The astonishing capacity of the brain to process and store information crucially relies on properly functioning synapses. They provide the connecting entities within neural circuits and their properties define circuit function.
An international team from Australia, Belgium, Austria and Germany has received funding of total 1.4 million euros from the renowned Human Frontier Science Program (HFSP) for research into lipid structures in the cell membranes of synapses. Among the four participating laboratories is that of Dr. Michael R. Kreutz at the Leibniz Institute for Neurobiology (LIN) in Magdeburg.
Dr. Michael Kreutz
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The molecular composition of synapses can be very different. While the role of proteins, as core components of the synaptic cell membrane and synaptic transmission has been addressed in certain detail it is unclear to what extent the molecular diversity of lipids can influence synaptic function.
"We are entering new scientific territory here and it is not even said that our research approach even works methodically at all. We expect to have to develop new technologies further and that is of course a big challenge," explains Kreutz, head of the Neuroplasticity Research Group. Nevertheless, the four participating labs have a common vision that also convinced the reviewers of the Human Frontier Science Program (HFSP): "We want to find out which lipids are present in which synapses and how they interact with the proteins."
Based on new technologies that for the first time allow lipidomic studies at the level of different synapse types, the project aims to uncover the molecular interactions between lipids and proteins. "Newly developed analytical strategies as well as innovative lipid tagging and imaging approaches will allow us to determine the membrane composition of specific synapses with high resolution," says Kreutz. In their joint project, four labs have joined forces to explore the whole thing from a biochemical, chemical and molecular biology perspective over the next three years. The other three participants come from the universities in Vienna, Wollongong and Leuven.
MEDICA-tradefair.com; Source: Leibniz Institute for Neurobiology