Dr. Leigh Anne Swayne

Dr. Leigh Anne Swayne
Associate Professor

BSc (Guelph), PhD (Calgary)

Office: Medical Sciences Building, room 224

Ion Channels: Molecular Determinants of Health and Disease in the Head and Heart

The brain and heart share the "spark of life".

While they are vastly different in many respects, in order to function properly, both the brain and the heart rely on large, complicated proteins called ion channels. These proteins facilitate the controlled flow of ions in and out of cells by forming pores that stud cellular membranes.

Specialized brain cells called neurons utilize ion channels and the resulting electrical signals that they generate to communicate with one another. A repertoire of different ion channels also shape the birth, growth and development of neurons. During brain injury, ion channel activity can render populations of neurons vulnerable to damage. However, following injury, ion channels can also sensitize surviving neurons and modify their structure and function in ways that allow them to respond, adapt and promote repair. Similarly, the electrical activity underlying the coordinated beating of heart muscle cells is generated by the concerted actions of a cohort of ion channels.

It follows that mutations in the proteins that form ion channels can manifest in a spectrum of clinical neurological and heart conditions.

I combine my expertise in ion channel biochemistry, cell biology, electrophysiology, and systems biology, along with key collaborations, to bridge critical knowledge gaps in the understanding of ion channel function and dysfunction in the brain and heart.

  • My major focus has been the cell biology of pannexin ion channels and their role in neuronal development and injury-triggered plasticity.
  • In collaboration with a group at the University of Ottawa, I am also studying how probenecid, a drug that stops the function of pannexins, impacts on stroke recovery.
  • To "cast a wider net" to identify novel ion channel regulators of developmental and injury-triggered neuronal plasticity, my lab is combning basic biochemistry with cutting edge expertise at the UVic Genome BC Proteomics Centre.
  • My expertise in unraveling the cell biology of several other types of ion channels over the course of my research career has led me to develop collaboration with the BC Community Genetics Research Program. In this partnership with Dr. Laura Arbour, I am investigating the cell biological underpinnings of clinically relevant ion channel mutations.
Swayne Lab Publications (see PubMed for links):

  1. Dilworth D, Gudavicius, G, Xu X, Boyce AKJ, O'Sullivan C, Serpa JJ, Bilenky M, Petrochenko EV, Borchers CH, Hirst M, Swayne LA, Howard P, Nelson CJ. (2018) The prolyl isomerase FKBP25 regulates microtubule polymerization impacting cell cycle progression and genomic stability. Nucleic Acids Res. 46(5):2459-2478 (original research).
  2. DeLalio L, Keller A, Chen J, Boyce AKJ, Artamonov M, Askew-Page H, Keller TC, Johnstone S, Weave R, Good M, Murphy S, Best A, Mintz E, Penuela S, Greenwood I, Avril Somlyo, Swayne LA, Minshall R, Isakson B (2018) Interaction Between Pannexin 1 and Caveolin-1 in Smooth Muscle Can Regulate Blood Pressure. Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology. 38: 2065–2078 (original research).
  3. Xu X, Wicki-Stordeur LE, Sanchez-Arias JC, Liu M, Weaver MS, Choi CSW, Swayne LA. (2018) Probenecid Disrupts a Novel Pannexin 1-Collapsin Response Mediator Protein 2 Interaction and Increases Microtubule Stability. Front Cell Neurosci. 12: 124 (original research). 
  4. Boyce AJK, Epp AL, Nagarajan A, Swayne LA (2018) Transcriptional and post-translational regulation of pannexins. Biochim Biophys Acta - Biomembranes. 1860(1):72-82 (review).

