Primary Department Affiliation: Cell, Developmental and Integrative Biology
Primary Research Area: Ion Channels and Synaptic Function
Kevin L. Kirk (b. 1954), Professor, completed undergraduate studies in Psychobiology at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa (B.A., 1976) and did graduate work in Physiology and Biophysics at the University of Iowa (Ph.D., 1981). He came to UAB in 1981 as a postdoctoral fellow and joined the Department of Physiology and Biophysics in 1984. Dr. Kirk has received several awards for his research including the Karlin Henze Memorial Award for Cystic Fibrosis Research; a Searle Scholar Award and an Established Investigatorship from the American Heart Association.
Our research centers on the epithelial chloride channel (CFTR) that is encoded by the gene that is defective in cystic fibrosis. This chloride channel is implicated in two major human diseases: cystic fibrosis (low CFTR activity in lung) and secretory diarrhea (excessive CFTR activity in gut). We have identified novel CFTR binding proteins that govern the functional activity of this chloride channel in epithelial tissues. In addition, we are investigating how CFTR channel gating is controlled by interactions among the various cytoplasmic domains of this ion channel. Each of these interactions is a potential target for physiologic and pharmacologic manipulation of CFTR channel activity. By defining the functional relevance and structural basis of each of these intermolecular and intramolecular interactions, we hope to develop new strategies for treating diseases such as cystic fibrosis and diarrhea.