Dr. Tao Na received his Ph.D. degree in Clinical Pharmacy from the Pharmaceutical University in China. He joined Dr. Ji-Bin Peng's laboratory at UAB as a postdoctoral scholar in 2007. Dr. Na initially studied calcium transport and regulation in the kidney.. He and his colleagues found that an African-specific variation in the epithelial calcium channel TRPV5 increases the calcium transport activity. More recently, Dr. Na focused on how the disease-causing mutations in WNK4, a protein kinase associated with a Mendelian form of hypertension, disrupt the regulation of WNK4. His studies provide novel insights into how mutations in WNK4 alter its biochemical properties and ultimately result in disease. Dr. Na completed his postdoctoral research in January, 2012. He is currently working as an investigator at the National Institutes for Food and Drug Control in China.
The main research interest of Dr. Peng's lab is the molecular mechanisms of calcium transport pathways. Specifically, the focus is on the physiological roles of epithelial calcium channels (TRPV5 and TRPV6) in calcium absorption and reabsorption and on how they are regulated under physiological and disease conditions. In addition, research efforts in Dr. Peng's lab are also directed to the regulation of WNK4 kinase, which is an integrative regulator of renal electrolyte transport pathways. This lab has developed an in vitro kinase assay for WNK4, and is currently working on how the kinase activity and protein stability of WNK4 are regulated in response to physiological signals. These studies are expected to eventually lead to new therapeutic strategies for disorders in renal electrolyte transport.