McKenzie, Catherine

Design and characterization of methods and biological components to realize synthetic neurotransmission - IST Austria 2018


Abstract Acknowledgements and Dedication Table of Contents List of Figures List of Tables List of Abbreviations Introduction 1 Synthetic Neurotransmission: Manipulating Neuronal Communication with Intrinsic Encoding and Connectivity 2 Repurposing a Methionine-gated Ionotropic Receptor for Orthogonal Control of Bioelectrical Activity in Mammalian Cells 3 Isolation of Synaptic Vesicles from Genetically Engineered Cultured Neurons 4 Towards Synthetic Neurotransmission References

A major challenge in neuroscience research is to dissect the circuits that orchestrate behavior in health and disease. Proteins from a wide range of non-mammalian species, such as microbial opsins, have been successfully transplanted to specific neuronal targets to override their natural communication patterns. The goal of our work is to manipulate synaptic communication in a manner that closely incorporates the functional intricacies of synapses by preserving temporal encoding (i.e. the firing pattern of the presynaptic neuron) and connectivity (i.e. target specific synapses rather than specific neurons). Our strategy to achieve this goal builds on the use of non-mammalian transplants to create a synthetic synapse. The mode of modulation comes from pre-synaptic uptake of a synthetic neurotransmitter (SN) into synaptic vesicles by means of a genetically targeted transporter selective for the SN. Upon natural vesicular release, exposure of the SN to the synaptic cleft will modify the post-synaptic potential through an orthogonal ligand gated ion channel. To achieve this goal we have functionally characterized a mixed cationic methionine-gated ion channel from Arabidopsis thaliana, designed a method to functionally characterize a synthetic transporter in isolated synaptic vesicles without the need for transgenic animals, identified and extracted multiple prokaryotic uptake systems that are substrate specific for methionine (Met), and established a primary/cell line co-culture system that would allow future combinatorial testing of this orthogonal transmitter-transporter-channel trifecta. Synthetic synapses will provide a unique opportunity to manipulate synaptic communication while maintaining the electrophysiological integrity of the pre-synaptic cell. In this way, information may be preserved that was generated in upstream circuits and that could be essential for concerted function and information processing.

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