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Peoria researcher awarded $750,000 grant from National Science Foundation


Eleonora Zakharian, Ph.D., with the University of Illinois College of Medicine Peoria, was awarded a $750,000 grant from the National Science Foundation for a three-year project entitled “Rapid testosterone signaling receptor TRPM8 regulates sexual reward and satiety.”

Testosterone is an essential steroid hormone that regulates the development of the male reproductive system and the dimorphic sexual behaviors in all vertebrates. Testosterone stimulates protein synthesis by activating genomic pathways. The activation of these genomic pathways is a time dependent process that is completed within hours. Testosterone also causes rapid actions that occur within minutes. The rapid signaling induced by testosterone affects numerous behaviors of animals, including sexual behavior, aggression, and fear. However, the molecular mechanisms underlying rapid testosterone actions and how it affects reproductive behaviors are not clearly understood.

A recent discovery by Zakharian’s laboratory identified a unique testosterone receptor on the cell surface that is responsible for rapid testosterone actions. This research will investigate the intricate details of this rapid testosterone signaling mechanism and reveal its role in sexual and social behaviors in rodents. The project will assess how rapid signaling through testosterone receptor regulates steroid synthesis, sexually dimorphic behaviors, and regarding aspects of these behaviors. The research also aims to enhance the educational basis in understanding organismal differences during development.

Zakharian is associate professor in the Cancer Biology and Pharmacology Department.