Diana Bautista
Professor of Cell and Developmental Biology
Department of Molecular & Cell Biology, Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute
(510) 643-1794

Research Expertise and Interest

ion channels, sensory physiology, chemosensation, touch, thermosensation, somatosensory system


In mammals, the initial detection of noxious chemical, mechanical or thermal stimuli – a process referred to as nociception – is mediated by specialized somatosensory neurons called nociceptors. Surprising little is known about the molecules underlying nociception. How painful stimuli excite nociceptors and how injury changes sensitivity to touch and pain are open questions. Our current research focuses on elucidating the molecular mechanisms of somatosensory mechanotransduction. Because many forms of injury are accompanied by mechanical hypersensitivity, understanding the molecular basis of mechanosensation will help to elucidate chronic pain mechanisms. Despite its widespread importance, little is known about the molecular mechanisms that mechanosensitive neurons use to detect benign and harmful touch. We are using two approaches to identify the transduction events underlying somatosensory mechanotransduction. First, we are developing new tools for the functional analysis of somatosensory neurons. Second, in collaboration with Dr. Ken Catania (Vanderbilt U.), we are investigating the cellular and molecular basis of touch reception in star-nosed moles.

In Research News

October 3, 2013

Some 10 percent of the population suffers from eczema at some point in their lives. The chronic skin condition, for which there are no cures or good treatments, causes symptoms ranging from dry, flaky and itchy skin to flaming red rashes and, particularly in children, nasal allergies and asthma.

May 2, 2011

A new study of itch adds to growing evidence that the chemical signals that make us want to scratch are the same signals that make us wince in pain.

September 30, 2010

Three UC Berkeley faculty members - Diana Bautista, Amy Herr and Donald Rio - have been singled out as innovators by the National Institutes of Health and will receive special grants designed to fund "transformative research" that could lead to major advances in medical science.

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