Synapses - the contact sites between nerve cells - are the elementary units of many if not all brain functions. It is thought that the modification of individual synapses represents the molecular correlate to learning and memory. One possible mechanism to achieve this important cognitive trait is dendritic mRNA transport to synapses where proteins can be locally synthesized upon demand. The molecular players in this cascade, however, are largely unknown.
A major focus of the Department of Neuronal Cell Biology is therefore to unravel RNA localization in the central nervous system, which is being studied on several different levels. We conduct our studies either with primary cultured rat hippocampal neurons (Banker/Dotti cell culture system: S. Kaech & G. Banker (2006) Culturing hippocampal neurons. Nature Protocols 1:2406-15: Nature Methods) or with extracts from rat hippocampus, a structure known to be important for memory in both humans and animals. We use molecular biology, cell biology, biochemistry and ? in collaboration ? electrophysiology and genetics to address the following current projects in the lab.