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Baldomero Olivera

Distinguished Professor

Ph.D. California Institute of Technology

Graduate Program Membership:

Office/Building: Biol 115A
Phone: 801-581-8370
Olivera Lab:

Research Statement

Our research has focused on venomous marine snails, in particular, those that belong to the genus Conus ("cone snails"). Cone snails are highly specialized venomous predators. We estimate that there are over 100,000 pharmacologically-active peptides in the venoms of cone snails, and well over 2,000,000 natural products in the venoms of all venomous marine snails (in the superfamily Conoidea). The major research project in our laboratory is the discovery and characterization of these venom components, identification of their molecular targets, and an exploration of potential biomedical applications. The phylogeny of the genus Conus has been extensively analyzed, and the ~15-20 definable clades comprise species that specialize on either marine worms, other molluscs or fish as prey. The detailed molecular mechanisms that underlie the capture of fish by the fish-hunting cone snails has been elucidated in considerable detail by our laboratory; most (but not all) active components in these venoms are small peptides (12-30AA), and most of these are targeted to ion channels and receptors in the nervous system. One of the peptides that was isolated by a University of Utah undergraduate in our laboratory has become an approved drug for intractable pain. Recently, we have discovered a novel source of previously inaccessible venomous snails, providing access to a much greater chemical diversity.

Research Interests

General Interests
Specific Interests
  • Conus Peptides
  • Ion Channels
  • Evolution of Exogene Superfamilies
  • Chemical Ecology in the Marine Environment
  • Symbiosis of Bacteria and Marine Invertebrates
  • Neuropharmacology and Drug Development
  • Chemical Ecology

Selected Publications

  • Structural Basis for the Inhibition of Voltage-gated Sodium Channels by Conotoxin μO�-GVIIJ. Green BR, Gajewiak J, Chhabra S, Skalicky JJ, Zhang MM, Rivier JE, Bulaj G, Olivera BM, Yoshikami D, Norton RS. The Journal of biological chemistry. 2016; 291(13):7205-20.
  • Glycine-rich conotoxins from the Virgiconus clade. Espino SS, Dilanyan T, Imperial JS, Aguilar MB, Teichert RW, Bandyopadhyay P, Olivera BM. Toxicon : official journal of the International Society on Toxinology. 2016; 113:11-7.
  • Characterization of the complete mitochondrial genome of Conus tribblei Walls, 1977. Barghi N, Concepcion GP, Olivera BM, Lluisma AO. Mitochondrial DNA. Part A, DNA mapping, sequencing, and analysis. 2016; 27(6):4451-4452.
  • Therapeutic concentrations of varenicline in the presence of nicotine increase action potential firing in human adrenal chromaffin cells. Hone AJ, Michael McIntosh J, Rueda-Ruzafa L, Passas J, de Castro-Guer�n C, Bl�zquez J, Gonz�lez-Enguita C, Albillos A. Journal of neurochemistry. 2017; 140(1):37-52.
  • Hormone-like peptides in the venoms of marine cone snails. Robinson SD, Li Q, Bandyopadhyay PK, Gajewiak J, Yandell M, Papenfuss AT, Purcell AW, Norton RS, Safavi-Hemami H. General and comparative endocrinology. 2017; 244:11-18.

Courses Taught

  • Biol 3510: Biochemistry
  • Neusc 6010: Frontiers of Neuroscience