Karen Castillo

Karen Castillo
Estructura y función de sensores moleculares

Young Research Scientist

Research area: ion channels biophysics and physiology

Laboratory of Molecular Sensors. Centro Interdisciplinario de Neurociencia de Valparaíso,

Facultad de Ciencias, Universidad de Valparaíso, Chile.
Principal Investigator: Dr. Carlos González (carlos.gonzalezl@uv.cl)

B.S Biotechnology, University of Chile ( 2003 )
Molecular Biotechnology Engineer, University of Chile ( 2005 )
PhD in Sciences, University of Chile ( 2008 )

Research Statement:
Cells sense the environment conditions through diverse molecular machines, to adapt their functioning to changing surrounding conditions, from nutrient starvation to temperature variations. To accomplish this, cells are enabled with proteins that transduce chemical or physical variations in particular cell activities such as autophagy and ion channels activation. Both, are altered in pathological conditions including cancer, diabetes and neurodegeneration. My challenge is to understand the role of temperature dependent channels (e.g. TRPM8, TRPV1) in normal physiological conditions and in pathological models, with emphasis in the role of temperature sensors harbored in the ion channels, with the activation of intracellular pathways, particularly autophagy. I envisioned that the precise identification of these molecular sensors, and the understanding of their function and regulation offer great potential for developing novel therapeutic targets against medical conditions.


