Molecular Basis of Synaptic Transmission
Synaptic transmission is an important cellular event underlying development, learning, memory, and other functions of the brain. Neurotransmitter receptors, transporters, and ion channels mediate synaptic communication, and their dysfunction is frequently implicated in neurological and psychiatric disorders.
Our research group is pursuing molecular mechanisms of signal transduction with a specific focus on the synaptic communication, signaling, and plasticity at excitatory and inhibitory synapses. Synaptic plasticity is a process whereby certain synapses are strengthened and others are weakened during active learning and memory.
In many cases, neuroreceptors/ion channels form complexes and interact with scaffold proteins and signaling molecules to localize the specific site of synapses and to transfer information. Receptor functions are allosterically modulated by interacting proteins that regulate synaptic plasticity. We are interested in understanding the fundamental roles of neuroreceptors and their interacting proteins in this process.
Current areas of interest within the lab include the following:
(1) dissecting the signaling networks based on protein-protein interactions that are required for synaptic signal transduction
in the mammalian brain including humans
(2) elucidating the structure and function of signaling complexes
(3) developing new therapeutic compounds and antibodies targeting novel binding sites based on the determined structures
We use a variety of structural, biophysical, and electrophysiological techniques including single particle cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM), X-ray crystallography, protein biochemistry, surface plasmon resonance (SPR), mass spectroscopy, and electrophysiology to characterize the signaling complexes involved in synaptic function.