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Dr. Linda M. Boland
Dr. Linda M. Boland
Professor of Biology
Director, Teaching and Scholarship Hub

Living cells are watery bags of chemicals surrounded by a membrane made of a double layer of lipids.  Ion channels are proteins that regulate the movement of ions from one side of the lipid bilayer to the other, thereby controlling the electrical activity of neurons.  A better understanding of how ion channels work is essential to understanding how the nervous system operates.

Our research interests are framed around two general themes. First, how is ion channel function modified by changes in the cellular environment? Specifically, we are investigating how bioactive lipids, derived from the cellular membrane itself, or naturally occurring steroid hormones, alter the function of voltage-gated ion channels. The ion channels do not work the same way all the time -- their function is dependent upon various endogenous modulators. We aim to understand how and why this interaction occurs, and determine the physiological significance of the changes in ion channel function. These changes impact nerve cell communication and processes such as learning and memory as well as the function of brain and heart in certain disease states. Second, we are interested in how ion channels in different life forms relate to one another, both structurally and physiologically. How did cellular excitability evolve and what molecular adaptations in ion channel structure and function were required to support electrical activity of cells and eventually allow the development of a nervous system? By studying ion channels cloned from the genome of sponges and jellyfish, we can better understand the evolutionary changes that have occurred in ion channel structure and function.

Current Projects

  • How membrane lipids impact ion channel function
  • Physiological regulation of channels by reactive oxygen species
  • Physiological regulation of channels by natural chemical compounds
  • The impact of ion channel regulation on action potential firing 

Current University of Richmond Research Students

  • Jean Patrick Gonzales (’22)
  • Nina Price (’23) 

University of Richmond Graduates (Partial List)

  • Herberth Balsells (D.O.)
  • Julian Butler (medical school)
  • Rachel Deitz (M.D./M.P.H)
  • Michelle Drzewiecki Gontasz (M.D.)
  • Bridgette Heine (graduate school)
  • Robert Heler (Ph.D., Rockefeller University)
  • Elizabeth Leggett (graduate school, Neuroscience, VCU)
  • Shriraj Patel (medical school)
  • Ariana Prinzbach (medical school)
  • Hannah Small (research, MIT)
  • Erica Yamamoto (medical school)
Grants and Fellowships

Extreme Science and Engineering Discovery Environment (XSEDE) high performance computing resources

Mednick Fellowship
American Physiological Society Research Career Enhancement Award
Research Grant from the Thomas and Kate Jeffress Memorial Trust
NSF Major Research Instrumentation Grant

Arts and Sciences Outstanding Research Mentor Award

* indicates undergraduate student co-author

Corbin-Leftwich, A.*, H. E. Small*, H. Robinson*, C. Villalba-Galea, L.M. Boland. (2018) A Xenopus oocyte model system to study action potentials.  Journal of General Physiology  doi:10.1085/jgp.201812146

Sparks, J.T., G. Botsko, D.R. Swale, L.M. Boland, S.S. Patel*, J.C. Dickens. (2018) Proteins mediating reception and transduction in chemosensory neurons in mosquitoes.  Frontiers in Physiology 9:1309. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2018.01309.

Tang, Q-Y., T.C. Larry*, K. Hendra*, E. Yamamoto*, J. Bell, M. Cui, D.E. Logothetis, and L.M. Boland.  Mutations in nature conferred a high affinity phosphatidylinositol 4,5-bisphosphate-binding site in vertebrate inwardly rectifying potassium channels.  (2015) Journal of Biological Chemistry 290: 16517-16529.

H. Yuan, C. Gao, Y. Chen, M. Jia, J. Geng, H. Zhang, Y. Zhan, L. M. Boland, H. An.  Divalent cations modulate TMEM16A calcium-activated chloride channels by a common mechanism (2013) Journal of Membrane Biology 246:893-902.

Heler R.*, J.K. Bell, and L.M. Boland (2013) Homology model and targeted mutagenesis identify critical residues for arachidonic acid inhibition of Kv4 channels. Channels 7:1-11

Wells, G.D.*, Q-Y Tang, R. Heler*, G.J. Tompkins-MacDonald, E.N. Pritchard*, S.P. Leys, D.E. Logothetis, and L.M. Boland (2012) A unique alkaline pH-regulated and fatty acid-activated tandem pore domain (K2P) potassium channel from a marine sponge. Journal of Experimental Biology 215: 2435-2444.

Boland, L.M., M. M. Drzewiecki*, G. Timoney*, and E. Casey*. (2009) Inhibitory effects of polyunsaturated fatty acids on Kv4 potassium channels. American Journal of Physiology (Cell Physiology) 296:C1003-C1014.

Tompkins-MacDonald, G.J., W.J. Gallin, O. Sakarya, B. Degnan, S.P. Leys and L.M. Boland. (2009)  Expression of a Poriferan potassium channel:  Insights into the evolution of ion channels in metazoans.  Journal of Experimental Biology.

Boland, L.M. and M.M. Drzewiecki. (2008) Polyunsaturated fatty acid modulation of voltage-gated ion channels.  Cell Biochemistry and Biophysics 52:59-84.


Small, H.E.*, A. Corbin-Leftwich, C. Villalba-Galea, L.M. Boland (2017) Using excitable oocytes to investigate the role of potassium channels in action potentials. Faculty for Undergraduate Neuroscience, Society for Neuroscience

Sinnott, J.*, B. Heine*, and L.M. Boland (2017) Investigating the effect of TREK activation by arachidonic acid.  Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students

Small, H.E.*, A. Corbin-Leftwich, C. Villalba-Galea, L.M. Boland (2017) Investigating the modulation of action potentials using excitable oocytes.  Beckman Scholars Conference

Heine, B.*, J. Sinnott*, L.M. Boland (2017) Investigating the effect of AKAP on TREK-1 activation by arachidonic acid.  Central Virginia Chapter of the Society for Neuroscience

Corbin, A., H.E. Small*, H. Robinson*, C. Villalba-Galea, and L.M. Boland (2017) A method to create excitability in Xenopus oocytes.  Central Virginia Chapter of the Society for Neuroscience

Small, H.E. *, A. Corbin*, C. Villalba-Galea, and L. M. Boland (2016) Differential regulation of action potentials by potassium channels.  Society for Neuroscience

Ph.D., University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
M.S., Old Dominion University
B.S., Lafayette College
Contact Information
B-325 Gottwald Center for the Sciences & 304 Boatwright Library
(804) 289-8571
(804) 289-8233 (Fax)
Areas of Expertise
Molecular Physiology
Ion Channels
Faculty Development