Neurons can reach astonishing shapes and dimensions (several metres can separate the dendrites from the nerve terminal in certain species). How these highly polarized cells can maintain their function throughout life is one of the key questions that interest our group. The maintenance of this polarity is achieved through the traffic and transport of membrane compartments called vesicles. These vesicles, which have various origins and defined destinations, underpin fundamental functions such as neuronal communication through the timely release of neurotransmitter at the synapse. They can also be destined for retrograde transport, carrying many important survival factors from the synapse back to the cell body.
QBI neuroscientists are using new fluorescent probes and state-of-the-art live cell microscopy, in combination with the power of proteomics, electrophysiology, structural biology and biochemistry, to understand the molecular mechanisms underpinning some of the many different forms of neuronal membrane trafficking.
Our current knowledge regarding neuronal biology is currently being enlightened by advances in membrane trafficking whether it is an ion channel regulated through an endosomal cycle or through the discovery of a novel trafficking pathway in neurons important for survival.
Novel pharmacology based on membrane trafficking is emerging and could provide answers to previously intractable problems involving the aged or diseased nervous system.