The Smith Lab

Wesley Clay Smith, Ph.D.Eyes are exquisitely sensitive detectors, capable of registering a single photon of light. In my lab, we focus on how eyes achieve this amazing quantum detection ability. Our primary interests cover the molecular biochemistry and cellular biology of the early events in this process– how the eye captures photons, and how this information is reliably translated into a signal that can be utilized by the brain to form an image. Since defects in this process often lead to visual complications, such as retinal degeneration and stationary night blindness, we anticipate that our studies will lead to therapies for these associated diseases. In my lab, we utilize the tools of molecular biology, protein chemistry, structural biology, and cell biology to delve into these questions.


Dr. Smith received his BS and MS in entomology from the University of Florida in 1986, intrigued by visual function of insects. He continued this interest in graduate school at Yale University, studying retinoid metabolism in the visual process with Prof. Timothy Goldsmith, and earning his PhD in neurobiology in 1990. After a post-doctoral fellowship with Prof. Doug Kankel at Yale University studying Drosophila genetics, he moved to the Whitney Laboratory for Marine Bioscience for a post-dcotoral fellowship with Dr. Barbara Battelle where he studied the molecular biology of the horseshoe crab eye. He joined UF’s Department of Ophthalmology in 1993, working first with Dr. Paul Hargrave on the biochemistry of photortransduction, and then developing his own program on the molecular and cellular biology of photoreceptors.

Recent Publications from our Lab

  • Orisme W, Goldmann T, Li J, Bolch S, Wolfrum U, Smith WC (2010) Arrestin translocation in rod photoreceptors is signaled through phospholipase C and is an ATP-dependent process. Cellular Signaling 22:447-456.
  • Semple-Rowland SL, Coggin WE, Geesey M, Eccles KS, Abraham L, Pachigar K, Ludlow R, Khani SC, Smith WC (2010) Expression characteristics of dual-promoter lentiviral vectors targeting retinal photoreceptors and Müller cells. Mol Vis. 16:916-934.
  • Saban DR, Elder IA, Nguyen CQ, Smith WC, Timmers AM, Grant MB, Peck AB (2008) Characterization of intraocular immunopathology following intracameral inoculation with alloantigen. Mol Vis. 14:615-24.
  • Sommer ME, Farrens DL, McDowell JH, Weber LA, Smith WC (2007) Dynamics of arrestin-rhodopsin interactions: loop movement is involved in arrestin activation and receptor binding. J. Biol. Chem. 282: 25560-25568.
  • Forooghian F, Cheung RK, Smith WC, O’connor P, Dosch HM (2007) Enolase and Arrestin are Novel Nonmyelin Autoantigens in Multiple Sclerosis. J. Clin. Immunol. 27:388-396.
  • Ascano MT, Smith WC, Gregurick SK, Robinson PR (2006) Characterization of arrestin residues involved in the functional binding of arrestin to phosphorylated, photolyzed rhodopsin. Molec. Vision 12: 1516-1525.
  • Reidel B, Orisme W, Goldmann T, Smith WC, Wolfrum W (2006) Molecular movements of arrestin and transducin studied in photoreceptors of organotypic cultures of mature vertebrate retinas. Vision Res. 46: 4464-4471.
  • Sommer ME, Smith WC, Farrens D (2006) Dynamics of arrestin-rhodopsin interactions: acidic phospholipids enable binding of arrestin to purified rhodopsin in detergent. J Biol Chem. 281: 9407-9417.
  • Peterson JJ, Orisme W, Fellows J, McDowell JH, Shelamer CL, Dugger DR, Smith WC (2005) A role for cytoskeletal elements in the light-driven translocation of proteins in rod photoreceptors. Invest. Opthalmol. Vis. Sci. 46: 3988-3998.
  • Sommer ME, Smith WC, Farrens D (2005) Dynamics of arrestin-rhodopsin interactions: arrestin and retinal release are directly linked events. J Biol Chem. 280: 6861-6871.

Opportunities for Undergraduate Research

Our laboratory is committed to providing research training experience for motivated undergraduates. Our philosophy is to provide the students with projects that are an integral part of our research program such that they make a significant contribution to our research goals. Many undergraduate projects are included in the publications from our lab. A minimum commitment of two consecutive semesters is required. If interested, please contact Clay Smith ( for more information.