What are the molecular mechanisms underlying correct synapse formation and specificity?
The human brain contains 100 billion neurons that are connected to each other through approx 100 trillion synapses. One of the fundamental challenges in neuroscience is to understand the molecular mechanisms underlying the specificity of these connections, which is crucial for normal brain functions, including sensory processing, learning and memory. Gene mutations leading to the incorrect assembly or function of circuits have been associated with several psychological disorders, for example autism spectrum disorder, schizophrenia or intellectual disability.
We aim to understand the role are focusing on synaptic cell adhesion molecules in the formation of synapses between different subpopulations of neurons,
We are focusing mainly on teneurins, using molecular and biochemical approaches to identify the formation of specific protein complexes at synaptic sites that may contribute to interaction specificity
We are assessing consequences of gene mutations in synaptic adhesion molecules in vivo, using live imaging in zebrafish larvae.
Using different synaptic molecule signatures, we identify subpopulations of zebrafish amacrine cells and investigate their synaptic connectivity to retinal ganglion cells
Understanding the molecular mechanisms underlying synapse formation and specificity in the healthy individual will be important to better characterise the defects in disorders