Jenny L. Wilkerson, Ph.D.

Contact information

Department of Pharmacodynamics
University of Florida
1345 Center Drive; Building JHMHSC, Room P1-31
P.O. Box 113195
Gainesville, FL 32611-3195
352-294-8908
FAX 352-273-5365
Email: Jenny.wilkerson@cop.ufl.edu

Position

Research Assistant Professor, Department of Pharmacodynamics, College of Pharmacy

Research Summary

The examination of experimental preclinical compounds to produce analgesic effects, with diminished drug abuse liability, and dependence.

Training

2013-2017: Postdoctoral Fellowship, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology. Advisor: Dr. Aron Lichtman

2012: Ph.D. University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM (Biomedical Sciences) Department of Neurosciences. Advisor: Dr. Erin Milligan

2004: B.S. Northwest Missouri State University, Maryville, MO (Cellular and Molecular Biology)

Current Research Focus

Drug misuse and dependence can devastate individuals, family, friends, public health, and society. Effective therapies for drug dependence must consider environmental, behavioral, and pharmacologic determinants responsible for drug misuse. My current research integrates principles of behavior and receptor theory to identify central nervous system mechanisms responsible for drug dependence. We also investigate novel pharmacological strategies that maximize therapeutic potential and minimize dependence and abuse liability. Our research incorporates a combination of behavioral and physiological approaches, receptor-selective ligands, and quantitative analyses of drug interactions.

My research has focused on cannabinoids (i.e., any drug that binds to cannabinoid receptors), which includes cannabis-derived tetrahydrocannabinols, numerous synthetic cannabinoids, and endogenous cannabinoid neurotransmitters. Synthetic cannabinoids have been misused more recently under the guise of such brand names as Spice or K2. Endogenous cannabinoids are degraded by the enzymes fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH) and monoacylglycerol lipase (MAGL), and novel drug inhibitors of these enzymes have been identified. We are able to systematically compare the effects of these diverse cannabinoid drugs and evaluate underlying receptor mechanisms to understand dependence and therapeutic potential. Recently, I have found that inhibition of either MAGL or FAAH leads to enhanced opioid-induced reversal of pain related behaviors, without enhancement of other physiological properties related to either cannabinoid or opioid drug class.

Recent Publications

Donvito, G.; Nass, S.; Wilkerson, J.L.; Curry, Z.A.; Sherman, L.; Kinsey, S.; and Lichtman, A.H. (2017). The Endogenous Cannabinoid System: A Budding Source of Targets for Treating Inflammatory and Neuropathic Pain. Neuropsychopharmacology. PMID: 28857069

Wilkerson, J.L.; Ghosh, S.; Mustafa, M.A.; Abdullah, R.A.; Cabrera, R; Maldonado, R.L.; Cravatt, B.F.; and Lichtman, A.H. (2017) The Endocannabinoid Hydrolysis Inhibitor SA-57 Augments the Antinociceptive Effects of Morphine and Reduces Heroin Seeking Behavior in Mice. Neuropharmacology 114:156-167. PMID: 27890602

Bagdas, D.†; Wilkerson, J.L.†; Kulkarni, A.; Toma, W.; AlSharari, S.; Gul, Z.; Lichtman, A.; Papke, R.; Thakur, G.; and Damaj, M.I. (2016) The α7 nicotinic receptor dual allosteric agonist and positive allosteric modulator GAT107 reverses nociception in mouse models of inflammatory and neuropathic pain. Br J Pharmacol 173(16):2506-2520. PMID: 27243753

Wilkerson, J.L.; Ghosh, S.; Bagdas, D.; Mason, B.L.; Crowe, M.S.; Hsu, K.L.; Wise, L.E.; Kinsey, S.G.; Damaj, M.I.; Cravatt, B.F.; and Lichtman, A.H. (2016) Diacylglycerol lipase beta inhibition reverses nociceptive behavior in mouse models of inflammatory and neuropathic pain. Br J Pharmacol 173(10):1678-1692. PMID: 26915789

Wilkerson, J.L.; Niphakis, M.J.; Grim, T.W.; Mustafa, M.A.; Abdullah, R.A.; Dewey, W.L.; Akbarali, H.; Banks, M.L.; Wise, L.E.; Cravatt, B.F.; and Lichtman, A.H. (2016) Monoacylglycerol lipase inhibition produces opioid sparing effects in a mouse model of neuropathic pain. J Pharmacol Exp Ther 357(1):145-56. PMID: 26791602

Wilkerson, J.L.; Gentry, K.R.; Dengler, E.C.; Wallace, J.A.; Kerwin, A.A.; Kuhn, M.N.; Alberti, L.B.; Armijo, L.M.; Thakur, G.A.; Makriyannis, A.; Milligan, E.D. (2012) Intrathecal cannabilactone CB2R agonist, AM1710, controls pathological pain and restores basal cytokines. Pain 153: 1091-1106. PMID: 22425445