Prof. Dr. Martina Düfer

© Dziemba

Topics of research

We focus on identification and characterization of novel targets for treatment and prevention of tpye 2 diabetes mellitus and metabolic syndrome. Ion channels of interest include Ca2+-regulated K+ channels, KATP channels, NMDA receptors and TRPM channels. We investigate the influence of novel ion channel modulators on signalling cascades regulating insulin release, mitochondrial networks and intracellular Ca2+ homeostasis. Furthermore, we aim to develop strategies to improve the ability of endocrine cells to get more resistant against oxidative stress. Our methodology covers electrophysiological techniques (patch-clamp, microelectrode array), real time fluorescence microscopy (TIRF, confocal), immunohistochemistry, hormone release assays and metabolic in vivo studies.

ChemBion project description

In view of the permanent increase in patients developing type 2 diabetes mellitus understanding of and interference with pathophysiological changes in the endocrine pancreas is very important. Intracellular Ca2+ is an essential messenger for physiological regulation of insulin secretion, but severely disturbs beta-cell function in case of misrouted balance or Ca2+ overload. Small molecules modulating Ca2+ influx itself or the effect of intracellular Ca2+ on other ion channels are promising compounds to either preserve beta-cell response, thereby extenuating disease progression, or to promote hormone secretion in the light of increased demand. NMDA receptors are currently under investigation as novel targets to influence insulin secretion. GluN2A or B subunits of the channel tetramer are responsible for high Ca2+ conductance. Expression of these subunits is reported for insulin-secreting cell lines and rat islets Our previous work showed that KCa-regulated channels of large (“BK channels”) and intermediate conductance (KCa3.1, “IK1 channels”) both influence beta-cells, but only the inhibition of KCa3.1 channels potentiates nutrient-stimulated insulin release. At present, it is unclear whether KCa3.1 is localised solely in the plasma membrane of beta-cells or also in intracellular organelles, e.g. mitochondria, as is known for other cells. Furthermore, the effects of diabetes on distribution or function of these channels are not known.
This project aims to clarify the regulatory role of KCa3.1 channels and NMDA receptors for Ca2+ homeostasis and to elucidate the potential of subtype-specific modulators for improvement of beta-cell function.

  • Curriculum vitae

      Prof. Dr. Martina Düfer

    Short biography

    2012 - present

    Full professor, Pharmacology and Toxicology, Institute of Pharmaceutical and Medicinal Chemistry, Dept. of Pharmacology, Westphalian Wilhelms University of Münster, Germany


    Temporary professorship, Pharmacology and Toxicology, Institute of Pharmacy, Martin-Luther University of Halle, Germany

    2007 - 2012

    Senior scientist (Akademische Rätin) and group leader, Dept. of Pharmacology, Clinical Pharmacy and Toxicology, Eberhard Karls University of Tübingen, Germany


    Habilitation (Venia legendi: Pharmacology and Toxicology)

    2004 - 2007

    Fellow of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, Institute of Pharmacy, Eberhard Karls University of Tübingen, Germany

    2001 - 2004

    Postdoctoral research fellow (group of Prof. Dr. G. Drews), Institute of Pharmacy, Dept. of Pharmacology, Clinical Pharmacy and Toxicology, Eberhard Karls University of Tübingen, Germany

    1997 - 2001

    Ph. D. studies (group of Prof. Dr. G. Drews), Institute of Pharmacy, Dept. of Pharmacology, Clinical Pharmacy and Toxikology, Eberhard Karls University of Tübingen, Germany


    Approbation, licence to practice as Pharmacist

    1996 - 1997

    Job training (practical year) at Boehringer Mannheim GmbH / Roche Diagnostics, Mannheim and at Zerrenner-Apotheke Pforzheim, Germany

    1991 - 1996

    Studies of pharmacy, Ruprecht-Karls University of Heidelberg, Germany

    Scientific awards and appointments

    2017 - present

    Board member of the “Center for Teaching in Higher Education” (Zentrum für Hochschullehre, ZHL), Universität Münster


    Call for a W2-professorship “Molecular Pharmacology”, Faculty of Medicine, Friedrich-Schiller University of Jena, Germany (declined)


    Ferdinand Bertram Award of the DDG (Deutsche Diabetes Gesellschaft)

    1999 - 2001

    Scholarship of the Landesgraduiertenförderung Baden-Württemberg


    Poster Award, Section „Pharmacology“, DGPT (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Pharmakologie und Toxikologie)

    Memberships in scientific organisations

    European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD)

    Deutsche Pharmazeutische Gesellschaft (DPhG)

    Deutsche Physiologische Gesellschaft (DPG)

    Deutsche Diabetes Gesellschaft (DDG)