Dr. Bret Hughes

Bret A. Hughes, PhD

Emeritus Professor, Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences
Emeritus Professor, Molecular and Integrative Physiology
Office: 734-936-9547; Lab: 734-936-8548

Areas of Interest

Research Summary

Ion channels in the RPE

The retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) is a transporting cell layer that plays a critical role in vision. It helps control the composition and volume of the extracellular space surrounding the photoreceptor outer segments, which is necessary for retinal adhesion and normal photoreceptor function. Ion channels are important components of the transport pathways that carry out solute and fluid transport across the RPE. Dr. Hughes is performing research that will identify the biophysical properties of potassium, chloride and sodium channels so that we can better understand how they function in coordination with ion pumps and co-transporters. Using the patch-clamp technique to measure whole-cell currents in acutely dissociated RPE cells from bovine and human retina, his research group is characterizing ion conductances in terms of ion selectivity, voltage dependence, kinetics of activation and deactivation, and blocker sensitivity. This information provides a "fingerprint" that enables Dr. Hughes and his research team to extend these investigations to single channels and intact tissues.

In a related project, Dr. Hughes is pursuing the genetic code for inwardly rectifying potassium channels in the RPE and neural retina using molecular cloning techniques. Elucidation of the genetic code for these channels may provide more insight into their protein structure and regulation as well as their possible role in retinal disease.


  • Ph.D. - Transport Physiology of the RPE, University of California-Berkeley
  • Postdoctoral - Physiology, University of California-Berkeley and University of California-San Francisco

Published Articles or Reviews

Web Sites