  5. Swayne LA, Boyce AKJ (2017) Regulation of Pannexin 1 Surface Expression by Extracellular ATP: Potential Implications for Nervous System Function in Health and Disease. Front Cell Neurosci. 11:230 (review).
  6. Gunton AN, Sanchez-Arias JC, Carmona-Wagner EO, Wicki-Stordeur LE, Swayne LA (2017) Upregulation of inflammatory mediators in the ventricular zone after cortical stroke. Proteomics Clin Appl. [Epub ahead of print] (original research).
  7. Boyce AKJ, Swayne LA (2017) P2X7 receptor crosstalk regulates ATP-induced pannexin 1 internalization. Biochem J. [Epub ahead of print] (original research).
  8. Swayne LA, Murphy NP, Asuri S, Chen L, Xu X, McIntosh S, Wang C, Lancione PJ, Roberts JD, Kerr C, Sanatani S, Sherwin E, Kline CF, Zhang M, Mohler PJ, Arbour LT. (2017) Novel Variant in the ANK2 Membrane-Binding Domain Is Associated With Ankyrin-B Syndrome and Structural Heart Disease in a First Nations Population With a High Rate of Long QT Syndrome. Circ Cardiovasc Genet. 10(1) (original research).

  9. Sanchez-Arias JC, Wicki-Stordeur LE, Swayne LA (2016) Perspectives on the role of Pannexin 1 in neural precursor cell biology. Neural Regen Res. 11(10):1540-1544 (review).
  10. Swayne LA, Sanchez-Arias J, Agbay A and Willerth S (2016) What Are Neural Stem Cells, and Why Are They Important? Front Young Minds. 4:20 (review for youth scientists, *not listed on pubmed or included in impact metrics).
  11. Swayne LA and Bennett SAL (2016) Connexins and Pannexins in neuronal development and adult neurogenesis. BMC Cell Biol, 24;17 Suppl 1:10 (review).
  12. Wicki-Stordeur LE, Sanchez-Arias JC, Dhaliwal J, Carmona-Wagner EO, Shestopalov VI, Lagace DC, Swayne LA (2016) Pannexin 1 differentially impacts neural precursor cell maintenance in the ventricular zone and peri-infarct cortex. J Neurosc, 36:1203-10. (original research).

  13. Boyce AKJ, Kim MS, Wicki-Stordeur LE, Swayne LA (2015) ATP stimulates Pannexin 1 internalization to endosomal compartments. Biochem J, 470:319-30 (original research).

  14. Swayne LA, Altier C, Zamponi GW. (2014) The truth in complexes: perspectives on ion   channel signaling nexuses in the nervous system. Front Cell Neurosci, 8:406 (editorial review).
  15. Boyce AKJ, Wicki-Stordeur LE, Swayne LA (2014) Powerful partnership: crosstalk between pannexin 1 and the cytoskeleton. Front Physiol, 5:27 (review).
     Wicki-Stordeur LE, Swayne LA (2014) The emerging Pannexin 1 signalome: a new nexus revealed? Front Cell Neurosci, 7:287 (review).
  16. Boyce AKJ, Prager RT, Wicki-Stordeur LE, Swayne LA (2014) Pore positioning: Current concepts in Pannexin channel trafficking. Channels, 8:110-7 (review).

  17. Wicki-Stordeur LE and Swayne LA (2013) Panx1 regulates neural stem and progenitor cell behaviours associated with cytoskeletal dynamics and interacts with multiple cytoskeletal elements. Cell Commun Signal, 11: 62 (original research).
  18. Wicki-Stordeur LE. Boyce AKJ, Swayne LA (2013) Analysis of a pannexin 2-pannexin 1 chimeric protein supports divergent roles for pannexin C-termini in cellular localization. Cell Commun Adhes, 20: 73-79 (original research).

