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Burt Sharp, MD

Van Vleet Professor
Department of Pharmacology

Center for Neurobiology of Brain Disease

The University of Tennessee Health Science Center
874 Union Avenue
Memphis, TN 38163
Phone: 901.448.6000
Fax: 901.448.7300
Lab: 115 Crowe Research Building
Email: Burt Sharp


  • MD Institution: University of Cincinnati


Research Interests

This research program has dual foci involving (1) the basic neuro-chemistry and molecular neurobiology of nicotine and (2) cellular and biochemical approaches to understand the action of opioid peptides on the immune system.

The nicotine research uses in vivo microdialysis coupled with measurements of biogenic amines and excitatory amino acids to understand both the neurochemical basis for addiction to nicotine and the beneficial therapeutic effects of nicotinic agonists on hypothalamic and hippocampal function. In many of these studies, nicotine is delivered acutely through intra-jugular catheters and cannulae that are chronically implanted in specific CNS sites. Animals also learn to self-administer nicotine through operant conditioning that mimics human smoking. In vivo microdialysis in these self-administering animals permits analysis of changes in brain neurochemistry and direct correlation of these with drug-dependent behavior. Using RT-PCR, analyses are made of specific gene expression in micropunched areas of brain. Similarly, in situ hybridization analyses are used to characterize the effects of nicotine self-administration on short and longterm changes in CNS gene expression.

Dr. Sharp's research on opioid immunobiology seeks to understand the cellular and molecular basis for the modulatory effects of opiates and opioid peptides on lymphocytes, specifically T-cells. Using fluorescence flow cytometry and RT-PCR, his lab is characterizing the expression of delta opioid receptors on specific subsets of T lymphocytes. Biochemical and immunological approaches (e.g., immunoprecipitation, Western immunoblotting, receptor binding, etc.) are used to elucidate the signal transduction pathways that mediate the anti-proliferative actions of delta opioid receptors on T-cells. Their current focus is on the role of mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPKs) in opioid signaling, as this pertains to the effects of opioids on MAPK-dependent interleukin-2 production.

Representative Publications

  • Sharp BM, Chen H. Neurogenetic determinants and mechanisms of addiction to nicotine and smoked tobacco. Eur J Neurosci. 2019 Aug;50(3):2164-2179. doi: 10.1111/ejn.14171. Epub 2018 Oct 25. Review. PubMed PMID: 30256469.
  • Sharp BM. Basolateral amygdala, nicotinic cholinergic receptors, and nicotine: Pharmacological effects and addiction in animal models and humans. Eur J Neurosci. 2019 Aug;50(3):2247-2254. doi: 10.1111/ejn.13970. Epub 2018 Aug 31. Review. PubMed PMID: 29802666.
  • Sharp BM. Basolateral amygdala and stress-induced hyperexcitability affect motivated behaviors and addiction. Transl Psychiatry. 2017 Aug 8;7(8):e1194. doi: 10.1038/tp.2017.161. Review. PubMed PMID: 28786979; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC5611728.
  • Yu G, Sharp BM. Basolateral amygdala and ventral hippocampus in stress-induced amplification of nicotine self-administration during reacquisition in rat. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2015 Aug;232(15):2741-9. doi: 10.1007/s00213-015-3911-4. Epub 2015 Mar 15. PubMed PMID: 25772339.
  • Yu G, Chen H, Sharp BM. Amplified reacquisition of nicotine self-administration in rats by repeated stress during abstinence. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2014 Aug;231(16):3189-95. doi: 10.1007/s00213-014-3501-x. Epub 2014 Feb 21. PubMed PMID: 24557090; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4892371.
  • Chen H, Luo R, Gong S, Matta SG, Sharp BM. Protection genes in nucleus accumbens shell affect vulnerability to nicotine self-administration across isogenic strains of adolescent rat. PLoS One. 2014 Jan 22;9(1):e86214. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0086214. eCollection 2014. PubMed PMID: 24465966; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3899218.

View more references (pubmed link)

May 26, 2022