The Department of Molecular and Cell Biology presents faculty candidate,
Nien-Pei Tsai, Ph.D., University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Department of Neuroscience, Dallas, Texas
Molecular Mechanisms of Synapse Elimination by Autism-linked Genes
In the central nervous system, synapse formation exceeds that of elimination during early postnatal period, which results in an excess of excitatory synapses. Excess synapses are subsequently eliminated in the adolescent brain, which leads to fewer synapses in the adult. This developmental process is regulated by neuronal activity and experience, and is crucial for normal cognitive development of an individual. In multiple neurodevelopmental diseases, such as autism spectrum disorders (ASDs), elevated synapse numbers are observed, indicating potential alternations in synapse elimination.
By using molecular, cellular, imaging and electrophysiological methods, my studies identified the mechanisms by which multiple autism-linked genes, including Fmr1, Pcdh10 and Arc, regulate synapse elimination triggered by an activity-dependent transcriptional factor, MEF2. These findings help us 1) reveal a coordinated process in pruning excitatory synapses during development; 2) better understand synaptic deficits in cognitive disorders; and 3) uncover novel factors in studying general synapse plasticity for the future.
Refreshments will be served in RL3.204 at 3:45PM