  19. Wicki-Stordeur LE, Swayne LA (2012) Large pore ion and metabolite-permeable channel regulation of postnatal ventricular zone neural stem and progenitor cells: interplay between aquaporins, connexins, and pannexins? Stem Cells Int, 2012: 454180 (review).
  20. Swayne LA, Wicki-Stordeur LE (2012) Ion channels in postnatal neurogenesis: potential targets for brain repair. Channels, 6: 69-74 (review).
  21. Wicki-Stordeur LE, Dzugalo AD, Swansburg RM, Suits JM, Swayne LA (2012) Pannexin 1 regulates postnatal neural stem and progenitor cell proliferation. Neural Dev, 7:11 (original research). **Highly accessed article

Swayne Lab Members 

Swayne Lab Current Members

  • Olga Shevtsova - Post Doctoral Fellow
  • Juan Sanchez-Arias - PhD Candidate
    • PhD student in Neuroscience
    • Awards: UVic Fellowship
    • Project:Pannexin-1 during cortical development and early ischemic injury
    • Interests: Reading (Oliver Sacks, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Atul Gawande, PB Medawar), soccer, basketball, fitness
  • Catherine Choi - MSc Candidate
    • MSc Student in Neuroscience
    • B.Sc. honours in Biotechnology from UBC
    • JD from UBC
    • Awards: UVic Fellowship
    • Project: The aim of my project is to understand the role of Ankyrin B in neurons.  My focus will be on discovering new protein interactions and their functional relevance for neuronal differentiation and channel trafficking
  • Anna Epp - MSc Candidate
    • MSc student in Neuroscience
    • BSc Biochemistry (Medical Concentration) (UBCO)
    • Awards: UVic Graduate Award
    • Project: Determination of affiliations and trafficking mechanisms of Pannexin-1
    • Interests: Hiking, bicycling, camping, motorcycles, baking, music (guitar and vocals), and yoga!

  • Undergraduates
    • Sarah Ebert
    • Nicole York
    • Ana de Lucas (exchange student from Spain)


  • Lena Chen, MSc
  • Xiaoxue Xu, PhD, Post Doctoral Fellow
  • Leigh Wicki-Stordeur, PhD Neuroscience (2011-2016)
  • Ross Prager (Honours student 2013-2014, volunteer, NSERC USRA co-op term)
  • Scott Bell (Honours student 2013-2014)
  • Jeremy Christensen (Honours student 2013-2014)
  • Adrian Dzugalo (co-op)
  • Rose Swansburg (co-op)
  • Jocelyne Suits (part time lab tech)
  • Gaurav Sekhon - BSc Microbiology
  • Emma Jones (co-op)
  • Emma Boyce (work-study)
  • Ester (Tesi) Carmona-Wagner (co-op)
  • Michelle Kim (NSERC USRA)
  • Adrianna Gunton (lab tech)


  • CFI-JELF (2018, $220K), Super-resolution live and fixed cell imaging platform, PI: Swayne
  • NSERC Discovery Grant (2017-2022, $170K) Molecular Determinants of ion channel trafficking in neural cells, PI: Swayne
  • 1 year CIHR Bridge funding to Laura Arbour (PI) and Leigh Anne Swayne (Co-I) (total $100,000) Understanding the population, individual, and cellular effects of a novel ANK2 mutation associated with Long QT syndrome and structural heart disease in a First Nations Community of Northern British Columbia
  • 3-year Scottish Rite Charitable Foundation award to Leigh Anne Swayne (PI) (total $105,000) Pannexin 1: role in neurodevelopmental disorders?
  • 5-year CIHR grant to Leigh Anne Swayne (PI) (total $658,800) Understanding a novel molecular mechanism controlling structural development of neurons
  • 1 year CIHR Bridge funding to Laura Arbour (PI) and Leigh Anne Swayne (Co-I) (total $100,000) Long QT Syndrome in Northern British Columbia: Predicting Risk for sudden death
  • Heart and Stroke Foundation for Stroke Recovery - ($98,000, 2013-2015) Preclinical testing of probencid for stroke recovery, PI: Swayne
  • NSERC Engage grant ($25,000, 2013) in partnership with StressMarq - Generation of novel Pannexin antibodes, PI: Swayne
  • NSERC Discovery Grant (2011-2016, $180K) Pannexin signalling in neural progenitor cells, PI: Swayne
  • NSERC Early Career Supplement (2012-2013, $10,000) Pannexin signalling in neural progenitor cells, PI: Swayne
  • Victoria Foundation ($6,000) Fellowships for graduate students in the area of biomedical and neuroscience. (January 2012-June 2012)
  • CFI - LOF / BCKDF ($300,000) Live and fixed cell neuro-imaging facility, PI: Swayne

