physiology 2005:569(Pt 2):501-517.

17. Straiker AJ, Sullivan, JM. Cannabinoid receptor activation differentially modulates ion channels in photoreceptors of the tiger salamander. Journal of Neurophysiology 2003:89(5):2647-54.