Protein traffic at nascent neuronal contacts

Neuronal impulses in the brain are transmitted across synapses, which control brain function by facilitating the firing of neurons (excitatory synapses) or restricting it (inhibitory synapses). An imbalance in this process is thought to underlie several neurological diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease, mental retardation, autism, schizophrenia and epilepsy. Dr. Alaa El-Husseini was previously funded by MSFHR to support his research into the study of a post-synaptic density protein (PSD-95) that stimulates the formation and maturing of the synapses that release glutamate, a key neurotransmitter. He has also determined that this protein affects the balance of excitatory and inhibitory contacts induced by neuroligins, a family of cell adhesion molecules. Dr. El-Husseini’s current research focuses on how these proteins assemble at the synapse, uncovering the molecular mechanisms that govern the trafficking and function of these proteins to determine how their manipulation may affect synaptic balance.