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Adrian Gross, MD

Adrian Gross, MD
Associate Professor

Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Discipline

Center for Proteomics and Molecular Therapeutics


  • MD, University of Geneva, 1992
  • Postdoc, Harvard University, 1993-1996
  • Postdoc/Assistant Research Ophthalmologist, UCLA, 1996-2001
  • Assistant Professor, Northwestern University, 2001-2011


Our lab studies the structure and function of ion channels, a family of membrane proteins that play many key roles in neuroscience and which are a major target of essential drugs used in clinical medicine. More than a third of all genes in a typical genome code for membrane proteins, yet we know very little about their structure and function. Because ion movement across membranes can be measured with exquisite sensitivity, ion channels have always been at the vanguard of functional studies of membrane proteins, and as a consequence we have learned a great deal about how they function. Until recently, however, ion channels, like so many other membrane proteins, had proven very difficult to study at the structural level. Recent high-resolution descriptions of several ion channels have opened up the field of structure-function in ion channels, and we are now in a position to ask detailed questions about how function is achieved through structure in this essential class of proteins. How do voltage-dependent ion channels sense the membrane potential? Through what structural rearrangements do these channels achieve voltage-dependent ion flow across the membrane? How can highly dynamic proteins maintain such outstanding control of what sorts of ions are allowed to pass? These are some of the questions that we attempt to answer. The lab uses both structural and functional approaches to address these questions. The main structural techniques that we employ are X-ray crystallography and site-directed spin labeling, an emerging and powerful structural technique that is not limited to static structure, but instead is also capable of resolving dynamic structural changes that occur during function. Given the highly dynamic nature of membrane proteins, it is essential that the structural technique used to study them be capable of resolving dynamic structural changes. Our main functional approach is electrophysiology. With electrophysiology, ion channels can be studied in real time as they undergo the structural rearrangements necessary for function. By combining these powerful and yet complimentary techniques we are taking a multi-pronged approach to the long-term goal of achieving a mechanistic understanding of ion channel function.


  • Adrian Gross (2015) Bending membranes into different shapes. Structure 23: 803-804. [medline]
  • Dylan Burdette and Adrian Gross (2015) Spin Labeling of Potassium Channels. Methods in Enzymology 564: 389-400. [medline]
  • Michael Lenaeus, Dylan Burdette, Tobias Wagner, Pamela Focia, and Adrian Gross (2014) Structures of KcsA in complex with symmetrical quaternary ammonium compounds reveal a hydrophobic binding site. Biochemistry 53: 5365-5373. [medline]
  • John Cieslak, Pamela Focia, and Adrian Gross (2010). Electron spin echo envelope modulation (ESEEM) reveals water and phosphate interactions with the KcsA potassium channel. Biochemistry 49: 1486-1494. [medline]
  • Michael Lenaeus and Adrian Gross (2009). Potassium channels. ‚"The Handbook of Metalloproteins", edited by Albrecht Messerschmidt. John Wiley & Sons Ltd.
  • Junlong Shao, John Cieslak, and Adrian Gross (2009). Generation of a calmodulin-based EPR calcium sensor. Biochemistry 48: 639-644. [medline]
  • Magdalini Vamvouka, John Cieslak, Ned van Eps, Wayne Hubbell, and Adrian Gross (2008). The structure of the lipid-embedded potassium channel voltage sensor determined by double-electron-electron resonance spectroscopy. Protein Science 17: 506-517. [medline]
  • Michael Lenaeus, Magdalini Vamvouka, Pamela Focia, and Adrian Gross (2005). Structural basis of TEA blockade in a model potassium channel. Nature Structural & Molecular Biology 12: 454-459. [medline]
  • Brent Kelly and Adrian Gross (2003). Potassium channel gating observed with site-directed mass tagging. Nature Structural Biology 10: 280-284. [medline]
  • Adrian Gross and Wayne Hubbell (2002). Identification of protein side chains near the membrane-aqueous interface: a site-directed spin labeling study of KcsA. Biochemistry 41: 1123-1128. [medline]
  • Johannes le Coutre, Julian P. Whitelegge, Adrian Gross, Eric Turk, Ernest M. Wright, Kym Faull, and H. Ronald Kaback (2000). Proteomics on full length membrane proteins using mass spectrometry. Biochemistry 39: 4237-4242. [medline]
  • Adrian Gross, Linda Columbus, Kalman Hideg, Christian Altenbach, and Wayne Hubbell (1999). Structure of the KcsA potassium channel from Streptomyces lividans: A site-directed spin labeling study of the second transmembrane segment. Biochemistry 38: 10324-10335. [medline]
  • Wayne Hubbell, Adrian Gross, Ralf Langen, and Michael Lietzow (1998). Recent advances in site-directed spin labeling of proteins. Current Opinion in Structural Biology 8: 649-656.[medline]
  • Adrian Gross and Roderick MacKinnon (1996). Agitoxin footprinting the Shaker potassium channel pore. Neuron 16: 399-406. [medline]
  • Adrian Gross, Tatiana Abramson, and Roderick MacKinnon (1994). Transfer of the toxin receptor to an insensitive potassium channel. Neuron 13: 961-966. [medline]
  • Jan Tytgat, Ken Nakazawa, Adrian Gross, and Peter Hess (1993). Pursuing the voltage sensor of a voltage-gated mammalian potassium channel. Journal of Biological Chemistry 268: 23777-23779. [medline]
  • Adrian Gross, Marc Ballivet, Duri Rungger, and Daniel Bertrand (1991) Neuronal nicotinic acetylcholine receptors expressed in Xenopus oocytes: role of the subunit in agonist sensitivity and desensitization. Pflügers Archiv 419: 545 - 551. [medline]