  1. Sara T Granados, Karen Castillo, Felipe Bravo, Romina Sepulveda, Danilo GonzalezNilo, Janneth Gonzalez, Yolima P Torres and Ramon Latorre. BK channel modulation by 17β-estradiol is related through direct binding to β1 auxiliary subunit. Under preparation.
  2. Ramírez-Barrantes R, Cordova C, Muñoz P, Simon, F, Martinez A, Gonzalez, C, Castillo K, Latorre R, Olivero P. 2016. 17b-Estradiol improves TRPV1-dependent cell protection against oxidative cell death. Submitted.
  3.  Amauy Pupo, David Baez-Nieto, Ester Otarola, Karen Castillo, Feng Qiu, Gustavo F. Contreras, German Miño, Wendy Gonzalez, Osvaldo Yañez, Alan Neely, Peter H Larsson, Ramon Latorre and Carlos Gonzalez. 2016. Permeation mechanism of Hv1 voltage-gated proton cannel. Submitted.
  4. Karen Castillo, Vicente Valenzuela, Maritza Oñate, and Claudio Hetz. 2016. A molecular reporter for monitoring autophagic flux in nervous system in vivo. Methods in Enzymology, Accepted
  5. Ramón Latorre, Karen Castillo, Willy Carrasquel-Ursulaez, Romina V. Sepulveda, Fernando González-Nilo, Carlos Gonzalez and Osvaldo Alvarez. 2016. Molecular determinants of BK cannel functional diversity and functioning. Physiological Reviews, Accepted.
  6. Castillo K, Contreras GF, Pupo A, Torres Y, Neely A, Gonzalez C and Latorre R. (2015) Molecular mechanism underlying β1 regulation in voltage- and calcium-activated potassium (BK) channels. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 112(15):4809-14
  7. Castillo K, Pupo A, Baez-Nieto D, Contreras G; Morera FJ, Neely A, Latorre R, Gonzalez C. (2015) Voltage-Gated Proton (Hv1) Channels, a Singular Voltage Sensing Domain. FEBS Letters . 589(22):3471-8
  8. Morera FJ, Baez-Nieto D, Lorenzo Y, Castillo K, Pupo A, Vargas-Chacoff L and Gonzalez C (2015) Role of ion channels in salt secretion by atlantic salmon gills during acclimation to seawater. Physiological Mini Reviews, 8(1)
  9. Morera FJ, Saravia J, Pontigo JP, Vargas-Chacoff L, Contreras GF, Pupo A, Lorenzo Y, Castillo K, Tilegenova C, Cuello LG, Gonzalez C. (2015) Voltage-dependent BK and Hv1 channels expressed in non-excitable tissues: new therapeutics opportunities as targets in human diseases. Pharmacol Res. Nov;101:56-64. Review
  10. Nassif M, Valenzuela V, Rojas-Rivera D, Vidal R, Matus S, Castillo K, Fuentealba Y, Kroemer G, Levine B, Hetz C. (2014) Pathogenic role of BECN1/Beclin 1 in the development of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.Autophagy. 2014 Jul;10(7):1256-71. doi: 10.4161/auto.28784
  11. Contreras GF, Castillo K, Enrique N, Carrasquel-Ursulaez W, Castillo JP, Milesi V, Neely A, Alvarez O, Ferreira G, Gonzalez C and Latorre R. (2013). A BK (Slo1) Channel Journey from Molecule to Physiology. Channels 7(6): 441-457.
  12. Castillo K, Nassif M, Mercado G, Valenzuela V, Rojas F, Court FA, Van Zundert B and Hetz C. (2013). Trehalose protects against ALS progression possibly through autophagy activation. Autophagy 9(9):1308-20
  13. Castillo K, Valenzuela V, Matus S, Nassif M, Oñate M, Fuentealba Y, Encina G, Irrazabal T, Parsons G, Court FA, Schneider BL, Armentano D and Hetz C. (2013). Masurement of autophagy flux in the nervous system in vivo. Cell Death Dis. 4:e917.
  14. Matus S, Castillo K, Hetz C. (2012). Hormesis: Protecting neurons against cellular stress in Parkinson´s disease. Autophagy 8(6):997-1001.
  15. Castillo K, Rojas-Rivera D, Lisbona F, Caballero B, Nassif M, Court FA, Schuck S, Ibar C, Walter P, Sierralta J, Glavic A, Hetz C. (2011). BAX inhibitor-1 regulates autophagy by controlling the IRE1α branch of the unfolded protein response. EMBO J 30:4465-78.
  16. Torres M, Castillo K, Armisén R, Stutzin A, Soto C, Hetz C. (2010). Prion protein misfolding affects calcium homeostasis and sensitizes cells to endoplasmic reticulum stress. PLoS One 5(12):e15658.
  17. Castillo K, Restrepo D, Bacigalupo J. 2010. Cellular and molecular Ca2+ microdomains in olfactory cilia support low signaling amplification of odor transduction. Eur J Neurosci 32(6):932-8.
  18. Nassif M, Matus S, Castillo K, Hetz C. 2010. Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis pathogenesis: a journey through the secretory pathway. Antioxid Redox Signal 13(12):1955-89.
  19. Saavedra MV, Smalla KH, Thomas U, Sandoval S, Olavarria K, Castillo K, Delgado MG, Delgado R, Gundelfinger ED, Bacigalupo J, Wyneken U. 2008. Scaffolding proteins in highly purified rat olfactory cilia membranes. Neuroreport 19(11):1123-6. 
  20. Castillo K, Delgado R, Bacigalupo J. 2007. Plasma membrane Ca2+-ATPase in the cilia of olfactory receptor neurons: possible role in Ca2+ clearance. Eur J
    Neurosci 26(9):2524-31.
  21. Muñoz P, Zavala G, Castillo K, Aguirre P, Hidalgo C, Núñez MT. 2006. Effect of iron on the activation of the MAPK/ERK pathway in PC12 neuroblastoma cells. Biol Res 39(1):189-90.
  22. Castillo K, Bacigalupo J, Wolff D. 2005. Ca2+-dependent K+ channels from rat olfactory cilia characterized in planar lipid bilayers. FEBS Lett 579(7):1675-82.

1. Melissa Nassif, Danilo medinas, Karen Castillo, Camila Gherardelli and Claudio Hetz. 2013. When the good turns bad: Challenges in the targeting of autophagy in neurodegenerative diseases. In Volume Series “Autophagy: Cancer, Other Pathologies, Infection, Inflammation and Immunity”. Elsevier/Academic Press. Edited by Eric Hayat.

Curriculum Vitae

Contact Information:
E-mail: karen.castillo at cinv.cl, karencitakc at gmail.com
Telephone: (56)-(32)-2508189 or -8088
Fax: (56)-(32)-250 1111
Address: Centro Interdisciplinario de Neurociencias de Valparaíso, Facultad de Ciencias, Universidad de Valparaíso. Gran Bretaña 1111. Playa Ancha, Valparaíso-Chile.

Leave a comment

Visit Us On FacebookVisit Us On TwitterVisit Us On Youtube