Molecular pharmacology of neuronal nicotinic acetylcholine receptors

Professor Neil S. Millar
Professor of Molecular Pharmacology
Tel: +44 (0)20 7679 7241
Fax. +44 (0)20 7679 7245

Lab Members:

  • JasKiran Gill
  • Dr Mirel Puinean
  • Toby Collins
  • Dr Stuart Lansdell
  • Anna Chatzidaki
For further information about the Millar lab see:


Professor Neil S. Millar studied Biochemistry at Manchester University and subsequently received a PhD from Newcastle University. He has worked as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Cambridge University and Yale University. He joined the UCL Pharmacology Department in 1993 as Wellcome Trust Senior Research Fellow. In 2007 he was appointed as Professor of Molecular Pharmacology. He is currently Vice-Dean (Enterprise) for the UCL Faculty of Life Sciences.

Current Research

Research in Professor Millar's group is aimed at gaining a better understanding of the molecular and cell biological properties of neurotransmitter receptors and ion channels. A current focus of research is the family of neuronal nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (neuronal nAChRs). In contrast to the nAChR which is expressed at the mammalian neuromuscular junction and which is one of the best characterized neurotransmitter receptors, considerably less is known about the structural and functional properties of nAChRs expressed in the mammalian central and peripheral nervous system.

Neuronal nAChRs are responsible for mediating the addictive properties of nicotine and have been implicated as playing a role in learning, memory and in several neurological disorders (including epilepsy, schizophrenia and Alzheimer's disease). Nicotinic receptors (in insects) are also targets for the recently developed class of neonicotinoid insecticides A variety of neuronal nAChRs (and other neurotransmitter receptors) are being studied in our group, including those which have been cloned from vertebrates (rat and human) and invertebrates (such as the fruit fly Drosophila and insect pest species).

Our main experimental approach is to use molecular and cell biological techniques to examine the properties of cloned receptors and ion channels expressed in transfected cultured cell lines. The properties of these recombinant receptors are also being compared to those of native receptors expressed in cultured neuronal cells. Our current research is focussed, in particular, upon allosteric modulation of neuronal nAChRs and on factors influencing their maturation and intracellular trafficking.