In vivo analysis of novel neuronal synapse promoting proteins

Brain cells communicate with each other at junctions called synapses. Changes in synapses underlie important cognitive processes such as learning and memory. Synapse development requires communication proteins on either side of a synaptic junction. Previous research has identified genes called leucine-rich repeat transmembrane (LRRTMs) proteins, which promote formation of mammalian synapses. These novel genes are able to promote synapse formation between neighbouring cells. LRRTMs have recently been shown to be associated with neurological disorders, including schizophrenia and late-onset Alzheimer’s disease. Mutations in functionally-related proteins have also been directly been linked to autism and mental retardation. Dr. Tabrez Siddiqui is studying how synapses are formed and modified by experience. He is working to fully characterize LRRTMs in mouse models, studying the role of LRRTMs in brain morphology and synapse development. He will also identify proteins that interact with LRRTMs across the synaptic junction. A detailed study of LRRTMs and their binding partners will lead to a greater understanding of how brain cells interact with each other, and will shed light on the molecular basis of neurological disorders.