Please contact Dr. Swayne ( lswayne@uvic.ca) with the following information to inquire about the following positions.

Post Doctoral Researchers

Actively recruiting.  Please send CV, unofficial transcripts and a research statement to lswayne@uvic.ca

Graduate Students

Actively recruiting PhD students.  If you are interested in applying, please send a CV and unofficial transcripts to Dr. Leigh Anne Swayne, .

Undergraduate Students

If you are interested in volunteering/working in Swayne Lab, please submit the following documents.

  • CV with references
  • Transcript
  • Paragraph explaining your interest in the lab
Swayne's lab receives new funding to better understand autism spectrum disorders and childhood stroke for research beginning in 2015.

Congratulations to PhD student Leigh Wicki-Stordeur for winning first prize, and to PhD student Andrew Boyce for honourable mention for trainee talks at the International Gap Junction Conference in Valparaiso Chile (March 28th-April 2nd 2015)!

Two students from Dr. Leigh Ann Swayne's lab received awards during Honours Fest held on February 28, 2014. Scott Bell received Top Presenter award for his poster entitled "Effect of Probenecid on the Neural Precursor Response to Stroke"and a one year membership in a professional membership of his choice.

Ross Prager received Best overall Honours Poster for all faculties with his poster entitled "Characterization of a novel Pannexin 1 channel internalization stimulus" and the "Boehm Family Award for Excellence in Science" plus $2000.

Scott (top) is pictured below with Dean Lipson from the Faculty of Science. Ross (bottom) is pictured with Dean Lipson and Associate Dean Kathryn Gillis from Faculty of Science. Congratulations to both of you for a job well done!

Dr. Leigh Anne Swayne has been awarded $98,000 for her proposal entitled "Preclinical Testing of Probencid for Stroke Recovery Treatment". Congratulations on your award and we look forward to seeing exciting results from your catalyst grant!

Despite the grey picture of massive cell death often accompanying stroke, the brain has a remarkable capacity for "recovery". Currently, we are largely unable to optimize this process of innate recovery and repair due in part to knowledge gaps in our understanding of the underlying cellular and molecular processes that modulate plasticity during stroke recovery.

There is an opportunity for you to become involved in this exciting area of research through a new graduate student position opening in the Swayne lab. Our relatively new lab has an excellent track record for publications and student scholarships. It is a stellar training environment both in terms of scientific training and career development and we are looking to recruit the best and brightest to join our research team.

If you are interested in applying, please send a CV and unofficial transcripts to Dr. Leigh Anne Swayne, .

Dr. Leigh Anne Swayne is creator and co-editor of a research topic published in Frontiers of Cellular Neuroscience. Read more.

Dr. Swayne and two of her graduate students, Leigh Wicki-Stordeur and Andrew Boyce recently had a paper published entitled Analysis of a pannexin 2-pannexin 1 chimeric protein supports divergent roles for pannexin C-termini in cellular localiztion. Read the abstract.

For her graduate studies in the Swayne Lab, Leigh Wicki-Stordeur has been selected to receive the following two awards from the Faculty of Graduate Studies Donar Awards. Leigh was awarded the Howard E. Petch Research Scholarship ($7500) and the Edythe Hembroff-Schleicher Scholarship ($9000). Leigh also awarded an NSERC PGSM earlier this year.

Congratulations Leigh and best wishes for continued success in your graduate program.