Dr. Seth Grant, director of the Genes To Cognition project in the UK, has been studying the molecular biology of the synapse for decades. This month marks his fourth appearance on Brain Science (BS 150). In his latest interview we discuss the findings of his latest paper in Neuron, and he also provides an overview of how this paper fits into his larger body of work. Longtime listeners will appreciate this update, but the material is also accessible to new listeners of all backgrounds.
In earlier work Grant and his team discovered that vertebrate synapses are much more complex than those of invertebrates. Significantly, mammals appear to have the most complex synapses. These findings challenge the long-held assumption that the synapse is a simple, unchanging structure.
In the new paper, "Architecture of the Mouse Brain Synaptome." (Neuron, August 2018), Grant and his team present a new technique for mapping the synaptome of the mouse brain. By using florescent labeling and high resolution microscopes they mapped the distribution of two of the most important protein complexes, which have been shown to play a role in learning and cognition. They found that the distribution of these complexes varies through out the mouse brain. The key implication is that the synapses within the mouse are quite diverse and Dr. Grant observed that it is possible that each synapse is unique.
The implications of this work are fascinating. Beyond challenging old assumptions about synapse structure, the emerging picture of synapse complexity and diversity suggests new mechanisms for memory recall. There is also potential for a new understanding of the genetic origins of diseases like schizophrenia.
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Links and References
Zhu F., Cizeron M., Qui Z., Benavides-Piccione R., Kopanitsa M.V., Skene N.G., Koniaris B., DeFelipe J., Fransén E., Khomiyama N.H., and Seth Grant. "Architecture of the Mouse Brain Synaptome." Neuron (2018) 99(4) 781-799. e10. doi: [10.1016/j.neuron.2018.07.007]
Previous Brain Science interviews:
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