Biosciences Graduate Program

N. Charles Harata, MD, PhD


Associate Professor of Molecular Physiology and Biophysics

Contact Information

Primary Office: 5-512 BSB
Iowa City, IA 52242
Phone: 319-335-7820

Web: Publications via PubMed


MD, Tohoku University School of Medicine
PhD, Neuropathology, Tohoku University School of Medicine

Post Doctorate, Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, Department of Neurophysiology, Tohoku University School of Medicine
Post Doctorate, Department of Molecular & Cellular Physiology, Stanford University School of Medicine

Licensure and Certifications

National board of physicians, Japan
English Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG), National board of physicians, USA

Education/Training Program Affiliations

Department of Molecular Physiology and Biophysics PhD
Interdisciplinary Graduate Program in Neuroscience
Medical Scientist Training Program

Research Summary

My laboratory focuses on the study of synaptic transmission in the mammalian central nervous system. Synapses are the sites at which electrical signals that have been transmitted through presynaptic neurons are converted to chemical signals (neurotransmitter release). The neurotransmitter released at these sites induces responses in the postsynaptic neuron – in the form of both electrical and chemical signals (such as an increase in the intracellular calcium concentration). The efficiency of this two-step information flow during synaptic transmission is vital to the control of neural network activity, and we are currently focusing on two projects related to this control of synaptic transmission.

In one project, we are evaluating the fundamental parameters of neurotransmitter release from the presynaptic site, including: the amount of neurotransmitter loaded into synaptic vesicles, and the variability in the rate of neurotransmitter release. We study them by applying the electrophysiological technology, live-cell wide-field fluorescence imaging, super-resolution fluorescence imaging and electron microscopy to the cultured brain neurons of wild-type rodents.

In another project, we are elucidating the cellular pathophysiology of a movement disorder dystonia. Dystonia is characterized by involuntary skeletal muscle contractions and abnormal postures. It causes extensive deterioration of the patient's quality of life. In some patients, this condition becomes life threatening (dystonic storm), with excessive muscle contractions leading to an inability to swallow or breathe, and to skeletal muscle breakdown and multi-organ failure. Unfortunately, there is no effective cure, and treatment options are limited. Our study addresses the synaptic abnormalities in the brain, especially in the rates of synaptic vesicle recycling and neurotransmitter release, the regulation of intracellular calcium signals, and the structures of synapses and intracellular organelles.

Selected Publications

Show All

Iwabuchi S, Koh J, Harata C.  Acetylcholine-induced calcium transients are sensitized in central neurons associated with DYT1 dystonia.  J Physiol. 

Iwabuchi S, Kakazu Y, Koh J, Harata C.  Enhanced excitability in axons of central neurons with a mutation in dystonia-associated protein torsinA.  Neuron. 

Iwabuchi S, Koh J, Harata C.  Enhanced synaptic vesicle recycling in cultured striatal neurons of DYT1 dystonia mouse model.  J Physiol. 

Iwabuchi S, Koh J, Ho K, Harata C.  Gradients of surface-to-volume ratio and organellar density in neuronal dendrites.  Neuroscience. 

Iwabuchi S, Harata C.  Immunoreactivity of the dystonia-associated protein torsinA in the Golgi apparatus of cultured rodent glial cells.  Hum Mutat. 

Iwabuchi S, Kakazu Y, Koh J, Harata C.  Lack of changes in presynaptically silent glutamatergic and GABAergic synapses in neurons with a mutation in dystonia-associated protein torsinA.  J Physiol. 

Iwabuchi S, Koh J, Harata C.  Localization of dystonia-associated protein torsinA in Golgi apparatus of central neurons.  Hum Mutat. 

Iwabuchi S, Harata C.  Membrane potential imaging of cultured central neurons of mice using FluoVolt.  J Physiol. 

Koh J, Iwabuchi S, Huang Z, Harata C.  Rapid genotyping of animals followed by establishing primary cultures of brain neurons.  J Vis Exp. 

Iwabuchi S, Koh J, Harata C.  Structure of endoplasmic reticulum and mitochondria of central neurons with a mutation in dystonia-associated protein torsinA.  PLoS ONE. 

Date Last Modified: 11/18/2015 - 07:58:29