Molecular mechanisms of synapse formation, function and stabilityThe development and function of neuronal circuits requires both the stabilization of synaptic connections and the disassembly of previously functional synapses. While synaptic plasticity is important for learning and memory, the inappropriate loss of synaptic stability can lead to the disruption of neuronal circuits and to neurodegenerative disease.
We are using the Drosophila neuromuscular junction (NMJ) as a model system to understand the cellular and molecular mechanisms that determine synapse formation, function and stability. We are combining forward genetic screens with high-resolution assays to identify genes required for synapse stability. The combination of Drosophila genetics, cell biology, high-resolution imaging and electrophysiology enables us to gain detailed insights into the functional and developmental requirements of novel genes for synapse formation, function and stability.
We are particularly interested in the regulatory mechanisms that link synaptic cell adhesion molecules to the presynaptic actin and microtubule cytoskeleton. As genes required for synapse stability in Drosophila have been linked to progressive neurodegenerative diseases in humans, it indicates that the molecular mechanisms underlying synapse maintenance are conserved throughout evolution.
FMI report pages for Jan Pielage