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Oliver Ernst


  • Program Co-Director
  • Molecular Architecture of Life


Oliver Ernst researches the receptors that are used in human nerve cell communication to send signals across membranes and control many functions, including vision, memory and learning. He is an expert on G-protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs), especially rhodopsins, a protein family in the retina of vertebrate animals that can detect visible and UV light. Using various spectroscopy techniques and X-ray crystallography, he works to understand the mechanisms of how these proteins interact with signal proteins, and the structures of GPCRs and rhodopsins in their inactive and active states.


  • Canada Excellence Research Chair in Structural Neurobiology
  • Anne and Max Tanenbaum Chair in Neuroscience at University of Toronto

Relevant Publications

  • Ye, L. et al. "Activation of the A2A adenosine G-protein-coupled receptor by conformational selection." Nature 533 (2016): 265–68.
  • Johnson, P.J. et al. "Local vibrational coherences drive the primary photochemistry of vision." Nature Chemistry 7 (2015): 980–86.
  • Kang, Y. et al. "Crystal structure of rhodopsin bound to arrestin by femtosecond X-ray laser." Nature 523 (2015): 561–67.
  • Ernst, O.P. et al. "Microbial and animal rhodopsins: Structures, functions, and molecular mechanisms." Chem. Rev. 114 (2014): 126–63.
  • Choe, H.W. et al. "Crystal structure of metarhodopsin II." Nature 471 (2011): 651–55.

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CIFAR is a registered charitable organization supported by the governments of Canada, Alberta, Ontario, and Quebec as well as foundations, individuals, corporations, and international partner organizations.

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