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Deciphering the neurexin code in neuronal circuitry

Objective

Networks of neurons, joined together by synaptic connections, represent basic functional units of the brain. Neuronal cells are very heterogeneous. Even a small unit of the nervous system such as the retina contains more than 50 physiologically and morphologically distinct neuron types where each type is tied with stereotyped connectivity into the neuronal network and is dedicated to specific aspects of information processing. Moreover, within a morphologically recognizable class of neurons sub-specializations exist that can be appreciated through analysis of the molecular repertoire of the cells. Understanding the developmental and molecular mechanisms contributing to the unique morphological and functional properties, as well as the specific synaptic connectivity of neurons represents one of the key questions in current neurobiological research.One hypothesis is that neuronal cell populations carry molecular recognition tags that contribute to targeted growth, selective wiring, and specific synaptic properties. Such tags would have to be highly polymorphic with different isoforms mediating cellular recognition events through binding partners. At the same time, such recognition tags should couple such extracellular interactions to a common cellular response. The recent development of new technologies for genome-wide proteomic and transcriptional analysis in combination with transgenic technologies provide a unique opportunity for unraveling molecular codes of neuronal identity. The goal of this project is to further develop such approaches and to apply them to the dissection and interpretation of neuronal identity in the mammalian central nervous system. In particular in this project I will focus on one highly polymorphic class of neuronal cell surface receptors called neurexins (NRXN) which show a remarkable molecular diversity with over 3,000 variants generated through alternative splicing and which are prime candidates to encode some aspect of neuronal identity

Call for proposal

FP7-PEOPLE-2011-IIF
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Coordinator

UNIVERSITAT BASEL
Address
Petersplatz 1
4051 Basel
Switzerland
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
EU contribution
€ 184 709,40
Administrative Contact
Peter Scheiffele (Prof.)