The role of Neuroligin in synapse formation in vitro and in vivo
University of Oregon
Dr. Washbourne's lab will be investigating the effects of neuroligin mutation on the expression of cell adhesion molecules. Cell adhesion molecules play a key role in the generation of new synapses, stabilization of existing connections in the brain, and establishment of the proper balance of activation vs. inhibition of activation in under the appropriate conditions. This experiment will extend the other projects which target neuroligin as a protein of interest by generating a strain of mouse with a mutation of neuroligin which can be "turned on" and "turned off". In this way, the expression of the neuroligin protein can be maintained under normal conditions as well as conditions where the protein is not produced normally, and the stability and maintenance of brain connections on a cellular level can be observed. Significance: Using state of the art techniques this new animal strain represents an unprecedented model system which will help researchers gain insight into brain regions that are affected in autism and try to pinpoint a cellular and molecular basis of this devastating condition.