Bachelor of Science, University of California San Diego (2006)
Doctor of Philosophy, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (2013)
Ben Barres, Postdoctoral Faculty Sponsor
Neurotransmitter release from synaptic vesicle fusion is the fundamental mechanism for neuronal communication at synapses. Evoked release following an action potential has been well characterized for its function in activating the postsynaptic cell, but the significance of spontaneous release is less clear. Using transgenic tools to image single synaptic vesicle fusion events at individual release sites (active zones) in Drosophila, we characterized the spatial and temporal dynamics of exocytotic events that occur spontaneously or in response to an action potential. We also analyzed the relationship between these two modes of fusion at single release sites. A majority of active zones participate in both modes of fusion, although release probability is not correlated between the two modes of release and is highly variable across the population. A subset of active zones is specifically dedicated to spontaneous release, indicating a population of postsynaptic receptors is uniquely activated by this mode of vesicle fusion. Imaging synaptic transmission at individual release sites also revealed general rules for spontaneous and evoked release, and indicate that active zones with similar release probability can cluster spatially within individual synaptic boutons. These findings suggest neuronal connections contain two information channels that can be spatially segregated and independently regulated to transmit evoked or spontaneous fusion signals.
View details for DOI 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3334-13.2013
View details for PubMedID 24174659
Glia exhibit spontaneous and activity-dependent fluctuations in intracellular Ca(2+), yet it is unclear whether glial Ca(2+) oscillations are required during neuronal signaling. Somatic glial Ca(2+) waves are primarily mediated by the release of intracellular Ca(2+) stores, and their relative importance in normal brain physiology has been disputed. Recently, near-membrane microdomain Ca(2+) transients were identified in fine astrocytic processes and found to arise via an intracellular store-independent process. Here, we describe the identification of rapid, near-membrane Ca(2+) oscillations in Drosophila cortex glia of the CNS. In a screen for temperature-sensitive conditional seizure mutants, we identified a glial-specific Na(+)/Ca(2+), K(+) exchanger (zydeco) that is required for microdomain Ca(2+) oscillatory activity. We found that zydeco mutant animals exhibit increased susceptibility to seizures in response to a variety of environmental stimuli, and that zydeco is required acutely in cortex glia to regulate seizure susceptibility. We also found that glial expression of calmodulin is required for stress-induced seizures in zydeco mutants, suggesting a Ca(2+)/calmodulin-dependent glial signaling pathway underlies glial-neuronal communication. These studies demonstrate that microdomain glial Ca(2+) oscillations require NCKX-mediated plasma membrane Ca(2+) flux, and that acute dysregulation of glial Ca(2+) signaling triggers seizures.
View details for DOI 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3920-12.2013
View details for Web of Science ID 000313955000031
View details for PubMedID 23325253
Recent insights into the genetic basis of neurological disease have led to the hypothesis that molecular pathways involved in synaptic growth, development, and stability are perturbed in a variety of mental disorders. Formation of a functional synapse is a complex process requiring stabilization of initial synaptic contacts by adhesive protein interactions, organization of presynaptic and postsynaptic specializations by scaffolding proteins, regulation of growth by intercellular signaling pathways, reorganization of the actin cytoskeleton, and proper endosomal trafficking of synaptic growth signaling complexes. Many neuropsychiatric disorders, including autism, schizophrenia, and intellectual disability, have been linked to inherited mutations which perturb these processes. Our understanding of the basic biology of synaptogenesis is therefore critical to unraveling the pathogenesis of neuropsychiatric disorders.
View details for DOI 10.1016/j.gde.2011.01.002
View details for Web of Science ID 000292486800004
View details for PubMedID 21277192
Ca(2+) influx into synaptic compartments during activity is a key mediator of neuronal plasticity. Although the role of presynaptic Ca(2+) in triggering vesicle fusion though the Ca(2+) sensor synaptotagmin 1 (Syt 1) is established, molecular mechanisms that underlie responses to postsynaptic Ca(2+) influx remain unclear. In this study, we demonstrate that fusion-competent Syt 4 vesicles localize postsynaptically at both neuromuscular junctions (NMJs) and central nervous system synapses in Drosophila melanogaster. Syt 4 messenger RNA and protein expression are strongly regulated by neuronal activity, whereas altered levels of postsynaptic Syt 4 modify synaptic growth and presynaptic release properties. Syt 4 is required for known forms of activity-dependent structural plasticity at NMJs. Synaptic proliferation and retrograde signaling mediated by Syt 4 requires functional C2A and C2B Ca(2+)-binding sites, as well as serine 284, an evolutionarily conserved substitution for a key Ca(2+)-binding aspartic acid found in other synaptotagmins. These data suggest that Syt 4 regulates activity-dependent release of postsynaptic retrograde signals that promote synaptic plasticity, similar to the role of Syt 1 as a Ca(2+) sensor for presynaptic vesicle fusion.
View details for DOI 10.1083/jcb.200903098
View details for Web of Science ID 000270914600015
View details for PubMedID 19822673