Ernest M. Wright

Position Titles:
Distinguished Professor, Physiology
Office: 53-357 CHS
Phone: 310-825-6905
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Wright was born and educated in Ireland. He earned his B.Sc. in Physiology and Chemistry from the University of London and his Ph.D. in Physiology at the University of Sheffield under the tutelage of Professor David Smyth FRS. He was a member of the faculty at Sheffield for two years prior to a Fellowship at Harvard where he studied with Jared Diamond, Peter Curran and Stanley Schultz in the Biophysics Laboratory headed by Arthur K. Solomon. In 1978 he was awarded a D.Sc. in Physiology from the University of London. In 1967 he joined the faculty of the Department of Physiology at UCLA School of Medicine headed by Wilfred Mommaerts. Wright served as Chair of Physiology between 1987 and 2000 and was awarded the Sherman M. Mellinkoff Distinguished Professorship in Medicine 1999. He was Visiting Professor at the Center for Advanced Studies at the National Polytechnic Institute in Mexico City in 1973, at the Max Planck Institute for Biophysics in Frankfurt in 1974-1975, and Queen Elizabeth College, London in 1977. He has served as Chair and member of the Physiology Study Section at the NIH, a member of the Eli Broiad Medical Foundation, and an advisor to the Swiss National Science Foundation, Boehringer Inglheim, Xenoport, and UCSF Center for the Structure of Membrane proteins.

Research Interests:

Our goals are to understand sodium-glucose cotransporters (SGLTs) from the atomic level to their physiological roles in humans. These transporters (SGLTs) are responsible for the active transport of glucose into cells and glucose sensing in the body. We study the structure and function of human and bacterial SGLTs using a combination of biophysical, biochemical, molecular dynamic, and genetic techniques to unravel how these molecular machines convert the energy stored in sodium gradients to drive the uphill transport of solutes. The SGLTs are expressed Escherichia coli, cultured cell lines and Xenopus laevis oocytes for biophysical studies or for the isolation of protein for biochemical and structural determinations in collaboration with the Abramson laboratory. We are also interested in how mutations in SGLT genes cause defects in intestinal and renal glucose transport, i.e., Glucose Galactose Malabsorption and Familial Renal Glucosuria.

The SGLT genes are expressed not only in the intestine and kidney but throughout the body, including brain. To explore their function, we have developed, in collaboration with the Barrio group, methods to image SGLTs in animal and human subjects using Positron Emission Tomography (PET). By studying SGLT knockout mice, healthy human subjects, patients with inherited disorders and cancers we are working to parse out the function of the SGLTs throughout the body. Specifically, we study how SGLT inhibitors can be used to treat patients with diabetes and cancer.


2013 Plenary Lecturer, German Kongress fur Nephrologie, Berlin
2013 Member of the National Academy of Sciences
2012 Distinguished Service Award, Chairs of Departments of Physiology
2012 Homer W Smith Award, American Society for Nephrology
2006 Member of the German Academy of Science (Leopoldina)
2006 101st UCLA Faculty Researcher Lecturer
2006 Honorary Member of the Physiology Society (UK)
2005 Fellow of the Royal Society (UK)
2005 Fellow of the Biophysical Society
2005 Plenary Lecturer, 84th Annual Meeting of the German Physiol. Soc.
2004-present Distinguished Professor of Physiology (UCLA)
2004 Janssen/Am. Gastroenterology Society Achievement Award
2000 Horace W. Davenport Distinguished Lecturer, Exp. Biol. 2000,
1999-present Sherman Mellinkoff Distinguished Chair in Medicine (UCLA)
1998 Pfizer Lecture, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.
1992 Morton Grossman Lecturer, Leuven, Belgium
1990 G.W. Harris Memorial Lecture, British Physiological Society
1989-present Who's Who in America
1989 Smith, Kline and French Prize for G.I. Research, Am.Physiol Soc.
1989 Walter B. Cannon Lecturer, Am Physiol. Soc.
1987 Citation Classic, Institute for Scientific Information (Diamond & Wright, 1969, cited over 495 times)
1985-1992 Senator Jacob K. Javits Neuroscience Investigator Award